What I know about game design: Introduction

Depending on who you are, most of the knowledge and experience you gather through the years lies silent. Silent knowledge guides your decisions; it is your intuition, your instincts. But it remains outside your grasp to be used as intellectual tools, locked away from reason and thought. Structured thinking about your craft is impossible if you have no grammar for what you know.

Instincts won’t convince opponents or the people you are set to lead. They might be enough when working alone, but relying on silent knowledge when you’re a part of a team is like bringing a dull blade to a fight.

The goal, then, must be to sharpen it – to transform the silence to a vocabulary. A vocabulary to communicate what you know. And the transformation might be surprisingly easy, as long as you do the necessary work. You identify what you believe, and then examine exactly why it is you believe those things. Examine what governs your gut feelings.

Back in Norway I taught a class of game design students for a while, a gig that required me to be able to communicate what I knew about game design with some precision. So for each topic I taught I had to do the work – I had to pinpoint exactly the principles of design my experience had given me. That was incredibly useful. Not only did it give me the ability to talk about it in a better way, but it allowed me to examine some of my ideas about design and test them to see if they held water, and if not improve on them.

The reason I’m telling you all this is to motivate why I’m starting a series of blog posts called “What I know about game design”. Teaching was one way to do the job, and writing is another one. So I’ll be writing a series of ten blog posts about the principles guiding my design work, as a way to share my experience and ideas with you, but just as importantly to continue examining what I think about design.

The truth is that I don’t know the topic of each and every instance of those ten blog posts. This is an exploration. Hopefully it’ll be worthwhile for both of us.