The Tree Game

I think most people have a mental filter. Ideas might randomly occur in their heads, but they’re run through that filter. They might have a thought like, “People don’t ever use fire extinguishers, leaving them unprepared. There should really be annual fire-extinguisher certifications that everyone gets.” I know I have. But most people would have this idea hit their filter and rule it out. Sometimes, though, I come up with ideas that wholly bypass this filter, and only after I’ve shared them do I realize how absurd they are. Besides an epic blog post about fire extinguisher training, certification, and practice, I’ve hatched a few other astonishingly bad ideas, including The Tree Game and the concept of Caramel Potatoes. (Like caramel apples, but with a potato instead.)

It started largely as an in-jest threat, but I decided that I want to make The Tree Game for Facebook. I’m hoping to use the knowledge and gaming expertise of my readers for suggestions, though. It looks like Facebooker is a Rails plugin for building Facebook apps, and it would be a fun project anyway.

For those unfamiliar, here is the description of The Tree Game: you play the part of a tree. You can grow or not grow. If you grow too tall, you might get struck by lightning. If you don’t grow enough, you don’t get any sunlight and die.

Now you know why no one really liked my idea The Tree Game. But it did have appeal in one way: it was so astonishingly lame that people remembered it and talked about it. I’d put it in the same category as John & Kate Plus 8 or Perez Hilton.

In actually making the game, though, I want some input. How should it work? I’m thinking it should be a turn-based game, where you’re allowed one “turn” every 15 minutes or so. You would have two choices, I think: “Grow” or “Don’t Grow.” “Shrink” might be an option at times, even though it’s not really possible in real life. As soon as you grew, the outcome would be decided. There’s a slim chance that a storm might come through. In that storm, it might rain (giving you points you can use to grow? do you need to spend a point to grow one iteration?), but there’s a small chance that you would be struck by lightning. Being taller would increase the odds exponentially. But being tall would also increase the points you get (via sunlight).

I’m not sure what the ultimate goal is. To be the tallest tree? To live the longest? To get the most points? What would you do with points besides grow?

I’ve also thought about other things that might happen. For example, beavers might come and gnaw on you. Perhaps, if you were tall enough, it would take a few turns for them to finish your tree off, and you would be able to fend them off in some way. (Drop acorns?) Something good would have to be available, too, like tree-huggers coming and hugging your tree, which would give you lots of points.

At the end of the day, it shouldn’t be too sophisticated, but I’d love to make it something slightly addictive that I’d actually play, and perhaps something viral that others would install. But I’m not quite sure how the gameplay should go. Ideas?

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