Spoon theory game: initial concept and prior art

Here’s my initial concept for the spoon theory game:

Each level/puzzle is a grid, with a starting location and one or more “must do” spaces, zero or more bonus spaces, and other spaces that either add or remove “spoons” (which can be thought of as stamina or energy). The player’s challenge is to design a route that connects the starting location to (at least) each “must do” location in order to complete the level, without running out of spoons or turns.

Levels can vary in size, number of must do or bonus spaces, and the number of turns available to complete the puzzle. I currently plan to offer unlimited undo.

Example tiles:

  • must do: appointments, social obligations, school or work
  • bonus: things that might represent trade-offs, like a party can be both fun and overwhelming. May cost or earn spoons.
  • other spaces: these might represent normal day-to-day tasks and chores that cost spoons, or preferred activities that add spoons, like rest, play, listening to music.

Perhaps you earn a star rating on each level (ala Angry Birds), 1 star for passing, two for passing and getting some (not all) bonuses, and three for passing and getting all bonuses. You could then revisit levels to increase your stars.

prior art

Spoon theory lends itself pretty naturally to games– stamina/energy/“spoons” are a limited resource you need to manage, and I’m not the first to attempt to translate it into a game mechanic. You might even see the reverse– video games as a metaphor for how some people need to think about and manage their energy.

Most of the games I’ve seen are choose-your-own-adventure-style interactive stories, where you play through the day of a character, and make decisions that cost or earn spoons. If you search itch.io for “spoon theory”, you’ll get a number of those, with a few variations. If you search on Steam, you’ll find Robin, which fits that description as well.

Some other things I found:

I guess my idea isn’t not a choose-your-own-adventure, it’s just that all of the the choices and their consequences are revealed at once, and the challenge is in planning your path through the day, managing your spoons and time.

open questions

Is it possible to take what I’ve described and actually make it fun and challenging? Or, will the right path (or a right path) always be obvious at a glance?

I’m not sure I can know without building it. And if that is the case, then having a working prototype will allow me to troubleshoot the gameplay. I hope to have that prototype by the end of the month.

Ross Karchner @rossk