Published: Mon 25 June 2018
Game Design Analysis
One of our main goals at Deen Games is to represent the views of Islam and Muslims in games. Muslims have something of a negative image in games. To paraphrase one video from Extra Credits: "Enemies in FPS games have gradually changed from Nazis to Arabs [Muslims]." One of the games that casually but positively portrays us is Tin Rails.
(The Great Mosque of Djenne, Africa. Credit: Tiny Rails wiki)
Tiny Rails is something of a cult hit on Google Play, with over a million downloads and more than 50k reviews averaging 4.5 stars. You play the role of a small up-and-coming mom-and-pop train company, working to build a name for yourself and grab a cut of the market from bigger, established railroad companies like RailCo.
The game plays out as something of an idle game. While you can select upgrades, equip cars, plot your destiation, etc. most of the travel time takes place completely automatically with little or no intervention.
Moments provide one exception to this. While travelling between certain cities, you can randomly stumble upon a real-world landmark, such as the Atlanta Airport or the CN Tower; snapping a picture of this (the in-game camera view automatically appears) nets you a few gold.
Both of these mechanics subtly and humbly add Islam and Muslims to the mix. Tiny Rails includes eight different moments that document mosques in different parts of the world, ranging from Africa to the Middle East to Russia. Like any other moments to discover, you receive an in-game reward, encouraging discovery of these moments.
You can also take a look at which passengers inhabit your train at any given time. Passengers include a visibly-Muslim cast.
(Getting feedback from train passengers. Credit: Mobile Syrup)
Both these gameplay elements normalize an otherwise negative image of Muslims and Islam in games. And Tiny Rails pulls it off without any fuss or fan-fare.
You can grab Tiny Rails
from Google Play, here if you want to give it a try. It's a great example of how a game can be positive and inclusive and part of their core gameplay.