The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

3 things you can do right now to become a better game designer

Last week we looked at 3 things you can do to make your game a better product. This week, we’re going to look at the 3 things you can do right now to become a better game designer.

There are plenty of things you can do that will make you a better game designer. Simply emerging yourself into games, game design, and the industry will teach you so many lessons that you can apply immediately to the games you’re working on and help you solve problems you’ve been struggling with on your own game.

So, let’s look at 3 of the top things you can do that will make you a better game designer.

#3 Play More Games

Simply by playing more games, you’ll learn more about different game mechanics, including which mechanics tend to work well together, and how to integrate theme and mechanics well.

But I would encourage you to not only play the same old games. Get out of your comfort zone. Try games that are heavier or lighter than you would usually play. Play some older “classic” games as well as more modern games.

It’s just as important to learn from “bad” games as it is to learn from “good” games. Of course, classifying a game as good and bad is subjective, but at the same time there are lots of games that are generally considered to be masterpieces, while other games are considered ones you’ll want to avoid. Still, by playing games that aren’t as compelling as others, have difficult to understand rulebooks, dominant strategies, or are even “broken” in some way, you’ll learn what doesn’t work and what to avoid in your own game designs. This is super helpful to learn as a game designer.

If you haven’t played many deckbuilders, try out the original deckbuilder, Dominion, as well as some games that have innovated this mechanic, such as Star Realms.

If you’ve never played a hidden movement game, check out the excellent Scotland Yard.

Look for games that use rondels, different auction types, variations of social deduction, semi-cooperative games, and other mechanics and game styles that are outside of your normal wheelhouse. You may just learn something that you can apply to your own games!

#2 Apply Game Design Learnings

It can be beneficial to watch videos, peruse articles, or read books about game design. They can teach you a lot of tips, techniques, and ways to move your game forward faster.

However, be careful not to fall into the trap of “researching” something to death without actually doing any of the work.

The value of these amazing resources is in the APPLICATION of what you’ve learned. It’s absolutely fine to want to learn more and improve yourself as a game designer, but you then have to take this knowledge and apply it to designing games. That’s how you get better.

Michael Jordan didn’t become one of the best basketball players by just reading books about the sport.

Jamie Oliver didn’t become a famous chef by simply reading about recipes and techniques.

Thomas Edison didn’t bury his nose in the books and overthink everything he was planning to do.

They all learned their craft, practised, experimented, and perfected their art and skills. That’s exactly what you should be doing.

#1 Playtest!

It goes without saying that the playtesting process is incredibly important in developing your game.

The only way to turn your game from broken to good to great is by playtesting with others. This will give you the data and feedback you need to understand what’s working in your game and what’s not. It will help you identify the problems, and sometimes even the solutions as well.

The more you playtest and apply positive changes to your game, the better your game will become. You want to put your game in front of as many people as you can: friends, family, playtesters, other game designers, and especially your potential audience.

The more you playtest, the better you will get at seeing where the problems are, coming up with solutions, and designing a game that people will love.

Wrapping it up

There are lots of things you can do to make yourself a better game designer. I’ve highlighted 3 of the best ways you can improve right now.

Notice how each of these ideas focus on “doing.” Not talking. Not reading. Not thinking about things in your head. Doing.

Take action today and reap the benefits tomorrow.

What other ideas do you have to make yourself or others a better game designer?

Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

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