Saturday, February 28, 2015

12 Core Principles of Game Design

I've been thinking about Game Design Principles and although it seems arbitrary to list a dozen, as opposed to 100 (see Wendy Despain's book), or thirteen (see Matt Almer in Gamasutra), here are my essential twelve.  There are of course many more, and some of them are more fundamental than others, and have sub-principles.  But, not in order of importance, here they are, offered as a place to start, rather than any kind of end point.

PRINCIPLE 1: Use design thinking
The iterative process of design thinking, in which we understand who is going to use what we design, then come up with ideas, prototype, test, and revise, is an approach that focuses each stage of the process where it needs to be.

PRINCIPLE 2: Create meaningful play
This fundamental principle refers to Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman's approach to game design in The Rules of Play, and everything else flows from it.  All your design choices have to result in meaningful experiences for the player.

PRINCIPLE 3: Use player expectations and knowledge from genre and style
Work with, and play with, what's come before, because your player will.  You can go against those expectations, but do so from a place of knowledge.  And of course, not all players will be familiar with genre and style, and your game has to meaningful to them, too.

PRINCIPLE 4: Focus on the player experience
This is as fundamental as it gets, and it's a reminder that your journey as the designer may be the means, but it's  not the end.

PRINCIPLE 5: Consider aesthetics
Always remember the aesthetic experience of your game, and make it beautiful (or cute, or shocking, or ugly) as suits your game.

PRINCIPLE 6: Focus on behavior
Games are about doing, so how the player--and all the objects and characters--behave is central.

PRINCIPLE 7: Shape the arc of your game
Not all games have story, but they should all have an arc, a shape to the experience.

PRINCIPLE 8: Create spatial awareness
Whether 2D or 3D, abstract or realistic, each game represents space in a certain way, and how you create a sense of gamespace for your player is an important part of the game experience.

PRINCIPLE 9: Think of the player in terms of relationships
Your player is in relationship with others, whether they are characters and other components of your game, other players, or other people in social networks and in life.

PRINCIPLE 10: Design for flow experience
This is another fundamental principle, because it addresses the holy grail of optimal experience, including designing a game with a good balance between challenge and boredom, and an experience that the player want to keep having.

PRINCIPLE 11: Test your game on others
An essential step in design thinking is testing on potential users, getting feedback, and then revising the design based on the feedback.  You can't be the only one who playtests the game, unless you plan on being the only player.

PRINCIPLE 12: Imagine the future
The newest, hottest games are the end result of the designs from the past, so in order to innovate and design something original, you need to think about the future.  What do you think and want gaming to be like? Design for that.

These are my core principles of Game Design, each of which are umbrellas for sub-principles. 

updated 12 March 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015

ShadowLoop 2015

Pictures from ShadowLoop interactive media art installation, January 2015.  See: ShadowLoop page