As a game designer or developer, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your concepts and forget to look at your project from an outside perspective. This is true whether you create video games, board games, tabletop role-playing games, game supplements, or anything in between. Whenever I’m designing a game, I like to go through this little checklist at various stages of development, just to make sure my ideas haven’t driven the game off course. Remember, these aren’t absolute rules to live by, just some food for thought.
1. Is It Fun To Play?
Hands down, this is the most important aspect of game design. If your game develops to a point where it is no longer enjoyable, you’ve obviously taken a wrong turn somewhere. User Delight is a concept from user experience design that translates well to game design. In a nutshell, this theory can be applied to say that any positive emotional impact your game has on a player will encourage them to continue playing. After all, isn’t the point of gaming for the players to have a good time?
2. Is The Concept Unique?
It’s all but impossible to come up with a concept that is 100% original. Pretty much everything has been done in one way or another. That being said, you want to make sure that your game has something special or different. It should stand apart in a sea of other games. The worst thing for your game is to remind the players of another game and make them wish they were playing that instead. Use your unique perspective to strive for innovation in the genre of your game!
3. Does It Make Sense?
Of course, your game makes sense to you. But try to look at it objectively. Ask yourself, “If someone without my knowledge base or life experience sat down to play my game, would they be lost?” If the answer to this question is yes, don’t panic. This problem could be easily solved by adding more expositional copy. Beware though, adding too much of this can seem like a homework assignment to a new player. Alternatively, generalizing concepts can also make your game more inclusive and less niche.
4. Who Is It For?
You should establish early on in your game’s development who your target audience is. Even within set age demographics, not every player is looking for the same type of experience. Having a clear idea of who your game is intended for will help influence the decisions you make throughout the creation process. If you come up with an idea you aren’t sure about, compare it to your target audience. Will they enjoy it? Will they understand it? Try answering these questions before incorporating it.
5. Is It Easy To Understand?
Gamers like rules and structure. They’re vital to understanding the world that your game creates and its limitations. But it’s crucial that these rules are simple and clear. You shouldn’t need a law degree to decipher a game’s rulebook. It’s a good idea to make sure that the language of your game is clear, concise, and digestible. People are more reluctant to try a new game if it seems difficult to get into. If your rules aren’t easy to understand, it’ll be immediately made clear during playtesting.
6. Is It Accessible?
As a creator, it is always good to think about accessibility. Does your game rely on a system of colors that everyone might not be able to differentiate? Consider adding accompanying graphics. What reading level would you estimate the game’s content is at? An average American reads at around the 7th-grade to 8th-grade level. Thinking about these types of challenges and providing solutions is not only inclusive, but widens the reach of your game’s appeal.
7. Is It Replayable?
Is there anything worse than investing in a brand new game, playing it once, and feeling like you’ve seen everything it has to offer? Make sure that your game has a good replayability value. Creating enough options and variation in play while staying within rule and budgetary restraints is definitely a challenge. However, this is what makes prospective players more likely to enjoy, invest, and introduce the game to their circles of friends.
8. Is It Timeless?
Do you think that your game will age well? Or will people who play your game look back on their experiences playing it and think, “That game was so 2022″. There’s nothing wrong with creating a game that acts as a time capsule. But if you’re striving for a game with some longevity that can withstand the test of time, this is a good thing to think about. It’s hard to pull off a timeless game, but it’s a wonderful goal to strive for.
9. Is It Cohesive?
This is especially an issue when several members of a team have a hand in the creation process. While everyone on a team has something to offer, not everything needs to be included. It should be someone on the team’s job to maintain a cohesive style across the artwork, concepts, mechanics, etc. You want your game to be completely immersive and harmonious to the players. Conflicting styles or ideas are often glaringly obvious and can take them out of the experience.
10. Is It Achievable?
Let’s say that you ask yourself all the questions above and are satisfied with the answers. None of it matters if your game is impossible to achieve. Take measures to ensure that you are able to finish, produce, and distribute the game. Unfortunately, this might mean enforcing limits on your features or quality. But this shouldn’t discourage you. Some of the best and most effective solutions in game design are born out of necessity and making the most of what the designer has to work with.
Don’t forget to ask the real questions! Until next time, stay creepy and happy gaming.