12 Dec 2023

Mobile word game Gubbins creator explains rules

From First Up, 5:34 am on 12 December 2023

Photo: Supplied

Word game Gubbins, the brainchild of two Australians who came up with the idea during lockdown in Melbourne, is giving Wordle a run for its money.

The game, designed by the pair’s company Studio Folly, was initially rejected by investors before taking the fancy of a social media star who has 8 million followers on TikTok

The game is “like our take on solitaire meets Scrabble,” game creator Darcy Smith told First Up.

“It's a single-player game where you can just make the words that you want to make - it’s a game about striving for a high score, if that's your kind of thing, or it's a game about making funny words and funny postcards out of those words.”

In Gubbins, the player places letters on a board to create words, similar to Scrabble, but with the help of Good Gubbins —which provide power ups — and Bad Gubbins, who throw up challenges.

“The Gubbins, which are like the wildcard modifiers and the characters of the game, with this mechanically simple tile system that's domino-esque or solitaire-esque with letters stuck together."

Having spruiked their idea around the world and getting no investor bites, Smith says they decided to post a video about the game – this was the video that Hank Green noticed.

“Hank Green is an internet personality. He's also a New York Times bestselling author, and philanthropist entrepreneur, has a bunch of different cool businesses and is really sort of involved in charity work and goodwill.”

Green sent Smith a direct message expressing his interest, he says.

“He reached out and basically said, 'Your game looks awesome. I wonder if there's some way that we can work together. I'd love to hear more about it.'"

The deal they struck with Green gave Smith and his business partner, Jess Shipard, the money to get the game to market, and a portion of revenue will go to one of Green’s charities.

The game has taken off and is even giving Wordle a run for its money - the free-to-play game has more than 50,000 downloads on the Play Store.

“I just feel grateful that people like what we're making and thankful that we can entertain people for a portion of their day, just a couple of minutes over a coffee even,” Smith said.