Adventures in Thought and Design

This week we have a ménage à trois of games for you. It’s a really exciting and really polyamorous article. So let’s get down with the get down.

uae-imports-exports-reexportsThe first of these lovely ladies is the rather dully named Import/Export. She has my heart for being the first, and lowest scoring, entry of mine in the BGDF Game Design Showdown.

Next we have Architetro, which is by far the shortest member of the household but makes up for it in spunk. Smash together tetrominoes and architecture on a timeline. What’s not to love?

Finally, in the lovely night gown with the horses and cows captioned above them—I’m a little unstable in the mornings and I’m not in the mood—is the game from the Design Showdowns that meant the most to me personally. It left A Lasting Mark.

1024px-cardthisisthelifeWait. Where do I fit in all this hot polyamorous love action? Girls? Oh, I see… Look, if it’s the video cam… Not that? I can put the latex suit back in the car… But… Okay, that’s fine. No, that’s just fine. I didn’t want anything to do with your sick, twisted, freewheeling lifestyle anyways. And that, boys and girls is why Ronald Reagan created AIDs. 2 years in office and… BAM! And that is how free love died. He still couldn’t erase black people and homosexuuuuaalls.

But I digress. The Game Design Showdown is a bit of a misnomer. This is something that I realized after A Lasting Mark. You’re not really designing a game at all. What you’re doing is delivering a pitch for a game idea. This is a great thing to be able to do. It’s an absolute necessity as a game designer and well worth some practice. But as I found myself “designing” these games I realized that nothing I was doing in the design was anything more than any Jane or Joe on the street does. I was just thinking about something.

thought-experimentGame designers like to refer to this as thought experiment. While this can be useful in the very early process of the design, you haven’t really designed anything yet.

First, I think it’s important to understand what the process of design is in it’s simplest form, because one of the things that people find difficult lies in the fact that there are  two different but easily confused definitions of design. First we have the proper definition within the context of an architect, or a fashion designer, even a game designer:

1. to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan.

Then we have the definition which is confusing everyone:

2. to conceive and plan out in the mind.

Does everyone see what’s going on here? Because I didn’t.

One of my personal heroes.

Yes, a game designer often conceives and/or plans in their mind, but that’s not game design. Game design is putting those plans on the table and seeing how they work in the really real world. It’s assembling the parts and testing them until they are refined.

If all you have are some mechanics, a theme, and a dream, you aren’t designing a game yet. You have just performed a thought experiment. Once you have built and tested the design you have begun the process of game design.

So were any of my lovely lasses up there actual designs? As a matter of fact, yes. Every single one of them. They’re all unfinished designs, granted, but there has existed physical copies of these games. Import/Export was a Sheriff of Nottingham style game using a standard deck of cards and some envelopes. I played with my family and they really enjoyed the dynamics. It got shelved for things I was more interested in at the time.

IMG_0071Architetro never made it to the Game Design Showdown but was conceived and documented there. It’s a game about frantically building something using tetrominoes. The fun factor was meant to be high. It’s something I would definitely like to continue work on in the future. She’s a keeper.

As far as A Lasting Mark, I hope this game stands someday as my magnum opus, even if I’m a total failure as a game designer and it is only a 6.9 on BGG. At least, I can say, “It was the best game I ever made.” I’ve built prototypes, but I know nothing that I’ve created so far has done what I want the game to do. It’s a Eurogame where players play entire Chiefdoms trying to survive, prosper, and stave off colonialism as they are forced further and further away from their homelands. In other words, it’s the opposite of pretty much every Euro game ever (hyperbole).

We’re going to try something a little different and I hope at least one of you decides to take me up on this.

This is your very first homework assignment. It isn’t mandatory and won’t be graded. I want everyone who reads this who has any interest in designing something, to take your thought experiment to the scary part, the hard part, the part which requires blood, sweat, and years. Move forward to the design.


You’re one of us now.


2 thoughts on “Adventures in Thought and Design

  1. A BGG rating of 6.9 is a failure?! Dude! That would put you in the top 400, beating some really great games!

    That said, I’m looking forward to seeing A Lasting Mark growing in awesomeness and, hopefully, breaking the top 100 for you. I’ve just found the GDS pitch for it and it looks like it could become something really cool and interesting. Good luck with it.


  2. I appreciate the encouragement Rob. That bit was mostly hyperbole, mostly. There’s a part of me that thinks anything below 7.5 would be a fail, but that’s just the small part that allows me to be so positively self deprecating. So it’s not all bad.

    Thank’s for checking out A Lasting Mark (Idea). I’m planning on working on that after my current project but I’m also hoping I might have another project lined up after that.

    I hope you and yours are doing well. Does it snow in your locale? We’ve had 4 inches of snow and the whole city shut down yesterday (It’s since reopened).


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