Hi, game designers. My name is Isabella, I am a brazilian game designer since 2016, and these have been troubled years trying to become a better game designer, not always sure what it meant. During this time, sometimes I would think I knew too little, sometimes I would think I knew a lot already (I was young and naive, if you excuse me).
Oftentimes, I tried to write about game design, give talks, but it often felt like I had nothing to say to contribute to others. I still don’t think I do, for most of it.
However, there is still a lot of misunderstanding of what a game designer is, and, as now I can see exactly why they are incorrect, I might try to give my perspective. On the other side, and maybe the most important one, writing is a great way to consolidate knowledge, thus I am writing so that I can solidify my knowledge better.
So, I am a game designer, writing about games for my own learning, and sharing because it might benefit someone. Stick around if it feels reasonable. This text will be just a quick intro and some sort of glossary of terms I use often.
The foundation blocks
When a game designer looks at a game or a concept of a game, they might ask “how do you play?”, “What does the player do?”, “How do they win?”, which deep down is a question on “How does the player interact and evolves in the system?”
Games are interactive entertainment, so the player needs tools to interact with it. We call them mechanics, whilst systems are the mechanics working together and with the world of the game. It is the game designer’s job to give just the right tools for the player to have a good experience.
A good experience can be different for each player, but, for most of the cases, a good experience requires some cohesion, which means that the mechanics and systems pull the player in the same direction, have an internal logic and ultimately make sense for the player. For me, this cohesion is extremely important to create and communicate an interesting and satisfying experience.
It might also be interesting to see games as machines, in which you need the mechanics as building blocks, while systems, rules, victory and defeat conditions are cogs and links. Just stacking a couple of blocks does not make a game, there needs to be a logical process for the game to work and play well, otherwise it is just a collection of nice mechanics and nothing to communicate.