A microgame is a loose term that describes a certian type of game. Idealy it should have some, if not all, of the following properties.

  • Small - Micro in fact when compared to the bookshelf games put out by companies like Avalon Hill and SPI. The maps, game pieces and rules should be able to be stored in a container that could fit inside a jacket pocket. Many of the early microgames came in zip lock baggies.

  • Inexpensive - In other words cheap, but not lacking in good materials or playability. The first microgames cost about $2.95 and got up to $10 at their height. Today they could go as high as $15.

  • Quick Playing - While bookshelf games can take days to learn and weeks to play, microgames often can be learned in under an hour and played during a lunch break.

  • Conflict Based - This is perhaps the loosest part of the microgame definition. Many people say only war or conflict games fit here, others are open to RPG style games while still others will allow games like Pass The Pigs and CCGs (Collectable Card Games). Personally I draw the line at CCGs and pure luck (ie dice throws with no real strategy).

    Some of the better known microgame publishers are/were Metagaming Concepts, Task Force Games, Steve Jackson Games, Yaquinto, Dwarfstar and GDW to name a few.

    Far from a thing of the past microgames are still around with us today. DTP games, PBeM tools like Cyberboard, and great game design keep this an every growing interest.
  • "Microgame", in terms of video games, can also be used to describe a game within a game (or a game within a game within a game) that is often exceptionally short - namely, a few seconds in length. Sure, it's way too short for anybody but casuals to play, and doesn't require much skill - just a bit of timing and/or luck. But they're good timekillers. If they're combined into a collection (think Wario Ware, Inc.) they're excellent for picking up for five minutes, putting back down and going about your daily business again. A distraction, perhaps, or a way of clearing the mind. Whatever you want to call it.

    The best microgames (in terms of video games) are in the Wario Ware series - games that range from blowing up balloons to picking an on-screen nose. Good microgames can also be found in the Mario Party series. I wouldn't call Crash Bandicoot games microgames, per se. I'd say they're minigames. Slightly different concept IMO.

    These microgames follow at least some of the above criteria. They're small. They're quick playing (and very quick learning). They're somewhat cheap. Not all of them are conflict-based, unless you call chopping up a watermelon to be conflict. And (correct me if I'm wrong) but I'm pretty sure that they're games.

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