Back when I was packing my suitcase with drugs and kid-friendly iPhone Apps for my favorite activity, flying with kids, I came across “Trucks” by Duck, Duck, Moose.
“Trucks” was an instant hit with K-Pants because it’s like playing with Tonka trucks on the iPhone.
Sara over at Duck, Duck, Moose happened to notice I was loving on “Trucks,” and offered to have me review a new app.
The problem is that I don’t really review things unless offered either a) a year’s supply of bleu cheese, or b) a three-hour boat tour around the entire island of Manhattan. (Despite my best efforts, that mythical cruise never happened.)
But I was still interested in chatting with Duck, Duck, Moose, because I wanted to know how these guys figured out the deceptively simple world of preschool gaming.
So many preschool apps seem like they are designed by programming droids trying to remember their long-ago childhoods. But Duck, Duck, Moose designs games with the bright, simple, hedonistic soul of a preschooler.
They view children’s apps like pop-up books with good music and touch technology.
Yes! Why don’t more people get it!?
So here’s a bit of insight into Duck, Duck, Moose’s world through a little banter with Caroline Hu Flexer, one of company’s founders.
(Caroline’s the one in the middle. BTW, she also parents small people.)
Some Push and Shove with Caroline Hu Flexer of duck, duck, moose
Me: Children are everywhere–in schools, under rocks, on tops of tables. (Well, my tables, at least.) There’s no mystery here, so why is it so hard for adults to really get into their heads when designing games?
Caroline: Kids behave and think very differently from adults. That’s why it’s so important for us to work closely with kids in our design process. We have kids come into our offices, and we go out to classrooms every week. Every time we’re surprised by what we learn.
One example that I like to use is from when we were testing our Draw and Tell app with a four year old. The app has a tray of paint brushes in different colors, and we saw her choose the purple paint brush on the iPad. But then, we could see her hesitate and look at her finger. It was clear from her expression that she had changed her mind, and now wanted a different color. So, what did she do? She wiped her finger on her pants before choosing another color! This was not something that we anticipated!
Me: Tell us a funny story about pilot testing with kids.
Caroline: We use the testing to help us design better for kids and enjoy having the kids in the office. But the last time we tested one of the little girls started crying because her 30 minutes was up and she wanted to stay longer! We forgot that the kid testing session are just as much fun for the kids as they are for us.
Me: A lot of your job is looking at the world through a child’s eyes. Has all of this observation made you a better parent?
Caroline: I hope so! At least I try to observe them and listen to what they’re saying, before opening my own mouth (but not always). My seven year old does a good imitation of me, and it does not involve me quietly observing.
Me: What is Duck, Duck, Moose going to do in 2013 to save me from insanity during cross-country air travel with a preschooler and a toddler? Keep in mind I’m only armed with Benadryl, Dramamine, a husband, and an iPhone.
Caroline: We will keep your kids singing, making up stories, drawing, driving trucks, recording their own voices and greetings, learning their numbers and letters, and more!
Me: Well, let’s hope Duck, Duck, Moose and the drugs can work their magic. Thank you, Caroline!
If you’re a game-design nerd, you’ll also eat up this post from the Duck, Duck, Moose blog about their dynamic process.