Game Design Theory

Sometimes the obvious question is the one that needs asking.

This is a series of articles that form the starting point for discussions on all manner of game design topics. Some of these are specific to one type of games, but many are applicable to board games, tabletop games and computer games equally. You might just need to think a bit about the relevance. This cross-fertilization between gaming styles and breaking down what I see as unnecessary compartmentalization between different styles and media is a common thread you’ll find throughout my writing.

Please feel free to comment on any of these threads,
regardless of when they were started.

These are mainly timeless topics and fresh opinions are always sought. We have a number of regular contributors who are industry professionals, though you definitely do not have to be one to have a say. I’ve learned a lot from other people’s input, and hopefully you will find the debates as engaging and informative as I do.

Individual Articles

(last updated 8 Jan 2012)

Design Theory Articles

Not Labelled As Such, But Sort of Design Theory Anyway

17 Responses to Game Design Theory

  1. Pingback: Design Theory: Simplicity vs Dumbing Down |

  2. chris p says:

    most games need to be ‘keep it simple, stupid!’
    so to speak, lets face it if we can keep it simple enough to catch the eye of todays children , say 7 years + they are the gamers of tomorrow.
    so we need rules to be complex enough to keep todays games tastes and simple for tomorrows gamers to play.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      That should certainly be the aim of a large number of games. However, complex and involving games also have an appear, for example Advanced Squad Leader. You’ll not get a 7 year old to understand that, but it’s not a bad game at all – just a different design ethos – and there’s room for both. The important thing is not making things complex for no good reason. If it’s not adding anything other than complexity, then take it out.

  3. Alex Cooper says:

    Hi Jake,
    Just to let you know i have sent my dice mechanics discussion thoughts to you via email.
    hopefully it will stir those creative juices into an interesting blogpost for you to write and us gaming mortals to read!


  4. mattadlard says:

    As a game design reference this link may appeal.
    The game designer is going over their decisions for why they are doing this as they are and some interesting mechanic ideas.

  5. john says:

    i’ve been developing a game with a few fiends for a while, could you maybe provide some insight into what kinds of questions to ask playtesters? General feedback is good, i know, but are there specific things you ask or things that you look for when watching others play ?

    Thanks for considering my question.


    • Quirkworthy says:

      “…a few fiends”, eh? Dangerous work!

      Sounds to me like this would be better as a post than as a comment so I’ll see when I can fit it in. I’m sure I’ll find more than enough to say about it 🙂

      • john says:

        Thanks , I’d appreciate that, i am working on the rules myself but play testing with friends, I’m talking about play testing in a larger group, like in your mars attacks! post.
        Thanks again.

  6. Pingback: Playtesting Questions |

  7. Pingback: A Design Theory Question |

  8. Sam says:

    Hi Jake,

    I’m in the process of creating a prototype and *thoroughly* play testing my first game. I’ve originated rules for a variety of small games that I’ve played with friends plenty of times before, or created lots of house rules for game groups who have thoroughly enjoyed them, but this will be the first time I’ve fully designed an entire game this in depth.

    Do you have any recommendations for budding game designers like myself on how to get our ideas in front of the ‘right people’, who the ‘right people’ are, and how to make ideas a reality?
    Kickstarter and other crowd funding websites seem like one option, but what are the others? Are there other forms of self-publication? IS it worth approaching companies out their like Mantic with ideas?

    Also, how do you balance too much detail and too little detail in rules? Too little detail and rules may appear too simple or unclear, and too much can come across as complicated. Are there things that you can assume a player will know, eg if players roll-off to decided who goes first, do you advise explaining what a roll off is and explain what to do in the result of a draw, or do you assume that this will be something players out there will already know. I’m guessing it depends on the target audience you’re going for?

  9. thedrownedearth says:

    I wonder if you’re aware of the Delta Vector blog:

    His recent stuff has been on painting, but there’s usually an emphasis on game design, particularly in war games. It’s a good read :). (I’m recommending it- I have no affiliation)

  10. media says:

    Hello, this weekend is good designed for me, as this moment i am
    reading this great educational paragraph here at
    my residence.

  11. Kadmon says:

    These are very useful, thank you! I’ve linked your articles in the game designers’ resources section of my website:

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