The Grind: A Game for Those in the Coffee Game

A game currently in development brings new meaning to coffee shop “work.“


Images courtesy of Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is an industrial designer, media designer, and electronic musician/producer. The first thing he asked me during our video chat was where I lived; he immediately noticed the arched doorway in my office and wanted to know what my apartment design was like. It was apparent that Dan has the mind of a designer, and pays incredible attention to detail. Good thing for us, because Dan is currently designing a video game with coffee people (and designers) in mind.

Dan wears glasses and a white shirt. He has shortis brown hair and looks off-camera.
The mind behind The Grind: Dan Taylor is a designer and producer based in Seattle.

The Inspiration for The Grind

“I’m so attracted to the coffee community,” Dan says. “I think it’s interesting how, when I would talk to people who are really into high-end coffee, the things they’re thinking about and experimenting with are exactly the things I do in my profession. But their profession falls under the service industry (rather than design).“ Dan has great respect for the people who make specialty coffee; that’s part of why he chose Seattle, his home base, as the location for his game in the making.

A screenshot of the game lists monetary accomplishments: Base paycheck $20, Italian bonus $2, Super comfort bonus, depression penalty, and zen bonus. The screen also shows number of coffees drunk and hashtags for the current job. Behind the list is a pixelated coffee shop.
You can accrue funds with tasks (plus some extra bonus points).

Game Setting: Seattle

In The Grind, you play as a freelancer new to the city. It starts with your landlord telling you how much rent is due by the end of the week. Your quest: to visit area coffee shops, drink coffee, and acquire freelancing gigs to pay for your living expenses. The shops are based on three real-life Seattle café locations: Push X Pull on Union in Capitol Hill, Broadcast Coffee Roasters, and Analog Coffee. Each café offers new people (potential clients) and new drink menus that affect gameplay. Ordering drinks will either reward you (caffeine helps you get work done!) or give you a headache if you over-caffeinate (which lowers your productivity). Certain coffee drinks will also give you paycheck bonuses.

Task list: album cover design + $50, and coffee shop Misc. -$100.

The background of the coffee shop shows a person sitting at a table and tall potted plants and espresso bar.
Different gigs will help you accumulate rent funds and potential clients.

The People You’ll Meet

Dan is creating the game along with the help of developers Catalyst Softworks. As far as game mechanics go, ”It’s more of a narrative that I’m painting through characters,” Dan explains. It’s not a ”game for gamers,” he says, but is designed with non-gamers in mind. The Grind is reminiscent of the old Pokémon games; ”fetch quests” require you to do tasks for other characters in the game. These quests require you to ”bounce around” on the map, opening up new locations where you can meet more people and find more work. There is a sense of humor and whimsy, too, that coffee professionals and freelancers will appreciate. The game will also be nostalgic for those of us who played similar pixelated styles in our youth; that’s part of its appeal.

Characters are specifically designed to be recognizable by sight: unnamed but easy to spot. All the characters are based on people Dan has encountered in real life. Most of them are coffee professionals he knows or customers he has seen around Seattle. As an added bonus, nearly every dog in the game has been gifted with the same name, which I will allow to remain a surprise.

The player meets a barista at the counter who says "I've either seen you in here a lot or you look real generic." The options to reply are "I'm new" or "I'm generic."
The Grind is equal parts humorous and self-aware.

Coffee and Design In Harmony

”It’s interesting to see the parallels between the coffee and design industries,” Dan says. ”They focus on understanding people and what they want, and what people will gravitate towards … and just trying new and weird things and seeing how it comes out.” The creative spirit and the drive for excellence are both present in these fields, and Dan has enjoyed splicing the two together to create a new mini-universe.

Overall, reactions to the game, still in the late stages of development, have been resoundingly positive, from both the coffee and design communities.

With a healthy dose of satire and reverence for our favorite brew, The Grind is shaping up to be a unique game that will whet the appetite of designers and coffee enthusiasts alike.

For more info and to sign up for the email list, check out the game’s website.


J. Marie Carlan (she/they) is the online editor for Barista Magazine. She has been a barista for 15 years and writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. When she’s not behind the espresso bar or toiling over content, you can find her perusing record stores, collecting bric-a-brac, writing poetry, and trying to keep the plants alive in her Denver apartment. She occasionally updates her blog.