The Curio Dept. Blog

Hand-crafted apps and thoughtful design advice.


"Tiny Tiger and Friends" Design Notes

Aaron and I share a lot of the same opinions about children’s books, games and movies, and we wanted our game to embody that philosophy. Here are some of the guiding principles we followed:

We didn’t want to talk down to children.
Children are way smarter than we adults give them credit for! We wanted to respect that.

We didn’t want to require reading.
We knew that our audience would largely consist of kids who were too young to read. We wanted to have letters and words in the app, but we didn’t want words to communicate any instructional information.

We didn’t want to use voice over.
There were several reasons for this:

— We financed this game out of our own pockets, and we knew we couldn’t afford to pay for both an artist and a voice actor & audio engineer.

— As a parent I find that games which require audio to be limiting, since there are many situations (e.g., in a waiting room) in which the audio has to remain off.

— Audio instructions can limit exploration. Kids are problem solvers, and instead of directly telling them what to do we wanted to give them the joy of discovering the details of the app on their own. Our goal was to make the look and operation of the onscreen controls as clear as we could visually, so that the child could figure it out on their own. (To limit frustration, we provided animated hints on a timer.)

— We wanted to keep the experience voice-free. Picture books provide a very specific experience for children who can’t read: the verbal input they get is either in the voice of their parent, or in the voice inside their own head. This gives picture books a very special personal intimacy. One of my favorite picture books is “Make Way For Ducklings”. The only voices I associate with that book are mine (from reading it to my daughter) and my dad’s (who read it to me). Even though that book has been read by millions of people, as far as I am concerned it belongs just to me. We wanted that same kind of intimacy for our game. (Although we can’t claim it’s on par with “Make Way For Ducklings”!)

We wanted to make room for the child’s imagination.
Unlike many highly-directed kid’s games, we wanted the experiences in “Tiny Tiger and Friends” to leave as much room as possible for the child to bring in their own imagination. For example, we tried to give the characters enough life that they seem real, but leave enough out that the child is inspired to make up their own stories. Nothing would make us happier than to see a child put down our game and go draw a picture of Tiger or Hippo’s adventures. Like a picture book or a favorite stuffed animal, we want this game to be the beginning of something for the child, not the end.

We have a lot more we want to accomplish with this app, but we’re both pretty proud of what we have so far. We hope you like it, too, and we’d love to hear what you think.