Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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September 25th, 2006

Game Idea #39: Alphabet Detectives

This week’s game idea is for the kids…

High Concept:

Join the elite ranks of the Alphabet Detectives! As a member of this high-profile crime-fighting force, it will be up to you to crack the big cases: Who stole the teacher’s cookies? What broke the window to the gym? Where did Dad leave his keys? Use your big brain and your trusty detective’s notebook to fight crime!


Nintendo DS

Why it needs to be made:

I’m happy to see that educational games have become all the rage for the DS. The fun story of a crime-fighting force in Alphabet Detectives acts as a sugary coating to help kids swallow and enjoy the educational content.


Alphabet Detectives combines two ideas I’ve really wanted to put in a game for some time: spelling and detective work! It’s a match made in heaven. In the game you work cases and collect clues. Some of the clues you find at the “crime scene” – things like cookie-crumbs and muddy footprints. But most of the real clues come from interviewing the witnesses and suspects.

One witness might say something like “I think the person who stole the cookies had a hairy chin.” Another witness could say “Well, he seemed to walk on four legs…” and a final witness could say “I’m pretty sure his name rhymed with ‘Bat’!” It would then be up to you to write down in your handy detective’s notebook “C-A-T”. Of course your notebook is none other than the Nintendo DS’s touch-screen.

The game then judges your “answer” to the clues – and assuming you wrote the correct answer in a fashion legible enough for the system to read it, you solve the case! Another dangerous cookie-snatching kitty off the streets!

Why it will be fun:

Kids love to feel like they are in a special secret club. Kids love to feel like they somehow have the inside track, and they especially enjoy “outsmarting” us adults. Alphabet Detectives lets kids do all that and more – they get to solve mysteries.

Final Thoughts:

If this game existed when I was a kid, I would have played it. Mostly because my spelling and handwriting was so atrocious that my folks would have forced it on me. :-) Thanks to Patrick and Christopher for the assist this week. Three-fourths done!!!

4 Responses to “Game Idea #39: Alphabet Detectives”

  1. Erin commented:
    posted September 25th, 2006 at 7:56 am

    I LOVE IT!!! It reminds me of two of my favorite games of all time, the old computer game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego” and the (not quite a board game, more like a lap game) “Guess Who.” I would use this with my students or my own (future) kids. Or I might play it myself. Sounds super duper cute.

  2. RandomEncounters commented:
    posted September 26th, 2006 at 3:06 pm


    Long time reader, first time commenter. I must say I do love this idea as well! A game that is blatantly educational(or at least advertised as such) that is also fun has been territory that few dare to tread.

    I was toying with the idea this morning of combining a Final-Fantasy type of “combat engine” with spelling out various words to “win the battle” so to speak. Although, you wouldn’t be fighting monsters all the time, I imagined a cat meowing because he could want food, water or a hug.

    Gotta hand it to you Patrick, your presentation method for this spelling game is far superior than what I cooked up!

  3. Fletch commented:
    posted January 7th, 2007 at 1:24 am

    That’s brilliant. In light of the increasing number of semi-educational DS games coming out these days, I think this would actually sell really well for those parents who are looking for a reason why the DS could be good for their kids.

    And you’re very right, the little kiddies do LOOOOOOOVE to outsmart their parents. And teachers could use it as a learning incentive for primary school kids; “OK kids, today’s top speller will get to play the DS for 15 minutes and try to set a high score!”. Our class had a Lynx when I was in year 2 - we wanted it, the teacher knew we wanted it; hoops were jumped through.

    Great idea. I’d let my kids play it, if I had kids.

  4. Alexis commented:
    posted March 21st, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    that sounds awesome! because of the DS’s, you could play it with your siblings or friends in a race or together as partners! that would really make the game fun! i wish i had that when i was a kid ;)

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