Three Truths Every Game Designer Should Know

Over the past year, as I’ve designed Legacy’s Allure, I’ve spent a fair amount of time discussing game design advice in /r/gamedesign, /r/tabletopgamedesign, and /r/boardgamedesign. Recently I realized I’ve been making the same three points repeatedly — points I learned from my time as an entrepreneur.

  1. Game design requires making business decisions. The better you are at business, the better you will be at game design. I think business knowledge may separates the winners from the losers within the game design community more than any other factor. The winners might not even realize they understand business better than others, but this is their secret advantage. In general, if you know you want to get involved in game design one day, you can’t go wrong by getting a job in sales, marketing, and/or business development. Whether your self-publishing or using a publisher, the more you understand about the product creation, sales, marketing, and organization of established companies, the more confident you’ll be in creating games that actually sell.
  2. Design games that solve a problem. Better yet, design a game that solves a personal problem (e.g., a game you wish existed) versus a game that you think others will want to play. You’re always going to have the greatest chance at succeeding at something you understand very well, which is the case with a personal problem. If you can’t think of a game that you wish existed, then, if I may be completely honest, you really don’t have anything to contribute to the game industry. I can tell when someone is pursuing game design just for the sake of having the title of Game Designer because they have zeal for game design but no vision. They ask people to tell them what to make based on what is popular rather than creating something meaningful to them.
  3. You are creating an experience, not a game. This is a basic marketing concept and one that always deserves repeating. When you’re sold a diamond ring, you’re not really being sold a diamond ring, you’re being sold the idea that you’ll be beautiful. When you create your game, what do you want your players to feel? Intelligent? Powerful? Funny? Socially engaged? Is every element of your game working toward reinforcing that experience, or are you throwing in mechanics because they’re popular right now? Tying into this, I recommend you read my article on the KonMari method applied to game design. It will give you a simple, instinct-based test for helping you streamline your game down to its purest form so you can deliver the experience you want with minimal “experiential clutter”.