Where Does a Game Designer Begin?

No More Daily Blogs

As I lay in bed, trying to think of something blogworthy to thumb into my iPhone before my self-imposed deadline hits, I realise, perhaps I’ve taken my hobby too far. So for now, I’ll only be posting once a week.

I may return to daily updates if my audience grows, but until then, I’ll update once per week end.

Where to begin?

Short answer is “anywhere you like”.

Long answer is the same as the short answer with the phrase “including, but not limited to…” attached.

The best place to start is with the feature that excites you most. The sort of thing you’d see written on a game box that has you reaching for your wallet.

Including, But Not Limited To…

A mechanic. The mechanics are the features that govern what the game does. Whether you are playing chess on a computer, a physical board or drawing it on a blackboard, all of the mechanics of chess stay the same. How many mechanics chess has, is not an important distinction. Chess could be defined in a number of long rules or even more short rules, but regardless, each rule can be considered a mechanic. Even a vague concept about the rules can be a mechanic. Although no one ever would, there’s no reason why all the rules of chess in their entirety can’t be considered a mechanic.

So, perhaps you have invented a mechanic, or found one in an otherwise poorly made game, and you’d like to create a good game out of it. Great, start there.

A theme/narrative. Sometimes, you just know the fantasy you want to provoke. Perhaps you want to feel the struggles of a rushed hair dresser, destroy waves of aliens trying to attack an orbital satellite or maybe advise a great king about how to improve the economy. You might even want a game where you can do all three at once. Whatever it is that inspires you, you may start there.

Social dynamics. Sometimes it’s best to start with the emotion you want and work backwards from there. Do you want to excite people? Relax them? Scare them? Confuse them? Frustrate them? Humour them?

How do you want them to treat each other? Do they have secrets? Are they mistrusting each other? Are they trying to entertain each other? Are they exploiting each other’s mistakes? Are they helping each other? Are they getting to know each other on a deeper emotional level? Are they exacting vengeance?

Components. This could be a certain object you want a game about, or even a certain size or budget. Perhaps you want your game pocket sized. Now you can frame the rest of your design concepts around those constraints.

Circumstance. Perhaps you can think of a situation that no game seems appropriate for. Maybe because of the number of players, or the amount of room, or the diversity of player age/skill/taste. You may remember the circumstance as you think of how a game could’ve improved it. Go for it!

What Do You Think?
Where do you start? Did I miss any good places to start?What do you want me to write about next week?

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