Tag Archives: Playtesting

It All Started with Three Dogs

Design Diary by Barb Hirschfelder

What were we thinking? We had never owned more than one dog at a time before. Now we were contemplating adding a third to our pack of dogs. We already had two, Angel and Truffles. How hard would it be to raise another at the same time? After all, they’re small dogs, mini dachshunds, still puppies.

And that’s how Chloe’s Snowy Baby came to our house, and we welcomed the adventure with open arms–more rough-housing during play time, more potty trips outside, and insanity trying to control three dog leashes with only two hands.

One morning I thought, “That would be an interesting race game.” Imagine that each player is trying to get a pack of dogs to walk in an orderly and civilized fashion from one end of the dog park to the other. There could be different sized tiles representing various breeds of dogs, maybe with each breed having a distinct personality trait that would influence their movement somehow. But your pack wouldn’t always behave in predictable ways, so there would be dice of different colors matching the tiles. By the next morning, I had a prototype drawn in pencil on card stock. But that would not be the last iteration of the game. Oh, and I had a name: Bark in the Park.

I grew up playing games. Risk, Hearts, and Scrabble were the go-to games in my family. Two hundred miles away, my future-husband, Carl, was playing Monopoly, Samba, and Cribbage with his large family. Both of us, being the oldest kids, were frequently called upon to join the adults or to teach games to our younger siblings.

When Carl and I met at Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro, Kentucky, we most enjoyed playing Scrabble or Samba together. (Carl usually won.) After we got married, we even created an exploration-type game based on a map of the college campus. Every few years, I would cobble together another game–one was a zoo game, another was a gardening game. In those years, the technology available was rather primitive. I didn’t have a laser printer or graphic design program. And no one had Internet access. So the first prototype was hand-drawn, and the first prototype was usually the last prototype.

Now I have a color laser printer, a solid working knowledge of MS Word and Illustrator, and high-speed Internet access. With my Mac laptop, I can get creative in any room in the house. I am thankful to have online access to royalty-free clip art and illustrations to add flavor and consistency. I probably over-rely on Wikipedia when researching my themes.

Working on Bark in the Park, I learned how much easier it is nowadays to quickly build a prototype so that we can start playtesting as soon as possible. And making changes can be virtually instantaneous with a few Sharpie markers and some label paper.

I also learned that the ideas are unending. In the past two years, I have generated ideas for more than 50 games and created prototypes of most of those ideas. Dogs are featured in 5 of those games, which is a topic for a future post.

Saturdays are the best days at our house, when we get to spend time together and play games, with the three girls–Angel, Truffles, and Chloe–curled up at our feet.

A newer prototype of Bark in the Park
A newer prototype of Bark in the Park