How ‘Tinykin’ Makes Curious Players Feel Like Completionists

Games centered around collecting items often make you feel like a failure for not getting everything. 'Tinykin' does the opposite.
A screen shot from the video game Tinykin
Screen shot courtesy of TinyBuild

Tinykin, a new Pikmin-inspired game where players guide a series of tiny creatures around to solve puzzles and explore increasingly massive but well-designed spaces, is a delight. I’ve funneled most of my free time in the past week into Tinykin, a combination of wanting to accomplish just one more task and finding just one more collectible, before it’s suddenly past my bedtime. All that alone is reason to recommend Tinykin, but what I specifically want to praise about Tinykin is more subtle, and has to do with how the game rewards its players.

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I’m the kind of player who enjoys grabbing collectibles along the way, and will even spend extra time tracking more—perhaps even all!—if the game makes that achievable, beyond spending hours aimlessly exploring or looking up a guide for their locations. Most games, however, eventually make you feel like it’s an either/or scenario, deflating collecting entirely. 

What Tinykin does better than many contemporaries is understand the difference between curiosity and completionism, and actively celebrates curiosity—and not just completionism. 

Here’s what I mean.

A lot of Tinykin involves picking up tiny collectibles called “pollen,” which serve as a guiding post for areas to explore, a box to tick for people who simply like collecting things in games, and the path towards upgrading your bubble stash, a glider that lets you float long distances. 

Like many games, Tinykin is keeping track of how much pollen you’re picking up. The moment you collect a single pollen, the game reveals a much larger number, like 500. It provides an early indication of how spacious the area is, and how much pollen the player will have to uncover in order to nab everything. But what happens when you reach that goal is interesting, because the moment you hit that initial threshold, the game reveals the “true” number of pollen that’s actually hidden in the level, and it’s usually a subtle jump from, say, 700 to 900. You don’t need more than that initial number to collect the bubble upgrade, but it’s also the case that you won’t net that upgrade without spending serious time exploring. 

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There’s a world where this reveal is seen as deflating, but over and over, I would hit this mark right around the time that I was feeling done with that particular stage and ready to move on. And it was also true that I felt like I’d truly and fully explored what was around me. I’d been curious. Could I look up a guide video, and figure out what I didn’t catch? Sure. Is that highly annoying? Definitely. Do I sorta wish the game had an X-ray mode that simply showed what I hadn’t found? Probably. But did I feel accomplished and validated by the game handing over a tangible reward and suggesting what I had done was enough? Yes!

It was refreshing for a game that centers exploration and collection to acknowledge what the player did was important and good, and that if they were looking for more, the option was on the table. But not only was there nothing wrong with moving on, you actually did a good job!

Rather than getting annoyed, as is often the case in games I play where I try to collect things until suddenly I don’t, I left every stage of Tinykin feeling like a certified explorer. It was nice.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).