The latest series of The Great British Bake Off has come to an end, causing those of us hooked by its cream-filled buns, end-of-the-pier puns, and oddly sincere celebration of the human spirit, to feel as empty inside as an incompletely prepared batch of jam donuts. After a few days spent facing a future free from sugar, gluten, and the strange tension between Paul Hollywood and hosts Mel & Sue, I decided to do something about it. I emailed some game designers and asked them a question: if you were charged with making a computer game of The Great British Bake Off, how would you do it?
The answers are below.
Games researcher / Procjam organiser
Ok bear with me:
I'd design a game that put you behind the scenes of the show, and let you deal with the challenges of reality TV - sort of The Republia Times crossed with The Movies. You'd watch an episode play out (a lot faster than it does on TV), and events that generate clips would ping on-screen so you'd notice them happening - someone dropped their pie, the posh guy's put something weird in his dessert, and so on. Then you have to pick what actually makes it into the show - what are you going to cut, what are you going to leave in, how are you going to edit the clips (do you twist the interview about the garlic cake so it's ridiculous, or intriguingly tense?). Your aim would be to balance the audience's reaction to the show, making sure you create funny moments without tipping them totally in favour of one contestant, making sure you add drama without revealing who fails too early in an episode.
Creator of Cobra Club, Rinse and Repeat, Stick Shift / Twitter
I've never seen this show, but I do bake a bit myself. What's weird about home baking is the end, when you suddenly have all this fucking food to get rid of, and it's going stale with every passing second. Who's going to eat it, and why? This is the angle that most cooking video games ignore, how does food actually function in society?
So, "Eton Mess" is a puzzle-strategy game about making sure Eton boys eat the "right" kinds of desserts, to cultivate their "taste" and raise their status in society. At first they'll only eat simple biscuits because they're like 13 years old, but at some point you'll ween them onto creme brulee, and eventually 90% cacao dark chocolate truffle tarts flecked with gold. If they eat "childish" or "feminine" desserts then they'll lose status among older boys, while the trendiest boys will adopt certain diets (gluten-free, vegan, paleo) which you'll have to account for. Your goal is eventually to train them to forego desserts entirely, in favor of a nice glass of port and a fat cigar. Upon its release, the RPS Wot I Think will applaud the character art and core NPC social simulation systems, but lament that "it all feels a little bit half-baked."
... oh, wait, you wanted something nice and life-affirming? Hmm ok I can do that:
"Eton Mess" is a family / career / dating sim. You're a single parent who bakes stuff to nourish their family and shit, but you're also baking stuff for co-workers and your boss, and baking stuff for potential romantic interests to show that you care. Manage limited time and resources for baking, in an effort to "have it all"... Will you pick up some Jaffa Cakes for your kids at the shop (5 min) so that you have extra time to personally bake your boss a cake for her 40th birthday (70 minutes)? -- but by then you're so rushed for time that you forget your hot date has a nut allergy, and nearly kill them with a walnut toffee cake? Upon its release, the RPS Wot I Think will applaud the character art and core NPC social simulation systems, but lament that "it all feels a little bit half-baked."
I'm a heartless monster so I don't watch it, but I understand from the internet that it's mostly about slightly strained double-entendres, is that right? I imagine there's a game in that. To start, maybe get a few old baking books from a charity shop, tear all but one of them apart, and give everyone a pile of loose pages and a pair of scissors.
Now open the remaining book to a random page. There it is! A Victoria Sponge, or a Gingerbread Man with Jam, or whatever it might be! Everyone has two minutes to assemble a judicial response to the cake you've just revealed - built of words cut out from their own collection of recipes. As long as your response makes sense, you get one point for every separate recipe you've used, a bonus two points for finishing fastest, and a bonus point for everyone that laughs at your judgement.
Play as many rounds as there are weeks in the real GBBO. That way there's some motivation to keep the best words aside and not use up all your STIFF and STUFFED and BUNS and STICKY at one.
How about this:
I think Great British Bake Off would make an excellent expansion to a reality tv management sim. In this sim players get to be the Executive producer in charge of scouting "regular people" and then coaching them to behave the right amount of scandalous. By selectively editing interviews and fabricating conflicts the ratings must be kept high to advance to the next season. Players can earn badges in the form of headlines, and get access to more expensive presenters. The Great British Bake off expansion enables the "Nightmare" mode locking off most of the sex and alcohol related options, as well as the most flamboyant cast options. Players must make the most out of the food porn aspect and try to make a "gate" out of some melted ice cream or miss appropriated custard.
For one sublime moment this season, it sounded for all the world as if Sue Perkins had just asked a tent full of people to build her "a shoe mountain in the shape of a nun." She actually said 'choux', the pastry used in eclairs, though in any other context this would not make the instruction appreciably less surreal.
I think blithering batshit nonsense is a promising direction for a videogame adaptation. Let Tamal's podgy bicycle of lemon and fennel bread lead the wobbling way. In my game you'd play as either immortal filomancer Mary Berry or dagger-haired balrog of scorn Paul Hollywood, and through your earthly agents Mel & Sue, request increasingly elaborate and bizarre constructions of a tent full of bemused AI bakers.
You compose your orders from a large library of adjectives, nouns and foodstuffs, each pre-recorded with varying degrees of hesitance and bewilderment by Mel and Sue.
"Mary would like very much for you to please build for her...
... a horse-drawn cart made from brioche sledgehammers...
... a hospital of smashed crackers...
... an operational Terry Wogan built from shortcrust stoats...
... a burning oil-rig of battenberg on a frangipane sea, livid with toxic flames of turkish delight..."
Your AI denizens fling together richly simulated baking products in an initially random fashion, then run Google Deep Dream algorithms on the mess to isolate and accentuate characteristics that match what their machine intelligences have learnt humans to associate with these words. Or to hallucinate dog noses.
Once their creations are complete, they bring them to you in turn as you walk around and appraise their work - this is a room-scale VR game, I've just decided. Once you've made up your mind, you express your judgement to the eager robot Ugnes and Alvins by choosing whether to impotently gnaw at their creations with your mouthless virtual head, consuming an amount proportional to your approval, or to smash at it with angry Hollywood hands until it is destroyed to the appropriate degree. Traits of the winning contestant are silently reinforced in the game's underpinning algorithms, and your least favourite AI is hugged and then instantly killed - by Mel, who regrets that it is her turn this week.
Creator of Cook, Serve, Delicious! and soon Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2
As someone who hasn't seen the show but loves American cooking reality competitions and is making an action packed cooking game, I'd be sure to pump up the action for a GBBO game, add intense music, flavor it with tons of drama, and make it as difficult as possible.
...I should probably watch the show first though.
Thanks to all the game developers above who pitched in! Now, you: tell us how you'd make a GBBO game.