Dylan Woodbury has always created things to share.
In the third grade, he started his own newspaper called NP4K (newspaper for children) and distributed it to his classmates. It wasn’t a school assignment or anything, Woodbury just discovered he could make pamphlets on his computer and thought it would be fun.
“I realized what I really enjoyed doing was stuff that impacted how people acted together,” says Fresno-based coding instructor and mobile game developer Woodbury.
His latest game — DisDat — is available online and on all mobile platforms.
Disdat’s inspiration from Wordle
DisDat was inspired by the simplicity (and also the mega success) of wordle.
The once-a-day word-guessing game was created outside of the mobile game industry, with little advertising or promotion, by a guy who “kind of knew how to code,” Woodbury says.
Originally designed to be shared with friends and family, Wordle became a viral hit with millions of gamers within months. It was eventually purchased by The New York Times for a price the paper reported was “in the seven figures”.
It’s hard for indie developers to compete with big companies like town of jam in the traditional mobile gaming space, says Woodbury, a Buchanan High School graduate who worked for Jam City in San Francisco before returning to Fresno.
But Wordle (and the slew of copy games that followed) created a new market (and audience) for mass appeal, social gaming.
They’re neither polished nor particularly complex, and in some ways seem like the antithesis of traditional app-based games, which are created as a kind of waste of time to keep people playing for as long as possible.
With games like Wordle and DisDat, the focus is on building a community for a long-term experience.
“It’s actually revolutionary, even though it’s so simple,” says Woodbury.
The power of prediction in a game
While Wordle uses language to tap into an essential part of humanity, Woodbury wanted to tap into the role that prediction plays in our daily lives. Whether it’s guessing who’s getting kicked out of RuPaul’s Drag Race, investing in cryptocurrency, or just anticipating what the guy in front of you is doing on the road, “we always predict things,” he said.
In DisDat, players are given a simple yes or no question, usually about some aspect of current pop culture – the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard track and Draymond Green’s antics during the NBA Finals are two recent examples. The game then tracks a player’s daily progress and awards points for the number of times in a row they predict correctly.
These serial points allow players to unlock new content like weekly, monthly, and even yearly issues.
Like Wordle, DisDat players are encouraged to share their results via social media.
And just like Wordle, how the game is played is subject to interpretation.
“You can play it for a minute or take all day to figure it out,” says Woodbury.
Wordle is an app game, although Woodbury says he’s seen people in the library trying to solve a daily puzzle with printed graphics.
And DisDat can certainly be played quickly on intuition alone. But it’s also designed to solicit responses and conversations. There’s an article linked every day, so players who aren’t very familiar with a particular topic can find more information.
The hope is that the questions will spark a debate, whether online or with friends.
The latest version of DisDat is out and a new game
Woodbury launched the second version of DisDat in early June and will continue to update the game as it receives player feedback.
For now, game development is a sideline.
He gets up at 6 a.m. every day to update the game’s questions and answers and make other changes. He’s also working on a second game called Emoji Pop, a pop bubble game that lets players create and share their own levels.
He just completed a stint as the lead instructor for NASA Aerospace Academy’s Fresno State-based Kids Code program, which taught 500 students last year, and plans to start private coding lessons for kids from the region.
“I did not sleep much.”