Just a quick post tonight about some of the games I’ve been playing lately. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much time for gaming. My Gamefly queue is stagnant, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood remains unbeaten in my Xbox tray. Between designing Ismia and learning Flash game design, I’ve been eeking in precious minutes of gaming and I’ve found myself drawn back to the wonderful world of PopCap. In particular, I’ve been hovering around Zuma Blitz, PopCap’s frenetic facebook version of the classic Zuma. It never ceases to amaze me that the simplest of game mechanics can yield the most addictive of games, a trait of gamer psychology that PopCap has mastered. In both Bejeweled and Zuma, two of their most addictive games, the central mechanic is simply “match the colors,” and it keeps the user enthralled for hours on end.

Zuma Blitz is, dare I say, nearly a perfect game for me right now for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it is time limited. It won’t allow you to play for more than a few minutes at a time, before having to wait for your turns to refresh, giving me plenty of time to return to the things I should be doing. But even better, it incorporates a system of character advancement, making your little colored-ball-spitting frog more and more powerful the more you play. I read a study of game psychology that showed people play games not because they are fun, but because of the sense of accomplishment they feel when rewarded for completing objectives. The system of leveling up in Zuma Blitz taps right into that part of my brain. If you haven’t tried it on facebook yet, give it a shot. It’s a blast. See if you can beat my top score. Or better yet, see if you can beat my best friend (and PopCap employee) Joey Trimmer’s top score. Good luck with that.

Another game I just started dabbling with today is the newly released XBLA game Daggerdale, the first Dungeons & Dragons 4e video game. I’ve been looking forward to this release for a while because video games provide one of my few opportunities to experience DnD as I usually end up being the DM in any campaign I’m involved in. I haven’t gotten far into the game but so far it’s been enjoyable. I look forward to playing co-op with some of my XBL friends to see how the multiplayer game differs from the solo campaign. There are some unfortunate aspects of the game, though. The gameplay is fun and intuitive, but it’s a bit buggy. At times the cut scenes don’t display properly and often the enemies don’t fall to the ground when they die. Unfortunately, these flaws in minor details detract from an otherwise well made game, but hey, what do you expect for a $15 game on XBLA. It is far and above better than most other XBLA games I’ve downloaded at a similar price point.

Well, I’ve been writing for a while now, and I’m sure some of my turns have refreshed on Zuma Blitz, so it’s time to try to take Joey down!