Surprise & Delight

Just for fun

Monday 21 August 2023

I just got my Playdate a few days ago. A tiny yellow square of fun. From the moment you turn it on, it provides so much joy. I had a smile on my face even during initial setup. Once you get going, the intro tutorial that teaches you the controls is a delight.

Many years ago, I worked in an Apple Store when wired earphones were common. They broke constantly. We always opened new iPods for various reasons so had hundreds of spare earphones sat in a drawer. When customers came in with broken earphones, we walked away with “Let me see what I can do” and came back with a new set. No charge, no faff, no paperwork. We called these Surprise & Delight earphones.

I always loved this term. It’s a nicer way of saying “Under promise and over deliver”. In software, if a user clicks on a button, why not use that interaction to add an extra bit of fun?

Even after a few hours of use, my Playdate is full of surprise & delight. New software is literally unwrapped by two robot arms. It takes 2 presses of the lock button to unlock it, each press opening a closed eye on the little guy’s screen face.

I can’t wait to play with it more.


After Wordle was sold, I listened to an episode of the Syntax podcast which interviewed Josh Wardle. In it, he brought up a talk on the concept of Juice in game design.

From the description of the talk:

A juicy game feels alive and responds to everything you with do tons of cascading action and response for minimal user input.

Substitute game with software and you realise just how boring software can be. With the move away from skeuomorphism, we lost some of that juice.

It doesn’t have to be that way though! We’re in an era of modern browsers with CSS transitions and animation libraries. Go wild if you like, or don’t. Maybe not if you work on a Will writing service or some serious healthcare software. I’m not saying we should go back to wood textured shelving backgrounds, but think about what you’re working on and what extra things you can do to make it feel tactile.

The Playdate is so fun to use it’s all I could think of from the moment of unboxing. The box even says have fun on the inside. The juice that Panic added adds so much to it. Instead of being just another gadget, it becomes this little yellow robot of fun.

I think software could do with having more juice.