Spend some time with physics-puzzler, Drei, and you’ll get a first-rate gaming experience on your iPad.
Spend a little more of that precious time with this game, and your faith in humanity just might be restored.
That’s the idea here with this innovative game: work to solve puzzles together with an another anonymous player somewhere in the world, and remind yourself that we’re all interdependent.
Maybe that’s a good idea, considering all the things we need to work together to solve in real life.
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People are playing games together more than ever before, thanks to persistent network connections and successful titles like Words With Friends and Draw Something. They’re part of a new breed of games that aims to make you a better person by putting you in other people’s shoes, or by forcing you to collaborate, not compete.
Called “empathy games,” they hope to change one of the most often criticized aspects of these beloved pastimes: that they foster violence and isolation. Game designer Jane McGonigal’s widely read 2011 book “Reality is Broken” set the playing field for a world where games reward good behavior and nice guys finish first.
Back in 2006, Zurich-based Christian Etter was obsessed with the dire predictions on climate change. He was disappointed withe the blasé response from his friends, so he set out to create a game that would bring the idea that we are all truly interconnected to the forefront.
Playing Drei is simple: you connect various block shapes to a little avatar and then maneuver them in various ways to fit through different holes and portals on the game screen. The levels get more and more complex, requiring lateral thinking and an intuitive grasp of physics.
Then, around level 20, the level is impossible to solve on your own. You’ll get paired up with another player from somewhere else in the world. You won’t be able to directly chat with them, but you’ll work together to solve the unsolvable using pre-defined words that you can tap to help each other out: “Drop,” “Help,” “Sorry.” It’s a brilliant concept, well-executed in the game world.
“All expressions are translated across 18 languages,” Etter told Cult of Mac. “So if you say ‘Hello’ while playing with, let’s say, a Spanish person you would say ‘Hola’ automatically.”
No matter what iTunes store you buy Drei from, you’ll be playing with other players from around the world.
“We can’t cover the whole world with one server,” Etter told us, “the latency would be just too long. So we have placed a hand-full of servers at strategical positions, so that we can connect as many players as possible.”
Here’s a video of one of those collaborative levels.
While That Game Company’s Journey on the PlayStation 3 also rounds up anonymous other players to help each other through the game’s environs, this is the first iPad game I’ve seen to do the same, and with such a confident approach.
The design of the main avatar does indeed look similar to the one in That Game Company’s Journey, but Etter says they were designed from a different esthetic.
“In the end,” Etter told Cult of Mac, “the inspiration came from travels through Nigeria and India, where they sometimes wear dresses with beautifully colorful patterns. We simply translated these patterns into clumps of polygons and gave them different shapes.” There’s more on the process, with images, on Etter’s website.
The idea here is that games can be amazingly fun without competition. “It’s nice to compete,” Etter told Wired. “But sometimes it’s nice to build something together. Somehow it feels more profound.”
Drei is available now in the App Store for $2.99, a small price to pay to remember how connected we all are, regardless of region or language.