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Subject: A game design talk I did at NYFA recently rss

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Keith Burgun
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Last week, I did a talk at the New York Film Academy on my philosophy for game design. It essentially posits that, in the haste to fill incredible, huge demand very quickly, we kind of got started on the wrong foot with game design, and are now in a kind of loop of bad habits.

If you've read any of my stuff before, you'll know that the talk is slightly biased towards videogames, but the guidelines I establish are equally useful for board or videogames.

I've made that talk into a Youtube video now so that others can see it. Check it out, and let me know what you think. I expect that not everyone will agree, but hopefully some people will get something out of it.

Enjoy!

http://keithburgun.net/a-talk-i-did-at-nyfa/
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Dan W
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Nice dissertation. Although I was not able to listen to it in its entirety I did appreciated the concept of reducing games down to forms. This makes for workable blocks that you can build upon. I will come back and hear the rest once I have a few minutes.

And... While it is true that you could reduce the definitions even further as proposed by another post it would seemingly over reach your objective of providing a basis for work.
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Nate K
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CapNClassic wrote:
one thing is certain, if you want to make a best selling toy/puzzle/contest/game, do not follow he basis of this work.


Yes, because the goal of real art is to make lots and lots of money.
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Nate K
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CapNClassic wrote:
I thought the point was to create games people actually want to play. I suppose you could put jesus in a bottle of piss, or make a movie about Mohamed and put it on youtube and call that art, but it doesn't stop people from calling it art.

Most art and most games art s*it. Spray and Pray is the best way to make the greatest number of the best games. Thinkimg that you can distill what you think makes a game good, and expect that everybody else must be wrong just doesn't work.
...I was with you through the first sentence, Michael, but then you lost me. I legitimately have no idea if I agree or disagree with you.
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Ben Finkel
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A game is an engine that produces the experience of decision-making in the context of a contest. Therefore, we must protect the decision-making


This panel comes right off the heels of you explaining that a game is not inherently better or worse than any of the other forms. If you don't protect the decision-making, and you end up with a contest... so what? I don't understand how a designer of entertainment needs to make his product fit.

Later, you talk about false decisions. In video games in particular (and in games like Tales of the Arabian Nights), false decisions are employed largely to be an economical means of storytelling, providing the appearance of control while producing a limited set of results. So while the decisions aren't mechanically meaningful, they can still not only be personally meaningful but can also provide the illusion of being mechanically meaningful, which can still be as satisfying for a consumer (particularly a casual one).
 
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Keith Burgun
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Quote:
one thing is certain, if you want to make a best selling toy/puzzle/contest/game, do not follow he basis of this work.


I'm curious: how is this "certain" exactly?

Quote:
so what? I don't understand how a designer of entertainment needs to make his product fit.


The so-what is, you should be producing a thing which is exactly what you consciously intended it to be. You should be aware of what kind of system your engine is and might become.
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Keith Burgun
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Well, the.majority of the best selling videogames of all time don't fit the model. (they aren't "games")


That statement is true, but it does not mean that the future will necessarily always stay the same.

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All joking aside though, people have been creating digital entertainment toys/puzzles/contests/games without knowing your taxonomy for years. What makes you think that people need to know what "engine" they are making to make a successful one?


A great example is a linear, story-based videogame that has some kind of fighting sequence. Perhaps like Fallout 3, or something. A fight occurs, and the implication with the fight is that you can win or lose it, right? I think that that was the design intention, but correct me if I'm wrong.

But, because of the inclusion of quicksave, actually, winning is the only option. It accidentally became a puzzle.
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Keith Burgun
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Nor is it explicable to believe that it will change.


Um, technically, if you're agreeing that "the future will not necessarily stay the same", then you're acknowledging that it may indeed change.

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For people who don't use quicksave, the fight can be lost.


If you "don't use quicksave", then you've basically created another rule for yourself. You can house-rule ANYTHING into being a well designed game. I judge games by the default rules, not by rules I prescribe to them to make them better.
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Tiamat
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I'm unclear on what "competition" means. A game by definition also has the properties of a contest, so having meaningful decisions to make isn't enough to call it a game. You have to identify "competition" somewhere.

A couple of examples:
SMB1 played solo? Is that a game, contest, or puzzle?
A lottery (multiplayer random winner)? Clearly not a game, but is it a contest or puzzle?

Personally, what I want from a game (video- or board-) varies by medium and by genre... If you are saying, maybe, that the ideal videogame would be something like Puerto Rico played over Xbox Live... I just can't see it!
 
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Tiamat
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I didn't really mean a lottery where you win money, but where winning is at least considered the goal, so that it would be a puzzle. (My starting point was actually: Take a Euro and replace all the decisions with die rolling. That makes it a lottery that takes too long to play and maybe has turn order advantages.) But I'm unsure whether it has "competition."

Yes, it does seem limiting that the advice on offer here is just to not mix types. The elegance argument is vital to everything, but it seems like a really hard case to make in general. If one only makes the argument given a specific set of types (toy/puzzle/contest/game) then it is more doable I think, but then you'd want to argue that the specific types used are somehow fundamental or can be deduced. Aside from that, these particular types are defined as subtypes of each other. To say "don't mix contest with game" feels a bit like "don't mix vegetables with carrots," since a game is defined as a specific form of contest/puzzle/toy.
 
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Tiamat
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There is a way to win though, so I think it is at least a puzzle.
 
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Mario Lanza
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Immensely useful video, Keith. I'm afraid the dialog here detracts from it's value. I hope everyone interested in game design would get a chance to hear your talk. I think it lays some good fundamentals to thinking about designing forms.
 
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