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On Game Design with Ray Mazza

The following are excerpts from a conversation with Ray Mazza, Lead Designer Worldwide for Playfish.  Ray’s titles include The Sims 2, The Sims 3, The Sims Social, and a whole host of Sims expansion packs. Find out more about the multitalented Mr. Mazza on his blog.

EL: To start with, what is game design?

RM: What is game design? It’s figuring out what is fun. It’s trying to understand the concept of fun and then turning that into a meaningful experience. I think that’s what game design is. There are many different ways to do that.

EL: Has there been a time in your career where you’ve identified something that you know to be fun, whether it’s an interaction or a mechanic. You think, “X is fun, I know it in my heart.” And then you tried to turn it into a game and watched it sputter, just die on the canvas?

RM: Oh, jeez. That’s a good question. I feel like the answer is “yes.” It happens to designers all the time, and it’s why you often need to iterate on designs many times until they’re fun. I’ll try and think of an example… there was a time when we were doing a lot of prototypes for The Sims 3. One of the things that I thought was fun was combining things genetically, making some game structures that have genetics, and then letting the player see what they like about them and having them combine those things and see results.
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