3: Sayings

3: Sayings

What common game design saying or piece of advice do you most disagree with, and why?

 

“Don’t worry about the game’s actual design for prototyping”. I agree that you should not spend a fortune on artwork before you know that your game works mechanically. However, from my experience playtesting is a lot more useful if players are aided by a clear design that adds to the player experience. Doing so means that your playtesters can give feedback on what did and did not work about the game, rather than the fact that they couldn’t understand your poor handwriting, were baffled by the tiny font size etc.

Sam Illingworth

Blind playtesting. Blind testing final rules can be useful to check if they’re well written. Having other players playtest the game itself with the designer just looking is useless and looks ridiculous. If you want to feel what works or not, you must be playing. Also making nice looking prototypes. Prototypes must be clean and efficient, they don’t need to look good or to have any professional graphics. If your game needs nice graphics to be exciting, it means it’s not good enough.

Bruno Faidutti

The first one I thought of was the idea that there’s a difference between theme-first and mechanics-first design. Outside of the abstract game genre, every designer is really a theme-first designer. Even if you start with a mechanism, you pretty quickly get to a point where you need a theme to inform the rest of the design. I think it’s rare and difficult to end up with a good design if you try to ignore theme entirely, and then paste some skin on the game when it’s “done.”

Seth Jaffee

‘Don’t Give Up!’ Now, hear me out. Some ideas don’t work yet, some need polishing – but you’ve hit a road block. It’s perfectly acceptable to shelve an idea! Inspiration may hit while working on something else or playing something new, or it may never come… that’s ok. It’s fine to put down a project and focus your attention elsewhere.

Adrienne Ezell

I think it’s rare and difficult to end up with a good design if you try to ignore theme entirely, and then paste some skin on the game when it’s “done.” — Seth Jaffee

That you shouldn’t carry people along during your game design (by posting it online or talking about it lest you jinx it) and that you have to wait and do the BIG LAUNCH for the game and wow people. Maybe this is a result of the context I find myself in. A context where you have to encourage people to join the community either by designing or mostly by playing.

Kenechukwu Ogbuagu KC

I strongly disagree with the idea that you have to read a backlog of sacred texts and articles before you get to designing a game. If you play games enough then you know what to look for, what to use, what you like and what intrigues you; I’m not sure there’s any point designing a game that you can’t personally identify with. Instinct, an untainted view of the World, should result in new, exciting things; getting bogged down in other peoples’ opinions and ideas is a huge constraint. Just get to designing and playtesting and _maybe_ read books AFTER the fact.

Tony Boydell

I don’t have a single ‘least favourite’ piece of advice, but I DO hate it when folk make massive generalisations or try to beat down people into thinking that they can’t be an exception.

“Ideas are worthless, it’s all in the execution.” But one or two ideas each year are so brilliant that they would be wonderful, even with mediocre execution.

“Previous designers have failed. Don’t bother.” If everyone believed this, no advances would be made.

You are unique. Even by just considering the design of a game, you enter a tiny niche.

We must find our own paths.

Bez Shahriari

The most common piece of advice I get that I most disagree with is “Don’t do it”. There is still a pervasive, dominant view that there are certain subjects which aren’t suitable for games. But that’s really a very naive and out-dated position: nothing is out-of-bounds. Nothing should be taboo. Or if it is, that’s probably a good justification for making a game of it.

Andrew Sheerin

If you play games enough then you know what to look for, what to use, what you like and what intrigues you; I’m not sure there’s any point designing a game that you can’t personally identify with. — Tony Boydell

I’ll go with testing. Many designers advise you to test your prototypes again and again until the game is great. Even if testing is one very crucial part of the process, it’s important to know “how to test” and not just “play the prototype ad nauseam“. If you’re not focussed on a specific point while testing it could end up at a dead end. You could also easily become bored of your own prototype and just give up. Sometimes it’s better just not to test the game for a while and to just think about it.

Théo Riviere

I disagree with idea that designers should only concern themselves with making games, not products. That we should focus exclusively on the mechanics, theme, and experience, and leave the art direction, graphic design, components, titles, marketing, etc. to the publisher. We need to care about these things precisely because publishers (our customers) and gamers (their customers) do. The easier it is for a publisher to see your game on a shelf, the more likely it is they will put it there!

Trevor Benjamin

I disagree with the idea that playtesting should come after a lot of design; I’d rather get the game to the table early. I think as a designer you have to know what you want from a game but you have to playtest and let a wide diverse set of playtesters tell you where they think the fun is. The most important changes I’ve ever made to games, to me, have been the suggestions from playtesters that worked. I’ve put a lot of my own ideas, blood sweat and tears into games, but when someone points out something so beautifully obvious and effective, to me, that’s so beneficial. So why would I want to not experience that?

Kathleen Mercury

A common saying is to write down the rules from the very first moment, even before you start prototyping. This only works for me when the game is stabilised. Before that, the game could have suffered so many deep changes that it’s not worthy to write down any rules.

Eloi Pujadas

I’ve put a lot of my own ideas, blood sweat and tears into games, but when someone points out something so beautifully obvious and effective, to me, that’s so beneficial. So why would I want to not experience that? — Kathleen Mercury

It is commonly said that pencils and paper scraps should suffice for early playtesting. I produce lavish prototypes from the outset regardless. The process of selecting and laying out artwork helps me to fall in love with my games. The lengthy task of printing and constructing gives me the headspace to solve problems within a ruleset. The attractive prototypes make it easier for playtesters to find the fun. Of course this comes at a huge expense in terms of ink, resources and time, because most early playtests dictate that the game is totally reworked before it hits the table again!

Adam Porter

Many people have told me “take care not to design a game which would be too expensive to produce.” I disagree because we have to make the game we want. And then, if it’s really good, it will be time for the publisher to find solutions. At the beginning of a new game design, I think that we should avoid all which could narrow our creativity.

Bruno Cathala

I agree with most of the common game advice I’ve heard, but one that I disagree with is that your first prototype should be made from pen and paper. While this works for a lot of people and the point is to make it easy to revise quickly, this method doesn’t work for everyone. My handwriting, for example, is atrocious, so I do our first prototypes on the computer, but I don’t put a lot of effort into it. I make it simple with lots of white space. I think everyone should do what works best for them.

Sarah Reed

I’ve seen people advise new designers to resist the temptation to design games only for themselves, and that to be successful they must instead create something that they believe other people will enjoy. This may be accurate, but it is hardly the truth — and is therefore terrible advice. Your first, best destiny is to make something that you enjoy (perhaps, even, that you love), and then hope against hope that you had enough luck, discipline, intelligence and taste to make something good.

Brett J. Gilbert

I can’t think of a specific saying, but one things I hear when playtesting is people trying to make their game unique. I feel that uniqueness is a little overrated, and that it’s also contextual. What is unique to a person who has only played Monopoly and Uno, is different to someone who has played the top 200 games on BGG. I also feel we place too big a burden on ourselves to create something never before seen, instead of trying to find solutions that best suit the theme or design, and this desire to be unique that gets in the way of making great games.

Sye Robertson

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