Once upon a time a wise old game developer wrote a one page sheet that he called ‘The Ten Commandments of Game Design’. There are other game developers who have since written their own interpretations, but the  commandment I always tried to follow was this one:

‘Thou shalt design the game for the player and not for thyself.’

It’s really quite simple: Design the game for the person who will be playing it, not for your own gratification. Unfortunately, there are a goodly number of game developers who still make games that they want to play and therefore they assume everyone else will want to play. Every year several thousand game titles are released; the overwhelming majority of them are financial failures. Video game publishing is like any other entertainment industry. You churn out a mountain of dreck and hope some real gems will turn up.

There’s also another angle; make a game that will shock people. After all, controversy generates revenue, doesn’t it? In 19th century New York City, the introduction of the ‘penny dreadful’ (aka the paperback novel) was considered to be a corrupting influence on young minds. Then those awful ‘moving pictures’ appeared at the start of the 20th century showing pretty young women removing their clothes, followed by radio, comic books, television, rock and roll music,  personal computers, and video games. Today the Internet is the cause of much social concern.

But what does any of this have to do with a game about shaking babies? From my experience, I think I know the thought process:

Developer thinks ‘I could make so much money in a short time making an I-Phone game and selling it as an Apple app.’

Developer realizes that he (I am very sure it was a young adult male) needs to grab people’s attention to generate lots of viral buzz (and sales).

Developer comes up with brilliant idea of shock value by making a game that involves – babies! Babies are cute and helpless; doing nasty things to them will upset people, creating shock value, causing viral buzz and lots of sales.

Developer gets positive feedback from small circle of like minded friends who also think doing nasty things to babies in a video game is a surefire way to get rich quick.

To meet Apple’s submission deadlines, developer churns out cheap graphics and game code, plus cheezy sound effects of crying babies.

Here is the final result:

The creator of Baby Shaker produced a miserable, shoddy piece of software completely bereft of any entertainment value. In the process, his lack of a social conscience once more places the video game industry in a bad light. At the same time, I really wonder how Apple could be so blind to approve a game that used child abuse for a game play mechanic. You have to wonder how anyone at Apple could find Baby Shaker to be an acceptable product for their Appstore. Does Steve Jobs approve of his company accepting these kinds of game apps for distribution under the Apple logo?

Here are some links to help further explain the story behind Baby Shaker:

Apple apologizes for ‘Baby Shaker’ application

Apple pulls plug on ‘Baby Shaker’ iPhone program

Apple under fire over iPhone ‘Baby Shaker’

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