Game Design 1
The Los Angeles Film School
Who Am I?
Instructor at LAFS
Game Designer at Electric Sheep
Co-creator of Boy Scouts of America
Game Design Merit Badge
How to Succeed in LAFS
Be your own Career Entrepreneur
This is a College Class
Studying game development at college is still
Having one of these is
At all times.
How to Read
are not mandatory but
Make notes or
highlight key concepts
Leave time to reflect
Do You Have Skillz?
Gamers are good at digital interfaces
Gaming professionals are good at both
digital and human interfaces
Game development is a team sport
This means communication.
“...the different ways they done it like in the
game play and the scenes ad the props”
...is not communicating and will incur their
All Business is Communication
Publisher to Player
Developer to Publisher
Producer to Team
Team to Producer
Team Member to Team Member
Its cool to werk in gamez.u get too do anything u
want & stuff
It’s cool to work in games. You get to do anything
you want and stuff.
Capitalize the beginning of sentences,
names, game titles, and the word “I”
Use proper spelling and punctuation
Put a space between punctuation mark
ending a sentence and the start of the
Don’t use “u” for “you”, or “&” for “and”
Don’t confuse “its” and “it’s”
If you can’t be bothered to:
strive for originality even within established
norms or constraints
look beyond your initial idea
actually enjoy and actively want to do the
Then get used to the phrase
“Would you like fries with that?”
You will be invited to the instructor’s DropBox folder “Game
There is one subfolder for each class assignment (for
example, “Assignment 1”).
Save each class game or written assignment into a subfolder
with your name. For example:
Game Design 1
○ Assignment 1
“I just want to pass this class”
Classes are not kidney
If you think about them
in these terms, maybe
you’re on the wrong
<<<Expand your horizons>>>
Just because it doesn’t have the word GAMES in it,
doesn’t mean it’s not going to inspire, inform or be useful
to you every day for the rest of your creative life.
This is especially true of non‐electronic information such
Your colleagues and faculty will most likely be
your doorway into the industry.
How do you want them to think of you?
Leave a professional and lasting impression.
They’re your first referees, either on paper or
via word of mouth.
But NOT Boss
The game designer’s main role is to be an
advocate for the player.
In some ways, designing a
game is like being the host
of a party. It’s your job to get
everything ready and then
open your doors to guests to
see what happens.
Skills A Game Designer Needs
But The Most Important Skill Is
To Your Team
To Your Game
To Your Client
To Your Self
User Interface Designer
Players vs. Designers
Players want the fun of playing a game as well as the
enjoyment of being with their friends.
Game designers are focused on how the game works:
How do you make it, and how to you break it?
What are the different elements and how do they fit
What skill level does a player need to successfully play
Does each player have an equal chance of winning and
a fair chance of experiencing all that the game has to
Stage 1: Consumer
We all begin our game designer lives
as game consumers. Most children
play games, and for many people
games are significant and meaningful.
If you want to make games, you
probably already love games.
To consumers, game design is pure
magic. Consumers believe that a
game designer imagines a game, then
creates it exactly as he or she
Stage 2: Tinkerer
Tinkerers tend to imagine new games
in terms of modifications (often
additions) to existing games, sticking
closely to their underlying rule sets.
Many games come with a level editor.
This allows Tinkerers to get involved
with a game in a whole new way.
However, Tinkerers begin to realize
that game design is not magic, but it is
a lot of work.
Stage 3: Masher
At this point, the designer is
creating entirely new games, but
the design process tends to
involve mashing existing genres,
mechanics, and themes together.
Mashers envision new games as
collages of existing game
components. They tend to focus
on the mechanics and theme
rather than on the player
Stage 4: Creator
Before long, a game designer will
shift his or her focus and work
style. Instead of having visions of
a specific game, the designer will
be interested in exploring broad or
incomplete ideas. The ideas can
be about theme, they can be
about mechanics, they can be
about player experiences… really,
they can be about anything.
Stage 4: Creator (cont’d)
Designers at this stage approach new
games with a healthy emotional
distance. Obviously, they are excited
by their ideas, but they know many
ideas never work out, so it’s
dangerous to become attached to an
untested one. They also know that the
initial conception is very rarely the
best implementation, so keeping an
open mind and keeping nothing
sacred will tend to result in better final
Extra Credits, Season 1, Episode 16 - So You Want To
Be A Game Designer (7:36)
Why is communication the game designer’s
What other skills does a game designer need?
Why is “idea guy” a poor definition for what a
game designer does?
Why shouldn’t game designers get too
attached to their ideas?
What is the number one cause of failed
Playcentric Design Process
Involving the player in your design process
from conception to completion.
Setting Player Experience Goals
Prototyping and Playtesting
A game designer does not create games.
A game designer creates experiences.
What experience do I want the player to have?
What is essential to that experience?
How can my game capture that experience?
Jesse Schell, Lens #1
What Experience Do I Want The Player To
Immersion: the illusion that you
are another person or in another
Novelty: New or unexpected
Challenge: meaningful “work”
where the player can make clear
progress and has incentive to try
again if s/he fails.
What Experience Do I Want The Player To
Stimulation: the emotional
element of play: victory, defeat,
Threat: when the player feels
tension, danger, provocation and
What Is Essential To That Experience?
Immersion: premise, environment,
Novelty: fantasy, artistry, surprises.
Challenge: difficulty, order, obligations,
Simulation: pace, thrills, joy, multiplayer.
Harmony: competitiveness, trust, glory,
Threat: tension, gloom, danger.
How can I capture that experience?
Step 1: Brainstorming
Set player experience goals
Come up with game concepts or
Narrow down the list to the top three
Write up short, one page description of
Test your written concepts with potential
Step 2: Physical Prototype
Create a playable prototype using pen and
paper and other craft materials
Playtest the physical prototype
Modify physical prototype until it meets
player experience goals
Write 3-6 page gameplay treatment
Step 3: Presentation
Presentation is often made to secure funds
to hire the prototyping team
Your presentation should include demo
artwork and a solid gameplay treatment
If you do not get funding, get feedback
from your funding sources about what to
modify or start over again
Step 4: Software Prototypes
Create rough computer models of
Playtest the prototype
Modify prototype until it achieves your user
Step 5: Design Documentation
Use the notes you’ve been taking during
prototyping (you have been taking notes,
haven’t you?!) to create a first draft design
Work with team members to make sure the
design is achievable and correctly described in
the design document
Some designers now prefer creating a wiki to
a static design document
Step 6: Production
Staff up and create real artwork and
Don’t lose sight of the playcentric process
If the designer waits until production to
really start designing the game, it can lead
to all sorts of problems!
Step 7: Quality Assurance
Quality Assurance, or QA, is the testing of
your game by professional testers
Make sure your gameplay is solid before
your game goes into QA!
Designing For Innovation
Design games with unique play mechanics – think
beyond the existing genres of play
Appeal to new players – people who have different
tastes and skills than hardcore players
Try to solve difficult design problems like:
Integration of story and gameplay
Deeper empathy for characters in games
Creating emotionally rich gameplay
Discovering the relationships between games and learning
Ask difficult questions about what games are, what
they can be, and what their impact is on us individually