Before Emoji: “A Game Without Words”
Six sets of playing cards lay scattered haphazardly across the dining room table, while my dad Chris Garrett, creator of the word game Qatqi, stood over them trying to make some sense out of it. He enlisted my sister and me to help him sort all of the decks, much to our annoyance.
“What’s the point of all of this anyway?” we asked him.
“I’m going to make a word game without words.” He replied confidently. And so the journey to Moji Match began.
This wasn’t a new idea for him. My dad has always loved word games, but after creating the word game QatQi, he realized there were some serious restrictions to the category. “It limits who can play your game. Word games are language dependent, and you have to have a really strong vocabulary to play well.” Thus began his struggle to create a game with all the fun and challenge of a word game, but with none of the limitations.
Cards didn’t quite work out. There were too many limits: only four suits, only 10 numbers, only 52 cards to a set. It was all too boring, too unoriginal. The one thing that did work was the idea of having some sort of card, or tile, with two components that defined its value. In cards, those characteristics are its number and its suit. In Moji Match, those characteristics are its number and its emoji.
💩 to the Rescue
He began to use emojis as a simple filler until he could find or create a better symbol to put on tiles. But my dad quickly realized that the emojis really made the game come to life. “ They’re just a lot of fun to play with.” he says. And it’s true. It’s hard not to laugh when you put down the sequence “💩-🍕-4-💩-🍕-4”.
With his new emoji stickers freshly printed, he set to work creating a board and tile set for us to test the game on. My sister Madeline is the artistic one in the family, so she sketched out a Scrabble-like board and our dad drove to Michaels to buy small wooden tiles to place the emoji stickers on. I was tasked with placing each small sticker onto every individual wooden tile. Very fun.
The next few weeks were spent redesigning the tile sets, board, and rules in what seemed to be infinite combinations. My dad would run to the store weekly to buy more tiles (onto which I would then stick all of the emojis) and print up new combinations of emoji stickers. Once, Michaels ran out of the square tiles, so he had to buy round ones that were just a bit too big for the drawn out board. Another time, he and I played a game in which palindromes were allowed. It was fun at first, but when the words began stretching from the bottom to the top of the board, the rules had to be adjusted once again.
Once most of the game’s kinks had been worked out, my dad printed the board on sturdier paper and began testing the game out on friends and family. Turns out, people loved it. The game was now fun, and it could grow up and become an app. A Hudson Valley team was assembled: Digital Empire and Shauna Keating on art and graphics, Tyler Walker on audio, and Sarah Jacob CFO.
When I asked my dad what the hardest parts about creating the app were, he replied that the hardest parts were actually already taken care of.
“The biggest challenge is usually making a game that is actually fun. I already knew I had that.”
His main struggle actually came from having too many new ideas. “I struggled with having the discipline to not build in every feature that I thought of. Instead, I had to focus on making the game simple and fun.” His CFO, Sarah Jacob, played a big role in making this happen.
“Sarah gave me a goal: to bring in revenue by March. That deadline kept me focused.”
My dad began writing code in September, and the first playable version was out around Christmas. My family spent the holiday testing out the app and enjoying the game, despite the many initial bugs. Now, three months later, those bugs are long gone and Moji Match has just been released in Canada. A warning to all of the beta testers out there: if my dad invites you to play, say no. Our latest game ended with me losing 615-312, so you’ll save yourself a lot of pain and suffering by declining his offer.
Note from Chris: Ariane will be contributing more posts about Moji Match as we develop it. We’ll miss her when she heads off to college next year!
Want to try out Moji Match?
If you’re in Canada, lucky you! Canadians can get it on the App Store early!
Everyone else, you can sign up for the beta.