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Should I design for myself or others? Is getting feedback essential?

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larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008

This question might be the anti-thesis of itself. I had a discussion with a friend who shares a different point of view than what I have learned so far. He said that I should create the game I want and not ask for any feedback. I should be designing a game for myself and not for others. There is so many people in the world, that it's unlikely I design a game that I like but nobody else does.

This view goes in contradiction with everything I learned about game design in the last 15 years. I have always been told that you don't design a game for yourself, but for your target audience. And that you should ask for feed back regularly to make sure you are going in the right direction.

The only difference I could see, is when designing a board games, most of them are going to be played with other players. Solo testing only gives you a portion of the experience therefore requiring the need to other players to play and give feed back on your game. While if you design a video game or a solo board game, the experience you get will be very similar to the final product.

Still, your experience as a designer could be biased because you know your game perfectly, which is not the case for new players that could get lost or not understand your game. It's still possible that for video or solo board games, feed back could only be required later in the game development than multiplayer games.

My friend has been mostly designing table top RPG. Since there is a game master that act as a judge, maybe the rule design must be less solid, require less testing and feedback. Board games seems at the other end of the spectrum with tight rules and design.

What are your thoughts?

Maybe I should stop spending time asking for your thoughts! I instead of reading and writing on forums, I should spend this time designing games.

X3M's picture
Joined: 10/28/2013
larienna wrote: Maybe I

larienna wrote:

Maybe I should stop spending time asking for your thoughts! I instead of reading and writing on forums, I should spend this time designing games.

I guess, when you are stuck. You could attempt a question. And filter the options that others offer.
How does this go on BGG?

Funny how someone close to you has a remark that goes sort of 180 on your own beliefs.
I had a similar situation.

The question they asked me was:
"Is your target audience the mentally retarded?"
(I think they where worried about me too)
Instead of answering with sarcasm. I first thought about that question. A certain country will be insulted if I share my real answer here.

Mu friends had more fun playing the games as how I designed them personally. Than my attempt for "public" versions.
Go figure...

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Design with "purpose"... My answer might surprise you!

When I say: "Design with 'purpose'...!" What I mean is that with your DESIGN figure out what you want to "ACCOMPLISH" with it. Take for example the design that I have been writing about recently: "Archon: Circlet of the Heavens".

I don't know if the game will have an "Audience"?! It's a two (2) player DUEL (not many people like 2-Player style games), next there is a strong Deck Customization aspect (Magic players only play Magic) and some "CLEVER" game "mechanics".

That's why I am continuing with that DESIGN: it has some CLEVER "mechanics".

So I think in a way your friend is right, do it for whatever reason YOU choose. Consider feedback... I like to exchange a lot to present things, to sort-out my thoughts, to help me think about challenges and to overcome obstacles.

You may be the perfect opposite: you like to work on things on your own time and alone. That is your choice and is perfectly acceptable. When I suggest things its mostly because I want the recipient to benefit from my OWN "experience". Like I know doing "A" is good before "B" because I have TRIED it already.

Don't worry about what people think. I am told I too "concern myself with other's opinions"... But IF I didn't care... I wouldn't run this Forum. I genuinely want to HELP people with their issues (when and IF I can).

I have my own set of experience which is probably different than yours. And that's why I share MY opinion ... Because I've done things and experienced things that were either A> Good gave a positive result or B> Bad and you should be careful...

But I don't think I have ever shared any BAD experiences with you... So you look to be on the "right path".

Don't make things a "chore" (I MUST do it ... or else...!) Like for example posting on Some people can't find the time. Simple, find a 30 minutes after supper (7:00) or before work (8:00) and make it a sort of rule to check and post (if you have the time). It's not a hard-set rule... Just something you work into your day!

Same for your game. Make it for whatever REASON is important TO YOU!

Advice you can heed it and TRY but you don't need to forcibly want to do it... Because it may not be YOUR process... That's all.

Cheers Eric (@larienna)... Make something "cool"!

Joined: 04/18/2018
I just watched a video

I just watched a video interview featuring designer Jonny Pac...

One thing he said that stood out to me (and I'm paraphrasing) is that he approaches game design knowing what he first produces will be quite rough and unplayable, and it's only after extensive feedback and playtesting that his games become commercially viable.

I think there is some truth to this.

If you want to just design games as a personal hobby, then by all means go right ahead. But if you don't seek the input of others at some point, it's very unlikely you will ever hammer out all the kinks enough on your own to make it something others will play and enjoy.

But whatever you do, I hope you enjoy the ride!

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
Two Thoughts

I have two comments, hopefully not retreading anything already mentioned here (and if I do, I apologize).

  • I can't think of a downside to receiving feedback from others, even if I were to design a game "just for myself." I think it's what one does with the feedback that can sway one way or the other in terms of being worthwhile. And this boils down to the designer making deliberate choices about the evolution of the game design, not whether or not it has received feedback of a certain kind or quality.
  • I played and DM'ed for AD&D (starting with original, and then shortly afterward it was 2nd edition almost exclusively) for nearly two decades. Within that time, I learned that RPGs on the table are in a constant state of adjustment. The game is a collaborative story between the people involved, and both players and referees are guiding that story. The "rules" are there as a framework for the resolution of things outside the realm of storytelling - such as the amount of damage one sustained in that fireball, or whether or not the trap was disarmed - but that's secondary and easily "fudged" in comparison to telling the story.

    I don't think typical tabletop games have that luxury. Either it's a competition between players and rules are the arbiter of who wins, or it's a collaborative game and ignoring the rules means there's less of a game and more of an "entertainment." If yours is the first case, the competition is diminished and some folks will say, "well, why bother?" If yours is the second case, the challenge and risk is diminished and it becomes more of a way to just spend the time together... In which case, why spend upwards of $50 to do that? Buy an RPG sourcebook for like $15 and create fun stories together by fudging the rules, instead.

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009
My version

As they said in old English, "here is my wrede."

No game designer can escape the audience, unless the audience is just one person, the designer himself.

He can ignore the audience, and the game is likely to suffer. Or he can use feedback from the audience to make the game better for that audience (but not necessarily some other audience).

Commercial designers ought to have a target audience in mind. Those designing for themselves might not (other than themselves, of course).

Because commercial designers are designing for a target audience, they should not also be designing for themselves unless they are a member of that audience. But audience comes first, not self..

Yet those who design for a commercial audience should not design something they actively dislike, or at least not until very experienced. Some of the games I design, I like to play; others, not so much. But I don't design anything I dislike.

The guys who made *Doom* made it for themselves, but turned out they represented a large audience. They were lucky.

Self-indulgence is a sin for a commercial designer; it's normal for anyone designing for himself.

(Replace he with she if you prefer.)

Joined: 07/23/2010
False dichotomy

That's a made-up tension.

You should definitely design games for yourself. The games you design should all make your top 10 favorite games to play. Unless you are a very experienced professional (I know three or four) it's going to be very hard to make a good game if you don't like it.

But getting feedback is how you make your game better. When someone gives me feedback about my games and I change something, the game becomes better and becomes more fun for ME to play. If it didn't, I wouldn't change anything.

When you playtest with other players, make sure you are listening to their feedback and isolating what the problem is. Playtesters often offer solutions, which you should generally ignore. But you need to focus on the problem they are offering a solution for, and solve that problem.

larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
That is what basically I have

That is what basically I have been doing all those years. But what If I was wrong, I should do the whole game alone and not ask for any feedback At the end and make some adjustments if necessary.

Still, I would more likely see myself doing this for a solo board game or video game because I can get the full experience. In multiplayer games, I need to play with others to get the full experience which implies collecting comments because each player had a different situation to analyse and consider.

If the game is played solo, it just 1 player's point of view.

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