Game Design: Undefined And Unappreciated

More games are created today than ever before. Googling ‘game design’ nets you 60 million results – filled with information on how to draw game art, UI design or how to code a video game. Most definitions of game design (including Wikipedias) include game art and aesthetics right in the definition.

These definitions are wrong.

Game design is simply the creation of goals, and the rules players must follow to achieve these goals. The skill in this kind of design is the ability to understand and empathize with your players. How will they act given your constraints? Is acting this way something they enjoy doing? Will it feel right for them to achieve your created goals? Do your rules force them to make decisions they find meaningful?

I am not saying that the way a game looks doesn’t matter. Aesthetics can significantly improve a game; Occasionally they can even make a terrible game enjoyable. Aesthetics in games are called game art. Studios are willing to dump a fortune on game art but unwilling to design a new game, opting to reskin a game from 15 years past.

“But what’s the big deal Chez – What does the definition of game design have to do with what studios find valuable ?” said Mr.Critic

Language shapes reality. That is the big deal . The blending of game art and game design have caused great game designers to go underappreciated. The average 100,000 game design budget will spend 90,000 in art and 10,000 in playtesting for bugs – all in the name of game design.

The bad news for players is that game design is unappreciated as a money making asset. The good news for indy designers is that game design IS a great money making asset for good game designers. Even without great art. Just look at the very successful VVVVVV.

VVVVVV was very successful with real game design

VVVVVV made oodles of money

The goal of this blog is to explore my definition of game design and help game designers (including myself) create better games.