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What do we mean by "elegance" in games?

When someone says a game is "elegant", what do they mean? I'm not sure, so I've done a bit of investigating.

Is it used much? In my Info Select database, which includes my own notes about game design and teaching, and material that I've scraped off the Internet about those same topics in the past seven years, there are 84 notes containing the word "elegant" and another 34 containing "elegance". Clearly the term is used a lot in conversations and writin

Six words about stories in games

According to a recent tweetdeck, one of the trending:worldwide topics on twitter was 6 word stories. In the past few months I've asked people to say 6 words about game design, programming, wargames, and casual games.

This time the charge is this: say six words about stories in games (or stories and games, if you prefer).

Depth versus Variety: a Fundamental Change in Game Playing in the Past 30-40 Years

Recently I was discussing via blog posts what depth is in games ( and elsewhere), and then ran across a discussion of how role-playing games have changed since D&D was first published
( ). I’ve realized that there is a connection between the two, that what gamers are looking for in games has changed in a fundamental way in the past 30-40 years.

Game descriptions, rules, and mechanics: what are the differences and similarities?

Recently a student in a video game design curriculum posted a note on the IGDA Game Design SIG about an assignment. The assignment was to describe mechanics for a game and he said his instructor had told him he’d written rules instead, with the result being a poor grade. I generally emphasize to students that the rules for a tabletop game detail the mechanics of the game, so the question became “what is the difference between rules and mechanics.” And as I discussed this privately with the student I saw that part of the possible confusion was the difference between description and specification, between the general and the specific.

Innovation in Game Design

I rarely listen to podcasts, I suppose because I think writing provides a more concentrated form of information. (I don’t read blogs much, either, preferring more formal articles.) It takes more effort to read something than to listen, but in a given amount of time I think reading something that has been carefully written about a topic is more effective than listening to a podcast, which by its nature can be diffuse rather than focused.

Recently I was asked to participate in a podcast, “Ludology,” with Ryan Sturm and Geoff Englestein, “a podcast about the why of gaming” (in their case, tabletop gaming). So I listened to some episodes before agreeing (it will be recorded in January). The podcast is quite focused, the hosts have a topic in mind, may have a guest, and they talk about that topic. There are no feedback segments or other distractions, just discussion of the topic and related topics.

A recent episode is about innovation and this set me to thinking about a topic that I think Does Not Matter in game design. Most game players Don’t Care either, but clearly some people do.

More December 2011 Miscellany

I expect I'll be at PrezCon in late February in Charlottesville, VA. I'm scheduled to talk about game design at 9PM Friday evening. This will be an hour of (mostly) me talking, then an hour or more of questions, answers, and discussion.

Another review of Dragon Rage, by Michael Barnes of fortressat.
Yes, it is expensive, though it will be carried once more by FunAgain and that eliminates the enormous shipping expense.

December Miscellany

December Miscellany

I've posted a long piece about teaching game design in my blog about teaching game design ( ) I decided it was not exactly suitable for this blog.

6 words about wargames

According to tweetdeck, one of the trending:worldwide topics on twitter is 6 word stories.

I've asked for 6 words about game designers and 6 about programmers in the past, with interesting results. Now I want to ask about a type of game.

Can you say in 6 words what makes wargames interesting--or not? (And you'll have to decide what "wargames" are.)


A young friend of mine asked me if I was interested in going to a mutual friend's house one evening to play Munchkin. There were several reasons I could not, but one was "it's too silly". Munchkin is a deliberately silly game. This is amusing for a little while, but after that it just gets in the way.

Yet, when I was playtesting one of my zombie games I said to the players, "it's a silly zombie game after all". But the silliness is of a different kind, and I asked myself what made the difference.

November 2011 Miscellany

Miscellaneous thoughts:

There is a longer version of my blog post "Too Many Choices?", called "How Many Choices are Too Many" on

Dragon Rage was recently near the top of "The Hoteness" on Boardgamegeek (#3 that I saw), MUCH to my surprise given the niche nature of the game. I was even more surprised, when I switched to the "Thematic" sub-section, that it wasn't in The Hotness at all. If Dragon Rage isn't a thematic game, what is?

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by Dr. Radut