Reblog: Rabbit Hole Game Design

In Rabbit Hole: Game Design Philipp Zupke comments on just how precarious game design can be as a discipline. It’s hard to know what players will enjoy. Trial-and-error methods when designing games are often all designers have to rely upon. It shows just how far we have to go as analysts and designers alike.

Mike Says: As I continue to participate in the design process of games–in my case it’s all turn-based strategy games–I can’t help but notice how little I know and how easily I am surprised by the results of playtests. I’m sure that with more practice my ability to predict player reactions will improve. I wonder if improved prediction abilities will only result in having improved intuition, or if it will also give me the ability to put my knowledge into words and help others start from a more advanced place and make fewer mistakes when designing their own games.

Marcus Says: I know Disney is often criticized for an overly positive outlook on any given situation. But when Disney makes a movie about how not thinking Disney-like will result in the destruction of the planet, I think it’s in our best interest to feed the right (positive) mindset (wolf). Worried about whether or not you’re qualified to charge for your games? Don’t. Let the individual decide whether or not they want to buy your game. Worried that your struggle in grasping the science of game design will always be a struggle? Don’t. If literature, radio, TV, and movies are any guide, we will never develop that science. It’s easy to let our fears get the best of us. There is no need to feed them a continual cycle of negative feedback from questions that can never be answered.

Richard says: Philipp Zupke has a pretty good attitude. Though I think he underestimates the potential of trial and error learning. You can use such a learning method to merely separate the right answer from the wrong, or you can use it as a necessary information gathering step before extrapolating rules, which can then be applied to other situations. Trial-and-error is just experimentation. You can do it efficiently and well, or waste your time. I can relate to the feeling that there isn’t a good way to understand game design or good guides to follow. The last time I had that feeling was about 8 years ago, just before I started the Critical-Gaming blog to teach myself the ins and outs of game design. Since then there have been many more books published, youtube videos made, GDC quality talks posted, and a stronger social network to leverage. So maybe the somewhat awestruck and gloomy attitude about “fun” and “game design” is just a necessary first step before one dives head first into the ocean that is this creative field. Philipp, you can always chat with us about it.