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(formerly Hellscape Games) developer:
The design question is actually one of my (smaller) soapboxes. As soon as you add a timer to a puzzle, the challenge shifts from intellectual to physical. Instead of knowledge and deduction, all you need is memory and dexterity.
Many games satisfy multiple play preferences with game modes. One timed, the other "casual" or "relaxed". I'm actually planning on adding a mode to
that is similar.
It is common for game producers to try and raise levels of 'engagement' with a competitive aspect. And economically, competition makes more money than cooperation (Google Esports). Even so, that mentality does not align with the context of a crossword puzzle. The reward for patience and persistence is opposing the contrived reward for expediency. Aligning these intrinsic and extrinsic rewards is one of the main challenges in good game design.
To the point about wanting a game without competition, I do not believe that is entirely possible. Even without explicit metrics to judge performance, like completion time, players find ways to compare themselves to others in their quest to obtain some form of validation. For crosswords, though unnecessary, you could still compare the number of completed puzzles.
One of my oldest and largest game ideas is an MMO that emphasizes cooperation and survival over glory and materialism. But with the current culture, no publisher would be even slightly interested in such a game. There is a rampant obsession with monetization in the games industry and with that a desire to appeal to the most primal of human desires: Power, glory, sex, etc. Motivations that I honestly find rather boring from a writing perspective.
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College of Education
Michigan State University
, East Lansing, MI 48824
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