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mechanic vs theme start point

3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 01/28/2017

I've said for a long time that theme comes first but I'm finding myself in an odd situation where I've found a couple of mechanics that I like and starting to design a game around them.

Is there room for both schools of thought?

Have I just stared at too many games recently.....

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
Personally. I go for

Personally. I go for mechanics first. I could ask the question in reverse ;)

I think that the best answer is to do simply what feels best at the moment.

Yort Watson
Yort Watson's picture
Joined: 11/12/2017
Mechanics first for me

I'm definitely a mechanics first person. However if you keep a theme loosely associated with the mechanics it can help progress your ideas. The theme can also stifle your ideas, which is often my greatest obstacle. Be ready to paste on a different theme when you are stuck and you may break yourself out of a gridlock with your mechanics/ other ideas.

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Go With the Flow

Push forward with whatever strikes you at the moment.

Just recently I received critique about a game design that was primarily about the mechanics. The thematic elements emerged gradually, and at the time of testing weren't fully-realized.

One of the playtesters/reviewers remarked, "If it's not a theme-forward design, that's okay." He then explained that he would just expect to see interesting choices being the strength of the game instead.

Until he had mentioned it, I never was aware of the term "theme-forward." My assumption is that another game could be considered "mechanics-forward," like chess, go, or some of the games by Knizia. The theme could be tacked-on or deliberately abstracted.

So don't sweat it. Just keep working with it and through persistence the design strengths will emerge. The game will happen one way or another. :)

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