Avi: What is Game Design?
Charley: Game design is the craft and process of inventing games. It’s an inherently rewarding practice that’s equal parts fun and frustrating. All game designers are also players and the best perspective to design a game from is that of the player. To design a game, you must consider things like how a player will learn to play; how a player will get better; how a player will understand their game state and assess themselves; how the game systems will create emergent systems and how players will explore these areas, etc. So in essence, game design is about designing a complex space to be navigated by players. It requires a lot of testing, a lot of balancing, and a lot perseverance. But this is what games do best: rewarding a decision with another decision to make. Not badges or points or leaderboards.
Avi: Why is designing games important?
Charley: It’s naive to think that game design is going to solve all of the worlds problems. But games are important because games say a lot about who we are. They are a reflection of us as individuals when we play and reflections of cultures around the world based on their design. And even when you consider folks games (games that sort of emerge on their own, like hide and seek) at some point, somewhere, someone suggested a rule that stuck. So we’re all game designers in some sense if we’re all players. And it’s through this sort of play that we develop a common language and experiment with ideas.
I teach a lot of game design classes at General Assembly in NYC and my students are a fairly diverse set of minds, ranging from twelve year olds looking to make the next Grand Theft Auto to fifty year old product managers looking to know more about gamification. A question I get is how can one game design class serve all of these interests and the answer is that the basics of the game design process of iteration through physical prototyping and playtesting has something to teach everyone.
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