A Surprise Quasi-Interview

We were recently contacted by a group working on a game creation centered story-telling project for a large sporting goods company. They had lots of questions regarding the creation of games. I’m modifying the format to fit this blog, but here’s generally what was asked and answered if you find such discussions interesting:

1) Take us through what you think makes a great game and perhaps some key considerations that you make.

Maybe I'm pigeon holing your company here, but I'm assuming they're looking more for a physical game, like basketball or hopscotch, whereas we create tabletop board games. I've never created a more physical type of game and don't see myself as a great story-teller. That being said, there are inevitably some overlaps between the two disciplines. Off the top of my head, these might include:
- must balance excitement of possibility with frustration of randomness
- must reward skill and practice while not turning away new players (unless high level competitive)
- minimize 1 off rules and exceptions for smoother and more consistent common sense gameplay
- minimize player elimination or waiting times in longer contests (games lasting >15-20 minutes)
- setting limitations and parameters up front is important

I'm sure there are many more, but I'm not sure I quite understand the specifics of what you're looking for. Also, some games are quite popular despite breaking 1 or many of these rules, so they're more general recommendations rather than game design commandments. So, hopefully that helps.

2) What brings people together and allows them to bond around a set of arbitrary rules?

This very much differs depending on the game. You'll notice the sort of folks that come together to play a heavy Euro board game do not have high cross over rates with folks who come together to play basketball. So, the answer is game and genre specific. The only common denominator is perhaps exactly what you said...something brings people together around a set of arbitrary rules. Depending on the game and genre, these might include: drive for excellence, competition, community, finding tribe, interest in game subject or theme, enjoy physical exertion, enjoy mental exertion, tradition and history, drive for notoriety, drive for money, healthier alternatives to other activity choices, feeling able to express self in the game's context.

2) Why do people continue to invent games when, surely, there must be enough out there already?

I would ask in return, why do people keep writing books? Surely, there are enough books. Your real question is, why do people create when we have everything required for living? For us it started with a basic knowledge of what was out there and the desire to play something a little different, the whim and will to try to make it ourselves. Our first game was initially just for us to play and a fun exercise to accomplish, but eventually we realized others might really like it, too. Many other reasons could include: money, notoriety, sense of accomplishment/acceptance, a need to express oneself in a medium of preference, a feeling of duty or pleasure as it may improve the lives of self or others, sense of purpose/meaning, desire to shape self-identity.

3) What drives game development - culture, environment, beliefs?

Yes, plus self.

4) How do you take action and test an idea?

Again, this will vary greatly depending on the game. General rules are: set intention, ideate, shape to restrictions, make sure it answers or fulfills intention, update, start with the minimum work/money necessary to create a working prototype, test it with self to find flaws, update, test it with trusted groups to find flaws, update, repeat until it's the best you think it can be, test with outside groups, update, repeat until it's the best you think it can be. There are more specifics depending on genre/game and whether you intend to just play it yourself at home, want to sell it to the public, want to sell it to another company, etc.