Thursday, June 23, 2011


There are many different motivations for making games.  Of course, the goal is usually to make a game that appeals to as many people as possible and then get it published so that those people have the opportunity to play it.  For me, however, sometimes a game design's sole purpose is simply to be a unique and personal gift for a good friend.  And other times, I want to design a game that would be fun for my friends and family and I to play, no matter how unmarketable it may be. Street Basketball was one of those designs.

I am a long-time fan of watching, playing and coaching basketball, and I like dexterity games such as Carabande/Pitchcar that involve "flicking" wooden discs.  The only dexterity Basketball game I own is Bas-ket, a fun little game of shooting ping-pong balls that I mastered much too quickly when I was a child. And I have never seen a game based on the 3-on-3 "And One" style of basketball that's played on street courts the world over from Rucker Park to Berlin.

A flicking game seemed obvious to simulate the passing and shooting of Basketball, and it was not difficult to add a simple rule for dribbling in the original rules outline.  I also thought having a few action cards to allow each player a bonus pass or to break a game rule might add a nice twist not often present in flicking games.

My first version was designed to fit into a small card game case.  It consisted only of a few wooden discs and the playing cards and was meant to be a portable game that could be played on any table top.  The main issue with the components was to determine how to simulate a basketball basket, and I finally decided to use another wooden disc.  To score a basket, a player would need to flick the basketball disc so that it hit the basket disc.  I added a rubber base to the basket so that it would not move when hit.
This provided an asnwer to my design problem, but was obviously not the most thematic solution.  I store the game away in my prototype closet, and did not play it again for a few years.

Baumeister Phase
This past year, I was in a "building phase" in that I was taking frequent trips with my sons to the Baumarkt, or hardware store, and bringing back all sorts of wooden pieces and assorted screws and bolts, then assembling them into all kinds of toys and household items at home, much to the delight of my boys.  As I was in the process of building a puppet theater for them, it dawned on my that I could elaborate on my Street Basketball game idea, which had been all but forgotten under the avalanche of ideas I've had since.  Most importantly, I could finally make a real board with a hole cut out of it for the basket, something that would, at long last, satisfy my craving for a better thematic connection.

Then, one day, my sons and I were at a popular indoor playground and we discovered an Air Hockey game, which was immediately a hit with them, even when they needed to stand on chairs in order to reach the table.  When we returned home, the boys found different items to make their own air hockey game on the floor of their room.  I even helped them make the "paddles" for the game out of Tinker Toys.  While we were knocking the "puck" around, I thought about making a game board for this game as well.  It was then that I realized that I could combine the game with Street Basketball so that it could be flipped over to play Air Hockey. I decided to modify the rules slightly and change it to a culturally-appropriate soccer theme.

I used two pieces of masonite board, one for each playing surface.  It was necessary to use two pieces because, first, I needed to cut the hole out of the basketball side of the game and, second, both sides needed the "slick" surface for the wooden discs to slide effectively.  I then cut 2 cm square pine strips for the edges.  For each game, I drilled 20 holes into the strips--10 on each side--for the two scoring tracks.  I added furniture pads to both sides so that the game would not scratch a wooden table or floor.  Finally, I used paint pens to draw the lines and basket.  I took the wooden discs from a bag of extra Backgammon pieces and printed out the player and ball graphics onto sticky-back address label paper.

Since finishing the game, Table Soccer has proven to be more popular with my sons, although I expect that Street Basketball will become more popular as they get older and more skilled in the art of flicking.  I'm happy to have both options, however, in one game board.  The process was fun and much different than the other games I've designed, and I've added my local hardware store to my list of places that are good to visit for game design inspiration.


Mark Johnson said...

I want one of these!

jeffinberlin said...

Thanks, Mark. If it wasn't so work intensive and expensive to ship, I might try to make more. Perhaps I'll try to convert this to cardboard after all!

Jason Sweazy said...

hey, just wondering, what are the dimensions for the board?