On Game Design

On game design

In March of 2012, I started a project to explore the nature of game design. I invite some of the most interesting and influential game designers in the world to discuss design with me, then edit down our conversations and post them here for your enjoyment.

Soren Johnson, Design Director, Zynga
 “You have to figure out what are the things that are going to keep your game from succeeding… you have to focus on the questions that do not have an obvious answer, at least an answer you can’t just brute force.” More from Soren…


Michael John, Senior Creative Director, Electronic Arts
“An object that can stand on its own and have meaning, we will call art. An object that must be interacted with, must be designed. And may or may not be art. And usually isn’t art. And may or may not be well designed, or even intentionally designed.” More from MJ…


Paul Barnett, Senior Creative Director, BioWare / Mythic
“Every great designer gave a damn like you wouldn’t believe. Every great designer is in an eternal love affair with design. And accepts that it’s a love affair, which means, you’re at times powerless. You’re at times destroyed. You’re at times miserable. You’re at times elated and ecstatic.” More from Paul… 


Dan Chao, Lead Designer, Funzio
“Nowadays, in Social, what I like is that it’s not just about making the game fun. You have to optimize the game around these other metrics, which some people might say is soulless. But there are just the realities of making the game monetize well, making the game viral. ” More from Dan…


Ray Mazza, Lead Designer Worldwide, Playfish
“It’s good to do expansive brainstorms. But to then go and scope right from there down to the core and the most interesting ideas, rather than planning to do it all. Because you will inevitably add more as you go.” More from Ray…


Jenova Chen, Co-Founder and Creative Director, thatgamecompany
“These games helped me to realize that the game industry today has very limited emotional courage. Like, in all the traditional media, no matter how old are, what gender you are, what mood you are in, there’s always a music for you to consume. There’s always a film for you to watch, even if you are very sad.” More from Jenova…


Andrew Mayer, Creative Director, Sojo Studios
“What I learned early on is you get to have one good idea per game, whether you’re a designer or a creative director or whatever. And then the goal is to shepherd that one good idea as far as you can, and try to keep that good idea held together for as long as you can until the game ships.” More from Andrew…


Rich Hilleman, Chief Creative Director, Electronic Arts
Rich Hilleman“We’re looking for that response out of the user that says that we’ve engaged with their authenticity and their sense of anticipation with what’s going to happen in the game. And they’re drawing pictures and filling in spaces that I can never fill in their head. They’re having experiences that I couldn’t afford to give them. The power of simulations is what already exists in people’s heads. You fight that at your peril.” part 1 | part 2 | part 3

Richard Vorodi, Senior Designer, Crytek
Rich Vorodie“Good game design means it’s your job not to make a fun thing… A game designer’s role is ultimately to craft the rules and the presentation of an experience for an audience that you have in mind… I think game design really is that you’re just a curator. You’re just overseeing and trying to get as close to the result from the player that you have in your mind.” More from Richard…

Greg Kasavin, Creative Director, Supergiant Games
Greg Kasavin“Fun, I think, fun is fine. It’s what most games aspire to be, but I think fun is very fleeting. Because, as soon as you stop having it, you kind of forget about it.” More from Greg…