On a boozy Berkeley Saturday, a group of friends huddle over a coffee table. One pulls out her iPhone, flips through a website and reads the prompt: “What’s Stanford’s oldest tradition?” The playing cards are dealt. A man in the back reveals his hand: “Playing hide-and-seek with a suggestive-looking zucchini.” Chaos ensues.
Assembly Required, the brainchild of Haas seniors Eduardo Aparicio and Jeremy Watson, is a card game with a quintessential Cal story. Incorporating the ubiquitous mobile device into its decade-old inspiration Apples to Apples, Assembly Required is radical in design, raunchy in nature and rooted firmly in the community that bleeds blue and gold and the zany characters of the creators who made it.
Their story started at CalSO, where they met as transfer students. Both gamers as kids, the duo never considered gaming as a viable career path. Then they took a DeCal — Introduction to Entertainment Gaming — separately and credited two guest speakers as triggering their passions: Sybil Chen, managing director of Crystal Entertainment, and Rez Graham, AI engineer at Electronic Arts.
“I thought you made money first and played games on the side,” Jeremy said. “At Cal, I discovered you can do both of them at once.”
Jeremy can often be found in Doe Library. Describing UC Berkeley as intense — a typical thought for Haas majors, we think — Jeremy still wishes he could have taken more classes at Cal before he graduated. Surprisingly, he has never met Oski during his time here, but we at the Clog still consider him a Golden Bear.
Eduardo always dreamed of making games.
“Until I came to Cal, I thought dreams were for dreaming,” he later admitted, “I didn’t know I could make my own games.”
If he could choose, he would be a redwood tiger mixed with Notch, the creator of popular video game Minecraft. Never pausing to take a second thought, Eduardo calls toilet paper the greatest invention, names “detestable” as his favorite word and “Renaissance Italy or somewhere in space” as the place he would most want to revisit in history. But when pressed with describing himself in one word, Eduardo draws a blank. Jeremy chimes in with … “creative.” They laugh.
Becoming game creators
Assembly Required was hatched on a December night at PIQ Bakery and Cafe last year. While discussing winter plans, Jeremy turned to Eduardo and asked, “Why not make a game?”
Assembly Required, they decided, was to incorporate “the essence of everything we like most in games,” according to Eduardo. He added that, “We wanted to make something for ourselves. This was not an exercise in what was popular or the latest trends — it was between us as gamers and what games we would have the most fun playing.”
Jeremy, who interned at Intel, used his work experience as inspiration for the idea of going mobile.
“People are fixed on the game’s hybrid aspect,” he said. “Why not supplement (the game) with something we all carry around in our pockets?”
How it works
Each player is dealt four action cards and four subject cards. The player with the funniest combination of cards for the game’s prompt — accessed on its website or on any Internet-connected device — is voted winner of the round by surrounding players.
The phone localizes the experience. Because college students are the target audience for this game, the use of phones allows students at NYU to play a game totally unique from that of students at Cal. Users can generate their own content on the website database, which can hold limitless prompts with subjects ranging from current events around the world to current events happening on campus.
By college students, for college students
Lessons learned from community engagement at UC Berkeley are at the core of Assembly Required’s mission.
“If people like the game enough, we want to create a scholarship fund,” Jeremy said.
Eduardo concurs, saying that, “We feel this game should have its own scholarship — to help college students.”
Their mission stems from learning made after class. Jeremy mentors transfer students transitioning into UC Berkeley. As for Eduardo, he now teaches the very DeCal that inspired him to pursue gaming and in the past year has taught nearly 100 students. Keeping students in mind, he hopes that “for every future venture we want to have fun and create games, but we also want (the games) to do more.”
For a limited time only
Right now, the only way to purchase Assembly Required is on Kickstarter from March 11 to April 21.
Should their game succeed, they plan on expansions packs and international versions. But at the end of the day, Assembly Required is as much a game as it is a networking device. Comedy is social currency.
“The game is not about winning,” Eduardo emphasizes. “It’s about making friends and having a good time. I think its a great tool to to know even strangers better. It gives a ton of insight into people — after an hour, you feel like you know this person. You feel their humor. Everyone leaves with a huge smile.”
For more information on how to play Assembly Required, check out this video filmed on Cal’s campus.
Contact Alex Mabanta at [email protected]