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What’s it Like to be a Game Designer?

(This was originally a response to a question on Quora.)

Because there are so many kinds of game designers, the answer to the question is the same as the answer to many questions about game design: it depends.

Consequences in Games

You may have heard me in the past talk about the widespread displacement of consequence-based gaming by reward-based gaming. Party games, and to a lesser extent family games, have always been reward-based (you're rewarded for participation) rather than consequence-based (winning and losing is important, plus more), but hobby games were usually the latter. The change in hobby games started in the videogame world, where most single player games are puzzles rather than opposed games, and so as long as you are persistent - especially when you can use the video save games to try different things - sooner or later you'll solve the puzzle.

A spectrum of approach to game design, in simplest terms

There are two fundamental ways to approach design of games (and of RPG adventures).

One approach is to set up an interesting situation and let the players cope with it as best they can, "write their own story", and in this case each group of players is likely to write quite a different story from the same situation.

Video (screencast): (The Nature of Games) Fundamental Game Format: Functional versus Cosmetic

Abstract: What is the "natural" format of a game? You can program a boardgame on a computer, or vice versa, but the physical format difference is more cosmetic than real. A man dressed as a woman is still a man, a boardgame on a computer is still a boardgame.

Ruminations on Types of Games and Game Players, Arising from a Sojourn

(When I started to write this, I had no idea it would grow to exceed 3,500 words. But I think those who are interested in game design, and in why people play, will find it useful. LP)

I have been living in Gainesville, Florida temporarily, and with the advantages of being officially retired - no set schedule - I have been attending a variety of board/card game meetings and contemplating attendance at some conventions.

Video (screencast): Confusions of Game Design: Game Design is NOT "Mind Control"

Confusions Game Design is not mind control part 1
Confusions Game Design is not mind control part 2

Here is the text of the slides. The presentation includes more, of course.

Video (screencast) Are you Designing a Game, or Throwing one Together?

Here is the text of the slides. The entire presentation (over 15 minutes), obviously, contains more than this text.

Are you Designing a Game, or Throwing one Together?
Dr. Lewis Pulsipher
“Game Design” channel on YouTube

This is Really Important
Yes, there is creativity in game design, but it may amount to 10% of the whole
The rest is more or less engineering: identifying problems, proposing solutions, testing the results of those solutions, and so on
Scientific method is involved, more or less

11 More "Need to Knows" about Game Design

This 12+ minute screencast is primarily for aspiring designers, not for professionals.

Video (screencast): Characteristics of Game Boards

This video has many more graphics in it (of boards, of course) than is typical of my screencasts.

Video screencast: 10 "Need to Knows" about Game Design

Note: I saw someone refer to this as 10 need to knows about tabletop game design. No, this applies to ALL game design.

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by Dr. Radut