Every Man Needs A Shed

Life and games (but mostly games) from Tony Boydell - Independent UK games designer, self-confessed Agricola-holic and Carl Chudyk fan-boy: www.surprisedstaregames.co.uk
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A Brain Of Two Halves

Anthony Boydell
United Kingdom
Newent. Glos
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Welcome...to my Shed!
I just read the latest in Andrea "Liga" Ligabue's "Art of Design" series; interviews with game designers on the 'Opinionated Gamers' (http://opinionatedgamers.com/2012/04/11/the-art-of-design-in...) blog.

This time (read the URL!) it's the turn of Antoine Bauza, creator of yadda-yadda-yadda blah-blah-blah, winner of rumpty-schmumpty-widdly-woo, Spiel des yeah-yeah et cetera. There are a couple of excellent little questions amongst the cordial flirting and one in particular revisits an old staple for game designers:

"How much really the theme is important for you in the design process ? Are you used to start from theme or from the mechanics?"

He's a theme type d'homme, but which approach is the best?

When one hears of Morrissey delivering sheafs of prose to Johnny Marr, or Elton John warbling piano-gic melodies to Bernie Taupin, the argument is impossible to resolve as there are so many examples of each approach working with massive success.

I'm convinced a games designer cannot be a servant of both of these masters either - we're either in one camp or the other – but is there a definitive 'best' answer in THIS sphere of creativity?

The Church of The Left Brain (Mechanics) succeeds with logic, hard structures, efficiency and mathematics. CoLB games work beautifully, they challenge, they stimulate intellectually (to varying levels) but they're cold. No matter how cute Dungeon Petz looks (or how funny the rule book is) or how cheap and accessible Knizia's (avalanche of) games are, they're bare walls pasted with bright paper. Through the Ages is an astonishing design - but it ain't fun, no sirree Bob.

The Church of The Right Brain (Theme) succeeds with fluidity, colour, atmosphere and emotion. CoRB games are engaging and warm but will be naturally restricted by their inspirational source - to the cost of the final interlock-edness of the design.

I could argue that, in relation to hobby-games, the Left Brain methodology is the best as it allows the modeling of real systems into game systems – boundaries, parameters, paths of deduction etc. They may be cooler, but they’re more successful at teasing out mental competition. Right brain is wishy-washy, it’s all ribbons and tassles.

(Also, as many Knizian offerings attest, you can always rely on someone else to ‘slap a theme’ on to a clean engine – especially wonderful (and infuriating) is his ability to re-license the same clanking jalopy and see it emerge painted anew)

I could counter-argue, however, that driving a design theme-first allows you to develop more interesting new, or variant, game mechanics – necessarily different to fit in with your ‘story’ *cough* Last Will *cough*

I just can’t make up my mind about it; what do you lot think?

Here’s fun, then, with Left (Mechanics first) and Right (Theme first) in mind how would YOU categorize this list of designers?

- Martin Wallace
- Donald X Vaccination
- Vlaada Chvatil
- Uwe Rosenberg
- Friedeman Friese
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