One Hit Wonders of Game Design : Typing of The Dead

Role-playing survival game is willing to take risks

With the rise of computers and the Internet in the 90s, many education and edutainment programs were created to help people learn to type. One of the more famous brands was “Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing“, which provided mini games and lessons designed to help people learn to type. While I can’t say anything bad about the program, it turns out that zombies made the best teachers for me.

The Typing of the Dead is one of those games that can be hard to wrap your mind around. The concept was that Sega took The House of The Dead 2 for the Dreamcast, replaced the gun controls with a keyboard and The Typing of the Dead was born. If that wasn’t crazy enough, the character models in game now sported back mounted Dreamcasts with a keyboard hooked up in front of them.

To kill the zombies, or block attacks, players had to type the correct phrases that appeared on them. Failure to type it in correctly before time ran out meant that the player would take damage just like in the gun version. Boss fights challenged the player to different typing scenarios such as : Typing long sentences, or answering questions correctly.

One area that the game improved on over the original House of the Dead 2 was in the from of additional challenges. The game featured a variety of bonus missions that tested the player with symbol and number typing. With each challenge helping the player become a better typist.

The game became a small hit for Sega, with a sequel built on House of the Dead 3 released in Japan and on the PC. What I like about the whole concept of Typing of The Dead, is how Sega applied game mechanics to learning something that is normally done in a serious or educated setting. And for someone like me, it was easier to learn how to type with the game, compared to a regular program like Mavis Beacon.

I find it interesting when designers take something complex and break it down or translate it into game form and would like to see more games deal with advance concepts. For instance the title Recettear, that dealt with running an item shop in a fantasy world. Imagine a game that has the player doing the same thing, but dealing with real world concepts like managing inventory and the store itself.

Last year, Spacechem was a very advanced puzzle game that dealt with the concepts of setting up orders and in a way combined teaching about computer logic with chemistry. Now not every game succeeds such as Fate of the World, that was about managing the state of the world in the future. The problem for me was that instead of abstracting concepts to teach the player, it just hid a lot of the information making it hard for someone new to learn the game.

Long before games like Wii-Fit and Brain age boasted about making people better, we had the perfect way of teaching people how to type. I also credit Typing of the Dead for being the game that improved my typing ability the most, which as you can tell I’m making full use of today.