Diner Dash is a strategical and time management game developed by GameLab and published by PlayFirst. It is one of the most popular games, available on multiple platforms such as Windows, Mac and mobile.
In this game, the player takes up the role of Flo, a hardworking worker working in a restaurant. The gameplay revolves around serving of customers and earning as much revenue as possible. As the levels increases, different types of customers are introduced, each with unique personalities and tipping patterns, and more items are introduced as well.
Lens #7 The Lens of the Elemental Tetrad
The goal of each stage is very clear – to serve as many customers as possible, without angering them, before the restaurant closes for the day. For each group of customer(s), there is a fixed procedure of actions to take from taking the order to clearing up the dishes. However, within this very procedural set of actions, extra bonus points comes from entertaining the customers and placing customers on seats corresponding to their shirt colours etc. This creates variations in the gameplay and makes routine steps interesting.
The background of the story is about a greedy landlord planning to demolish 4 restaurants in order to build a Mega Multiplex Food Plaza instead. Flo, being friends with the restaurant owners, came to the rescue. Through working 10 shifts a day, she plans to help her friends in upgrading their restaurants and make it more attractive to customers. By doing this, the restaurant can then earn enough revenue to pay the exorbitant rents charged by the landlord.
The artwork of the game is relatively simple but easily understood. Each customer has their own unique traits: for example, cellphone addicts are constantly on the phone and talks loudly, and these are portrayed clearly in the game. The appearance of the restaurant also improves along the stages, from a run-down restaurant to a modern-looking restaurant. This makes the player feels more attached to the gameplay as one can feel the sense of achievement in upgrading the restaurant.
The gameplay only involves simple mouse clicking and can run on many different platforms without additional plug-ins. This makes it very convenient and easy to start the game without additional technical difficulties.
Lens #42 The Lens of Simplicity/Complexity
I like how Diner Dash is a simple and clear game, yet still addictive and complex. The elegance of the game comes from the entire setting of the game. In our daily life, we definitely go to a restaurant or at least saw a restaurant before and know the work flow in there. This makes the game rules self-explanatory and easy to grasp. First, the customers will be ushered in and seated. Then they will look at the menu and calls on the waitress to make their order. The food arrives, and customers can choose to opt for dessert after their main course. Finally, customers will settle their bill and the waitress will clear the table so that the next customer can be seated. Though the steps are fixed for each customer, the confusion comes when the player has to multitask between tables and ensuring that the food does not end up on the wrong table. This creates complexity within a simple game, making the game interesting despite the simple game elements.
Lens #77 The Lens of Character Traits
Being a service industry type of game, different types of customers is a must have in the game. Each type of customer has a distinct and unique character, where they vary in the level of patience and tipping. For example, businesswomen are impatient, fast eaters, and gives moderately high tips, while seniors are relatively slow eaters, gives low tips and are very patient.
Moreover, what makes the game more interesting is the interaction between characters. For example, cellphone addicts constantly talks loudly on the phone and this creates much noise disturbance for the bookworms, resulting in them having a bad impression on the restaurant. These interactions between customers makes the game more challenging as the player has to plan the seating arrangement strategically to manage the customers well.
Lens #39 The Lens of Time
In the game, time is crucial. Similar to real-life, angry customers can leave the queue or restaurant if they are unsatisfied with the service. In Diner Dash, customers’ mood is indicated by a series of hearts over their heads. Waiting too long in the queue or for the orders will cause the customers to lose hearts, while providing complimentary drinks or giving interesting speeches can improve customers’ mood.
Every second is precious in the game and the player is constantly busy having to attend to many customers. The sense of urgency can be felt throughout the gameplay and it is only until the restaurant has closed for the day then the player can take a rest.
Lens #32 The Lens of Meaningful Choices
Choices come about when the player has to make decisions whether to play safe or to take risks. This comes from the bonus points in the game. For example, when customers are seated in the correct colour order labelled by their clothes and the colour of the chairs, and chain bonus from Flo performing the same action (eg clearing dishes) multiple times in a row.
However, these actions comes with risks as the chairs may be labelled with a colour scheme similar to a customer at the back of the queue but by ushering that customer in first may result in losing the front customer as they may have waited very long in the queue and lost their patience. This triangularity in the game forces the player to think strategically within a limited time, creating suspense and tension within the gameplay.