Game Design Method

I was asked to talk at GGJ 2016 at American University’s Game Lab. I suddenly had to figure out what my years of experience had given me that I could share. I panicked for a week. Then I remembered a few things and realized that I actually have a systemic approach to game design. My method was working for me, people seem to like Immune Defense. So I decided to clarify my thoughts and share them. Here is what you get when a scientist starts making games: a scientific method of game design.

The GMES method is a cute way to remember that you player wants to Gather data, Make a hypothesis, Experiment and Get results. The player will have fun as long as they are able to do these four things.

Get data
The game must make clear what data is available: Flowers that are useful should be visible, pieces of equipment that might help should be discoverable, things that are important for proceeding through the game need to appear relevant to the player.

Make hypothesis
The player must have some kind of idea what the goal of the game is, or perhaps a small number of possible goals and they should be able to define them in their head pretty well. If the goal is to get to a place, the place, how far away it is and what dangers may be encountered should be well defined… not known yet but knowable.

Like spikes for instance, no one likes to die on invisible spikes, but if you see something that looks like it might be spikes and your character falls and dies on these maybe spikes, you are are actually kind of happy because you know the maybe spikes are indeed spikes.

Get results
No one likes results that are hard to interpret. Biochemist, physicists and game players all hate ambiguous results.  Am I dead? What killed me? How can I avoid it? Players want to start building the next hypothesis right away, and so they need clear feedback. Perhaps the bird killed them and perhaps the dog.  But there is a short list of testable items.

Using this method of game design, we can systematically design new games about endless topics.  This is how I managed to make a game about biochemistry. You can use it to make a game about_______.

Posted in Game Design and Development

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