Thursday, May 10, 2012

Creating an Experience: Why I Design Games

A major subject of this blog is designing games, so I figured it was time to ask myself the question (and answer it): Why do I design games?

It is a good question. lists over 50,000 published board and card games, and lists over 3000 published tabletop roleplaying games. With that kind of selection, you would think it would be easy enough to keep yourself entertained with games by other people, without having to create any of your own.

Admittedly, making your own game can be cheaper monetarily than purchasing new games, but it can also be very time consuming. Also, every game that has ever been published and bought was designed by someone. That means those designers have made money off of their work. Realistically, though, game design is a hobby for me. I don’t expect to ever make any real money off of my designs (though it would be a nice perk). So, basically, it boils down to the fact that I enjoy designing games. Why do I enjoy it? Because designing a game is designing an experience.

Much like watching a movie or reading a book, playing a game is an experience. Unlike in other mediums, however, games provide a more interactive experience. Not only can they be entertaining, they can also be challenging. And one game can turn out differently every time it’s played. When you sit down with a group of friends to watch a movie you’re sharing an experience, but you don’t generally have much interaction during that experience. With a game, it’s all about the interactions at the table. So playing a game is a wholly different experience from watching a movie or reading a book. And when you design games, you get to design that experience.

When you and your friends sit down to a game and have fun playing it, there is a unique sort of satisfaction in knowing that you bear a large portion of the responsibility for that fun.

There is a special kind of excitement in having a prototype of a new game ready for playtesting.


  1. Sounds like some thing that brewed up in you as a youngster. You kept that and its turned into something you enjoy. Do correct me if I am wrong on that statement.

    We all have something that we can enjoy personally, but what you described is also something that can be shared. Some pursuits can serve more for the hobbyist's interests and not others, but then there are those things that can be shared.

    A personal reference to myself, if alright to use, is that I do enjoy cooking. I was taught mainly by my parents and now just pick up here and there. I am not a culinary genius, and I could nor should never see myself as one. When I make something though, I do look for the approval or critique from others. I'll ask for opinions, and sometimes I go out on a limb. The results have been mixed, but recently they have been successes.'s fun to share something like that, it's fulfilling.

    That's what I would have to say about that, and that could be saying something against myself being that my other hobby is in models and design. Though I can share it in a way with others (designing a figure for someone right now), it probably is more appropriately to be addressed as personal in pursuit.

    Other than those thoughts, I also understand the thought of doing somenthing of one's own design. It does give that sense of accomplishment. It can offer a challenge as well. Using myself as an example again, if that is alright, I've had that heppen to me in defferent and similar pursuits. One of my interests was in getting models form the Mech-anime series Gundam. At 14 to 15 years old, I had gotten to the point that I was not content with just the models, I wanted to make one from scratch. I started getting ideas for what to build, researching materials like different plastics. I had stopped to a point, and only because I had no idea how to proceed with the idea, though I wasn't finished. I've returned to the pursuit thanks to two things: kit-bashing and paper models. The goal hasn't been reached yet, and I intend to finish it.

    Simply said, I understand where you are coming from.

    1. Also, what are those game pieces to in the picture?

    2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences. You're right about there being a lot of fun in it for myself, and I enjoy the challenges that designing a new game present. I also like creating something that I can then share with others.

      The picture is an early prototype for a new game I'm designing. I haven't mentioned it here before, but I'll probably be posting some design notes later on. The prototype uses cards that I've made, pawns from Pandemic, a map from Star Wars Miniatures, and some dice and ceramic beads that I keep on hand for this sort of thing.

  2. I know when I was really little the idea of making my own games really appealed to me. Probably because my parents idea of a fun board game was Trivial Pursuit Genius Edition lol. So I'd find pieces of cardboard I could draw on and would try to make my own things to play with like that, but I tended to get very hung up on how things should work, and eventually I just gave up on doing it and I've never revisited the thought of making my own game again.

    I think that's part of why I'm really enjoying the open design project you have going on. It's bringing back some of that enthusiasm I used to have, but since it's so collaborative and someone with a much better mind for games mechanics is heading it up, I'm more likely to stay involved. ^_^

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I'm glad you're enjoying the Open Design project. I also started designing games when I was very young, but back then I would try to emulate video games with cardboard and paper. The games were very sketchy on mechanics and rules.

    2. That's where being an analytic person even from a very young age really messed me up. I would tend to pick apart what was wrong with everything I did but didn't really know how to fix it or improve it, or I'd start thinking ahead to all the things I'd need to figure out to get it 'right' and end quitting before I'd even started. But I have lots more to say about that in a future blog entry of my own. lol