101 Things I Learnt in Game Design School

 In Books, Uncategorized

I’ve been invited to take part in a panel session at the Freeplay Independent Games Festival on the weekend after next. The topic of our panel is “101 Things I Learnt in Game Design School” and is intended to work in the spirit of the excellent little book 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick (which I should review sometime). In preparation, I thought I’d see if I could actually come up with 101 things. Here goes.

  1. There are many flavours of fun.
  2. You’re never too old to play with brightly coloured balls.
  3. Play early. Play often.
  4. Ask yourself: Who is having fun here? The designer, the computer or the player?
  5. “Story” and “game” are antagonistic. To tell a story, hide the game.
  6. The one on the ground should never contradict the one who is flying.
  7. Your game works perfectly right up to the moment the player touches it.
  8. Players try darndest things.
  9. Every game creates its players.
  10. Experience, experience, experience.
  11. Design, prototype, playtest, repeat.
  12. Controllers matter. A mouse feels different to a trackball.
  13. Creativity can be fuelled by constraints.
  14. Even clicking a cow can be fun, if done with friends.
  15. Cooperation is harder than competition.
  16. With the right rules, you can sell a dollar and make a profit.
  17. Play turns Rules into Fun.
  18. The Big Triangle works for games too.
  19. People have been studying game design for centuries (but calling it Psychology or Architecture or …)
  20. Make it resonate: every part contributes.
  21. Be ruthless. If it doesn’t contribute, cut it out.
  22. Fall in love with your game. Don’t fall in love with your game.
  23. Games are everywhere.
  24. The things we learn to do, we learn by doing.
  25. The medium is the message.
  26. To make a good game, first make a good toy.
  27. A good toy has many affordances.
  28. Competition will motivate some and demotivate others.
  29. People who “don’t play videogames” still play Solitaire.
  30. Learn the rules before breaking them.
  31. You can’t make learning fun. Real learning already IS fun.
  32. Do, don’t show.
  33. To return you must first depart.
  34. Architecture has meaning.
  35. Amplify input.
  36. Dissonance can be delightful or destructive.
  37. The way you frame it matters.
  38. Artists, programmers and designers must learn to talk to each other. This requires effort.
  39. Emergence is an art that nobody can really explain.
  40. Play reflectively.
  41. Building a world is as important as telling a story.
  42. When the player is the protagonist, character growth is tough.
  43. Breaking the rules is also fun.
  44. Vary the pace.
  45. Some players will win at any cost — even if it spoils their own fun.
  46. The Magic Circle invites moral detachment.
  47. Games can make you cry.
  48. It’s not “just a game” any more than it is “just a symphony”.
  49. Put the art and the gameplay in the same corner of the Big Triangle.
  50. Use feedback loops to dynamically control the pace.
  51. Mixed motives make for political play.
  52. Make room for personal touches.
  53. Provide interesting choices.
  54. If it doesn’t work, fix it. Don’t just add more stuff.

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  • Reg Robson

    Grammarian says: #7 you have “You’re” when you want “Your”. Other than that good start, I enjoyed reading it.

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