A Guide To Time Management Games
In recent years, there has been a growing number of games in a genre referred to as ‘time management games’. Where there are a few examples of this genre appearing in the past, it has only been with the advent of mouse driven casual gaming that these sorts of games have come into their own as a genre large enough to stand on their own.
What Are Time Management Games?
At their heart, time management games involve a lot of mini-steps to get to a final goal. In the example of Diner Dash, the most popular time management game of all time, you are seating customers in your diner, taking orders from them, giving it to the cook, serving it, and then cleaning the dishes. That idea of mundane tasks becoming a set of organized logical steps is the real basis for a lot of these games, and most of them involve the protagonist running a business of some sort. Everything from making mixed drinks and pizzas to running fashion boutiques and spas has been explored in one game or another. Each game has its own quirk or set of rules that makes it different, but in the end, many of the fundamentals are the same.
Generally, the steps work as follows:
* The Order - A customer will approach the counter and put in their order. As the game progresses, these orders will tend to get harder and more detailed, while the customer becomes more picky and will want their order to be closer to 100% precise. The moment their order has been taken, a clock (sometimes visually represented) is ticking, and the longer you take the less happy they will be.
* The Set-up - Sometimes this and the next step are combined, depending on the game. In the instance of creating a burger or a sundae, the set-up is going to be actually grilling the burger or pouring the ice cream into a cup or cone. Many of these games will involve a specific amount of time dedicated to doing this task, or a variable amount of time (such as in the case of a customer wanting a rare burger vs. a well-done one). As you grow in competency with this part of the game, you will be able to go about other tasks (such as retrieving other orders, or putting the fixings on another order) while waiting for the set-up to complete. This is why this genre is commonly referred to as ‘time management’.
* The ‘Fixings’ - After the set-up, you now have the base item in which you will be creating the food for your customer (or washing their pet, or giving their facial, etc.). In the case of creating a burger, you might be adding lettuce, tomato, and other condiments. In the case of the pizza, you might be spreading toppings on various fractions of the pie. Each game is going to have its quirk as to what the customer is going to want and how you are expected to prepare it. The key in this section is to make sure that the customer is getting precisely what they want.
* Judgement - After you have finished the order, you bring it to the customer and you will get a rating based on how good you have done. In many instances, how well you have done is based on the tip you receive as well as a rating of some sort (usually stars.) Some games will keep track of how well the customers appreciate your work, and the more cumulative stars you receive, the higher your tips will be from then on.
* Upgrading - A feature that has become popular with a lot of these games is giving you the option to upgrade the store with the money you have received. Whether that means putting cute items around the store so that customers do not realize how long they’ve waited (slowing down their countdown clock) or more table tops so that you can support more people waiting to sit down. The idea is that the more money you make, the better you are making your establishment, and the more popular it is becoming.
Those are just the basic five steps that you will see in a high percentage of time management games, but there are few more alternatives that do show up from time to time. In Diner Dash, you are expected to wash the dishes for example. In many of the games, you are expected to collect the money that is left for you. The variations on these themes are fairly endless, and each game tries to give you different ways to achieve goals, as well as giving you different difficulties the further the game continues.
The History of Time Management Games
The genre of time management games has only become extremely popular in the last few years, but ideas and concepts can be seen in many games from the golden age of arcade and computer gaming.
The game that many consider to be the first true time management game experience is a coin-operated game called Tapper. This game featured you as a bartender trying to send beer (or in the later versions, root beer) to customers who would slowly move towards the end of one of four bars. If they remained on screen after getting their beer, they would drink it down and the bartender would have to catch it or be penalized a life as the glass shattered on the ground. As levels went up, the amount of people at the bar increased, as well as the speed in which they drank down their glass.
Similar to the more recent games, much of the premise was about being able to distribute your time wisely between completing the task, and cleaning up those tasks that you already completed.
In 2003, PlayFirst released Diner Dash using flash, and it became an immediate hit and set itself as the template to which all time management games would be rated against. Since then, both Playfirst and quite a few other companies have come out with their own time management games, and Diner Dash has spawned at least four sequels as well as been produced on all of the popular video game platforms available, but remain most popular on desktop computers given the ease that a mouse gives the player.
Who Would Like These Games
Generally, time management games tend to side in the casual gaming market, meaning that they aren’t going to ask a an excessive amount of time for any one sitting. A casual game is one that does not involve so deep a plot that you wouldn’t be able to pick it up in a few days or weeks and not understand what is going on. The gameplay remains simple, where the processes grow in complexity.
Casual games have found their market in people who never really enjoyed the idea of playing video games to excess, but much rather enjoy the way it can pass the time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get heavily involved in a time management game, but it doesn’t feel as urgently necessary as raising levels in a roleplaying game might seem to be.
Women make up the largest category of time management game players. That doesn’t mean men can’t enjoy any of the games already discussed, but those making the games are designing many of them towards a female demographic. The heroes of the games tend to be women and the style of the games reflects the interests and activities of the heroine.