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Most important principles of game design?

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Given that I am going to spend just one unit on the basics of game design in the high school curriculum I am designing, what would you all say would be the most important game design fundamentals and/or principles to teach that would be most useful or necessary for students to use when they begin making video games in Game Maker?

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I don't know about a specific principles of game design, but, I do have a bunch of sources that might help you compose your curriculum.

I'd suggest you check "Rules of Play- Game Design Fundementals"- if you want to go with a pretty theoretical route. (There's a PDF of it online).

Otherwise, you should check out these people:

-Game Maker's Toolkit

Unlike the name suggests, this channel isn't about Game-Maker, but about game design.

It has plenty of useful videos that are composed very well and really make you think about different games

and design ideas.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqJ-Xo29CKyLTjn6z2XwYAw

 

-Extra Credits

 

You probably know these guys, but even if you don't, they feature a great bunch of videos about different game related topics,

such as narrative mechanics, how tutorials should be structured, and the hero's Journey (which is sort of a story structure).

Also their series "design club" might be useful to you.

 

-Errant Signal

https://www.youtube.com/user/Campster/featured

This is Errant Signal- and I'd suggest watching his more recent videos, rather then the ones he made 4 years ago-

since in my opinion his older videos lack experience and feel a bit like him reviewing art, if that makes any sense- (the ones from 4 years ago

but, he analyzes games in great detail and I find his videos to be highly educational and very interesting.

 

Overall, I'd strongly suggest you first check "Rules of Play" first and perhaps some of the other links in this reply later,

and I hope that this response has been of help to you.

Edited by superobot1

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In my experience the most crippling problem young designers face is when they don't know how to research, analyze examples, document their ideas, keep that documentation organized and updated, and use brainstorming techniques to fill holes and increase originality and thematic unity among their ideas.  I see this as step 1, while game design fundamentals, like you are asking about, is probably step 3.  Though, I suppose the analysis part would be hard to do without having a vocabulary of design principles to describe the examples with...

 

Step 2 would be a general discussion of entertainment - why and how humans enjoy entertainment, why we are motivated to create it, how it contributes to culture, how games combine several other mediums like story, art, sound, and interactivity.

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It sounds from your responses that there are no hard and fast basic principles. I am reading Fullerton's book and she goes over things like conflict, objectives, procedures and rules. There is a lot and I don't want to waste time with things that won't carry over into digital. Someone who teaches table top game design said they find the two most important concepts to be conflict and iterative design. But what about all the other stuff that makes up a game? 

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>> the most important game design fundamentals and/or principles to teach

 

for design:

 

you have the vision (the basic game concept) and the audience (potential players for games of that type).

 

you must know the audience and stay true to the vision.

 

that's the most important thing.

 

Aesthetics - Dynamics - Mechanics can be a useful too when analyzing game designs.

 

there are of course the fundamentals of the other disciplines of game development. such as writing, artwork, music, voice acting, and software engineering. but they are disciplines separate from design.

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>> Someone who teaches table top game design said they find the two most important concepts to be conflict and iterative design

 

conflict = easy drama = easy entertainment.

 

iterative design is about the only known good way to refine the design of a product or service. its simply good solid design engineering practice, no matter the product or service.

 

you come up with your best guess as to what will work well in the real world, build it, then throw it out there and see what happens, then you go back to the drawing board, make changes and try it again. eventually you throw the switch and the darn thing doesn't blow up immediately, and instead works as it should , that's life in the engineering, r&d, and invention lane.

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Some of the principles people have tossed in from a past thread are:

 

balance

psychology of fun

building/triggering emotions

level design

emergent game play (what is that anyway?)

building complexity

design modification (perhaps this is simply part of iteration)

 

Is there a core group of principles in this stuff?

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It sounds from your responses that there are no hard and fast basic principles. I am reading Fullerton's book and she goes over things like conflict, objectives, procedures and rules. There is a lot and I don't want to waste time with things that won't carry over into digital. Someone who teaches table top game design said they find the two most important concepts to be conflict and iterative design. But what about all the other stuff that makes up a game? 

Clear example of The X Y Problem here.

http://xyproblem.info/

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The most important thing to teach isn't a principle so much as a process, which I think the commenters above have emphasized well: in both theory and practice an important part of the designer's job is to determine whether the game is having the intended effect on the audience.  As you iterate, you learn better what aspects of the design have the intended effects, and which have unintended effects, and sometimes the goals change in response to that as well.  (E.g., players responded powerfully to a minor aspect of the game and you make that central, or change something else to emphasize the feeling it creates, or you find that there's an untapped audience that you hadn't expected, etc.)  The apparent lack of hard-and-fast principles is because different designers have different (sometimes contradictory) goals and are looking to draw out responses from different audiences.

 

There are some principles that many would probably agree on, if we were pinned down, but a more generally empiricist attitude is more common, to say, "Well, that's probably true for a lot of games, but it depends.  Give it a try and see what happens."

 

I could list some principles I personally think are important (for both boardgames and videogames), but I think they won't be important for your particular class.  (They deal with things over which most students won't be able to exert control, once you move into the videogame units.)  More important is learning how to do this kind of applied psychology, and then actually doing it.  And learning not to jump in and try to change things or convince people how they should be playing and feeling, but to distance yourself, to approach it like a scientist who's really trying to figure out "Does X have the effect Y?"

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