games and places


A Beekeeper's Guide to Game Design

Image from the  Wellcome Collection  under CC BY 4.0.

Image from the Wellcome Collection under CC BY 4.0.


Bees can distinguish many different colours.
They watch for arrows drawn in violet so deep
That we would call it ultra;
They readily note the polarisation of light.

Why not take advantage of this?
Think of all the possibilities for match-three games
Opened up by such varicoloured jewels.



Bees do not like to defecate in the hive.

In winter, when it's too cold to go outside,
They wait
And wait;
And then on a sunny day
Bright light in sharp air

They fly out.

In November, why not place targets on the ground,
A playable surprise for their cleansing flight?

Image from the  Wellcome Collection  under CC BY 4.0.

Image from the Wellcome Collection under CC BY 4.0.


When designing a game for bees
Consider their natural skills,
Their strengths and habits.

Bees like to search and gather,
So give them plenty of items to collect
(Hide the first few inside a flower
To help them get the idea).

Bees fan the hive with their wings, 
Promoting circulation through the tunnels,
Filling warm air with the scent of honey.

They dance instructions to their fellow bees.

For a bee new to gaming,
Suspicious of the hobby,
A rhythm action game is therefore an excellent start.



Bees understand a gradation of difficulty
And varied rewards to match:
An apricot blossom will give up its nectar in seconds,
While sweeter cherries take ten times as long.

Bees understand distinct character classes.

Their earliest youth is spent in varied chores.
They specialise during adolescence -
Grooming, cleaning, coating their walls with propolis, 
Or packing pollen into cells -

Then give all this up on reaching maturity,
Emerging from the hive, at last, to forage.

A bee in the world has one task at a time, one focus,
But games are an escapist form.
Invite the bee, your player, to imagine something greater.

What would it be like to live, not with one constant task,
But instead as a Forager/Mortuary Bee?
A Necromancer/Guard?
A Honeycomb Builder/Druid?

Image from the  Wellcome Collection  under CC BY 4.0

Image from the Wellcome Collection under CC BY 4.0


Let us not forget the role of physical play.

The beehive has many natural enemies.
Sometimes a hornet will come on a vicious raid,
Or many hornets, swarming all together.

A single bee cannot destroy a hornet, but
Many bees
Ten or twenty or forty
Can surround the hornet and trap it and beat their wings
Heating it up with the whirr of friction
And the dancefloor press of their bodies

Hotter and closer

While the hornet, beating its own wings in desperation,
Confused, making things worse,
Slowly dies.

Why not chill your hornets before they enter the hive
To give your bees a challenge?



The bee community is predominantly female.
The females build the hive,
They groom the queen,
They guard the door,
They carry water and pollen.

There are male bees as well, sometimes as many
As fifteen percent of the hive.

These are called drones.

Drones fatten themselves on the hive's stores
And gather together, eager for their moment.
They fly a hundred feet above the trees
In the Drone Congregation Area.

Sometimes, if they're lucky, a queen will join them.
Then a drone will inflate his eager penis inside her
In glorious flight! 
His role at last fulfilled!

And when coitus is complete
(Two to five seconds later)
His ejaculation will tear the tip of his penis from its shaft,
Leaving his husk to tumble, dead, to the ground.

The drone has large and sensitive eyes
(All the better to see the queen in flight)
And he is patient, having no role in the hive
Except to wait, and wait, and wait, and hope.

When designing an FPS for a team of bees, 
Make sure that the drones feel valued.
Provide a sniper role for them to fulfil,
Waiting and watching,
Honing their hive-born abilities.

Image from the  Wellcome Collection  under CC BY 4.0

Image from the Wellcome Collection under CC BY 4.0


Of course, not all bees depend on a hive.

Some bees live alone.
They nest in old flower pots,
Dead plants,
Unattended fences.

They carry petals and smooth-cut leaves back home
To line their walls.

If you are designing a game for a solitary bee,
Devote your attention to single-player mode.



When a bee has flown too far
(Five hundred miles tearing her ragged wings)
She will find herself 
Burdened with pollen
Away from the hive, unable to fly again.

If she waits through the night, sometimes she will survive
And the morning's warmth may loft her into the air
To stumble back 
Where fellow bees relieve her of her burden
And push her from the hive to the ground below.

Bees fly so far in summer, while nectar flows,
That their five hundred miles pass like the sun
Caught for a moment through a rift in the clouds.

Five or six weeks, perhaps. 
A hundred miles a week.

For this reason, a game for a summer bee should be brief
And self-contained,
As she will not live for the sequel.

Keep your longer games for December release.
The winter bees,
Huddled together for warmth,
Massed for a quiet life, away from the cold
Will have more time for premium DLC.

Holly Gramazio