Jan 14, 2006

And in the beginning . . .

I've been told I'm pretty boring. I attempted to convince people it was a medical problem, but it turns out nothing bores people more than hearing about someone else's medical issues. So, I did what any responsible boring person would do: I created a blog.

The way I see it is thus: every piece of information about me holds an infinitecimal amount of interest for someone else, which can be described as 1iiu(international interest unit)/infinity. And, as all non-mathematicians will point out, infinity/infinity = x/x = 1. So, all I have to do is keep typing and I will at some theoretical point in the future (hint: Social Security will be a distant memory) have created 1 iiu.

I already have a website which I rarely update because I never have the time. So you can imagine just how long I expect this awful experiment to last. However, I wanted some easy way to catalogue my attempts to become a professional game designer, hence the title.

My primary focus is on board games, but I'm not totally against trying to make a computer game or a collectible card game. I just find those other ones to be far less interesting than designing a board game.

Video game design these days is more about your programming and artistic skills than actual game design (take a look at the endless stream of WW2 first-person shooters whose differences year to year are mostly cosmetic).

As for CCGs, I hate the idea of having to lock yourself into dealing with a set of mechanics for such a long time. Sure, the idea behind CCG expansions is that you add new mechanics, but the basic flow of the game has to remain stable or players will quickly be overwhelmed. As I've learned as a playtester/assistant unpaid designer for a particular CCG, it also becomes increasingly difficult to balance the game as the number of pieces grows.

Mostly, though, I just have too many ideas to be able to express in anything other than the board game medium. Literally all day long as I look at things I come up with ideas for games. For instance, if I'm driving to Blockbuster for some DVDs, I might think about a new kind of racing game, or one about city-building, or constructing a machine, or movies, or retail sales, or a game that employs a spinning disk or lasers or motors in some way. I would think about how to express drivers' actions and conflicting goals through mechanics, and how that might be applied to a game about single-celled lifeforms. You get the idea.

The vast, vast majority of these are immediately discarded from my mind. But the small percentage that manage to capture my attention get jotted down into a Notepad file on my computer for me to take a pass at them when I have the time. Currently that file has 43 ideas for games listed. The ideas might be a theme, or a combination of mechanics, or a mechanic that I think is completely original (but probably isn't, there are ALOT of games out there) and should be used in one of my other designs or maybe build a new one around it. A week hasn't gone by when the list hasn't grown.

It will be somewhat of a challenge to talk about this, as there is much about what I am doing that has to remain proprietary information. You can't copyright an idea, only the expression of that idea. So most of my ideas will remain unknown to you in any but the broadest of strokes. However, this will not be a blog about the games themselves, only about what it is like to be a Game Designer Wannabe.


  1. know_nothing4:50 PM

    Interesting, but I think an electronic game, computer game, can still have it's value in the game and not in the graphics. The screen can be viewed as a means for distant people to be brought together to play. If you can translate the dynamics, the mechanics, the stratagies into electronic screens, a well designed game can still shine through the graphics. Actually, if it's a well designed game the graphics can be minimal and crude.

  2. Thanks for your response. I am eager to talk to people about their thoughts on game design. Just out of curiosity, how did you find my page? I just started it and didn't expect feedback so soon.

    I responded to your comment here.

  3. Anonymous12:11 AM

    I was currious to see what type of games you created, but as a board game designer, you have no board games that you describe or that we can try out. This could be a good idea. (At least you'd get yourself known)

  4. I like you have pondered game ideas, the idea of designing them and even becoming a games publisher. Trouble is I spend the last 3 years pondering and not doing. Recent attempts ran into great difficulty perhaps because I started at the wrong point. I've thought a lot about what it takes to make a good game and I've come up with some ideas. I'm going to put this in an upcoming post on my site.

    I encourage you to start getting games formulated and to prototype form ASAP lest you become a 3-year ponderer. Also, I would be most interested in hearing how you overcame design challenges (writer's block) and what you learned from your failed attempts. I've learned almost exclusively from failure lately, but by meditating on what makes other designs work, I think I'm learning.

  5. I actually have had games in the prototype stage since last Origins. Right now I have 4 prototypes that I'm working on/showing to publishers and 1 prototype that I abandoned just because I couldn't make it work