45: Misunderstood

45: Misunderstood

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about designing games?

 

 

A great game starts with a great idea, but I dislike the fixed mindset that some have that you can either design a game or you can’t. The single most important personal quality a published game designer has is persistence. You’re going to make bad games. You’re going to get bad feedback. You’re going to have bad ideas in addressing that feedback. You’re going to write bad rules and use bad art. But you CAN get better if you work hard. If you listen. Then work hard. Then listen. You have to game yourself, basically, to be a game designer.

Kathleen Mercury

That there’s a “right”, or even “better” way to do it. My process has been wildly different from game to game, and I almost always follow different paths to get to the finish line. Some games I’ve playtested hundreds of times before they felt right, and one time I woke up with an idea and it was 99% of exactly what was published. There’s a lot of advice out there but no one has a magic formula. Pick and choose what works best for you and the way your mind works.

Alex Cutler

The idea that people sign games based on the designer, rather than the quality of the game.

Peter C. Hayward

That your idea is worth a million bucks and you should keep it behind lock and key, have people sign NDAs, go for patents, NO. It’s all about execution! Share your idea far and wide, playtest with as many people as you possibly can, and people will expose those who think they can steal your idea without repercussions. Another misconception is that your game has to be 100% original to have a chance to succeed, but that’s wrong, too. Don’t be afraid to stand on the shoulders of games that come before it. Lanterns would not exist if I didn’t take inspiration from Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. Spell Smashers would not exist it I hadn’t played Hardback and Bloodborne.

Christopher Chung

You’re going to make bad games. You’re going to get bad feedback. You’re going to have bad ideas in addressing that feedback. You’re going to write bad rules and use bad art. But you CAN get better if you work hard. — Kathleen Mercury

The notion of pasted-on theme is a big misconception. It’s easy to say that a theme for a game “could have been anything.” However, even in games where the theme seems rather shallow, usually the designer has made many choices in light of the theme – including the choice to keep the theme out of the spotlight. They may not always succeed in perfect resonance with the theme, but that’s falling short on execution, not on effort or intent. Theme is a design ingredient that every designer I know takes seriously.

Isaac Shalev

That ideas populate fully formed. A real time game can turn into a turn based strategy game – nothing is set in stone until the box hits the shelves.

Adrienne Ezell

1. That designing a simple game is easy (it’s not).
2. Your friends and family like it so it must be good.
3. Roll-and-move is a terrible mechanic.
4. Designers are super wealthy off of their work.
5. We all know what we’re doing.

Tony Boydell

The greatest misconception is that one needs to be good at maths. Games are very formal systems, but often rely more on psychology or interaction than tactics or strategy. And even when they’re pretty dry and very German, the maths involved in designing them is never above high school level. Designing a game, even a light and relatively abstract one, is more akin to writing a novel or short story than to solving a math problem.

Bruno Faidutti

The notion of pasted-on theme is a big misconception…Usually the designer has made many choices in light of the theme – including the choice to keep the theme out of the spotlight. — Isaac Shalev

One misconception is that ideas are worth anything. The phrase “ideas are a dime a dozen” is so common because anyone can have an idea, but it takes hard work to turn that idea into a product. Even if you’re making a game for friends to play, you still have to make the game look good and engaging to play. Self-publishing is also not easy as you essentially become a publisher. If you decide to pitch to companies, that takes work to get your game in front of them. Game design is a hard road to travel, but hopefully enjoyable.

Sarah Reed

From my experience, one of the biggest misconceptions about designing games is that you need to wait until an idea is fully formed before sharing and playtesting it. In my experience, the quicker you can get things on to the table, the quicker you can work out what does and does not work!

Sam Illingworth

Most game designers aren’t experts before they start. They gain expertise through failing. Not every game needs to end up on the store shelf. The process to make them is still time well spent. Games don’t spring forth from your head, perfect and fully-formed like Pallas Athena! They start out ugly and become more beautiful through iteration. You don’t need better art. You need better graphic design. You don’t need trademarks or patents. You need to playtest widely and expose your game to players. You don’t need to go to cons. You need to build strong relationships in the industry.

Sen-Foong Lim

A few things immediately come to mind: (a) that ideas are precious and worth keeping secret; (b) that a testable design looks like a published game, both visually and in terms of the completeness of the content, mechanics, and parts; and (c) that the community of other game designers constitutes a diverse pool of playtesters that is representative of board game buyers.

Jessey Wright

The phrase “ideas are a dime a dozen” is so common because anyone can have an idea, but it takes hard work to turn that idea into a product. — Sarah Reed

One big misconception I see frequently is conflating “coming up with an idea for a game” with “completing a game.” Our lexicon is lacking in this respect, as both of those things can be called “designing” a game.

Game design has 2 major aspects: invention, and execution. Doing one without the other is worthless. Not every designer must be good at both, that’s what co-designers are for. And nowadays there are freelance developers offering their services as well. Some publishers will sign an unfinished game and do the development portion themselves, but many do not have the time, the staff, or the expertise to do so.

This may seem like a pedantic complaint but blurring the line between starting a game and finishing one seriously devalues the significant work of game development – taking the game from the start to the end. The danger is that it can lead to designers pitching unfinished games as if they were finished, and in the extreme, could ultimately lead to underdeveloped games on the shelf – I’m sure we’ve all experienced that before!

Seth Jaffee

A misconception I encounter often is that an idea is the hardest part of making a game, and that the idea needs protecting. The truth is that you could give the same idea to 5 designers and none of them would make the same game you were going to make. Ideas are easy. Game design is work.

Roberta Taylor

That it ever gets any easier. To paraphrase Thomas Mann: “A game designer is someone for whom game design is more difficult than it is for other people.”

Brett J. Gilbert

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