When I first decided to create Match The Memory, it was a lightning-struck-my-brain kind of moment. I didn’t know anything about what other kinds of games existed, either to play online or for purchase of a physical game. It was just an idea while I was at my parents’ cabin: I could create a pretty cool game that someone could personalize, play online, and print.
Once I got home and started creating the site, I looked into my competition, and I what I found didn’t impress me much. There are three basic kinds of memory games out there, and I’ll go through each of them and discuss their shortcomings and how Match The Memory overcomes those faults to make for a great game experience.
- Download a program to personalize and play on your computer
- Flash-based online games
- Photo-printing services
Download a program to personalize and play on your computer
The first memory games I found when I started looking online were Windows-based programs that you would install on your computer, add your pictures to, and play right there on your machine. The first problem is that these programs were only available for Windows operating systems — I never found one single game that worked on a Mac or on Linux. On the other hand, Match The Memory, being based on the web, works on any platform that has a web browser.
Which leads to the second problem: sharing. You could create the game on your own computer, but if you wanted your mother who lives across the country to be able to play it, you were out of luck. Most of these games didn’t let you export a finished product as an .exe file, and even if you could, those are usually blocked by email programs. (And if your mother-in-law is a Mac person, she couldn’t use it anyway.) Match The Memory makes it easy to share your games on Facebook and Twitter, right from the game page. And you can easily copy and paste the address into a blog entry or an email.
The third problem was that while these programs were simple enough to use, the end result was pretty crummy. The games looked like they’d been created in 1995. You could usually customize what the front of your cards looked like (your photos), but the backs looked like a silly shareware playing card, or worse, were emblazoned with the name of the software. The cards were also really small — you could hardly see what the personalized photos looked like. Meanwhile, I had already decided that on Match The Memory, a user would be able to customize every visual aspect of their cards, both front and back, with their own choice of text, photo, font, and color.
Finally, these programs were just about the pictures themselves. They had no way for you to add extra stuff to them — descriptive text on top of the pictures, more explanation about what was going on, or links to a whole blog or web site about the adventures you’d had and the memories you’d made. Match The Memory was conceived as a way to share the details of life, not just through images, but also words, links and videos — opening the whole Web to your imagination.
Flash-based online games
There are a few websites that allow you to upload your photos to make a personalized online game. The problem with these sites is the same as the final two problems above: after you’d put all of this effort into making a game, it wasn’t something that you would care to share with your friends and family. The cards were small and ugly, and the game didn’t let you share what was most important to you about the photos — the memories themselves.
They also have little to no eye candy during the game play — you click on a card and the back side appears in its place immediately, with no animations or sound effect to give it any pizazz. I think those things are essential to getting kids to play your game over and over. (My daughter’s favorite feature of Match the Memory is when you click on a card that’s already flipped up and it shakes, like the Mac OS X login screen when you get your password wrong.)
With both of these kinds of programs, you have no way to get a physical version of the game you’ve created. Which leads to the final category…
In this group, I lump together several kinds of companies (big printing companies with lots of other products, specialized memory-game companies, Etsy vendors who cut out your photos by hand) into one big category of services that do one thing — give you a printed version of your memory game. Some of them make it easy to submit and build your game (but none easier than Match the Memory), and some require you to jump through unnecessary hoops. (Sending photos through the USPS instead of over the Internet? How quaint!)
The quality of the finished product from these services varies from “professional” to “some crafter cutting out your photos and slapping them onto a recycled Memory game with Mod Podge”. Some of the services don’t give you the back of the card to work with, instead putting their logo in the space that could have been personalized by you.
None of these services give you the ability to share your creation with a wider audience on the Internet. None let you have the degree of control and customization that you get from Match the Memory. None of them let you easily print your memory game at home within minutes. None of them have a better price than Match the Memory offers.
Now that I’ve dissected what I consider to be the weak points of my competition, I’d like you to chime in. If you’ve used another one of these services, tell me about it. What did you dislike or like about those services? What did they get right that I don’t quite have down yet? How do you think Match the Memory is better than the Other Guys? Tell me about it in the comments.