Hey Game Designers – Play Lots of Games!
Think of this as research. By playing a wide variety of games, you’ll broaden your knowledge, while having fun at the same time. That’s the kind of research that everyone should be lucky enough to do!
If you only play party games, then try a more complex Euro game. If you mostly play Euro games, try a cooperative game. With so many different types of games available, you really need to get a feel for what’s out there.
By playing many different games, you’ll also learn about different mechanics that designers use, both by themselves and in conjunction with other mechanics. This will give you a good feel for how games work, and how designers introduce challenges and interesting decisions for players.
You’ll see mechanics you’ve never seen before, and applied in ways you’ve never imagined. You may pick up some mechanics that will work well in your game, or ones you might want to try in future designs. You’ll also see which mechanics help or even slow down and hinder a game. With this knowledge, you’ll become a better game designer.
You’ll also discover what games are popular and get a better understanding of why this is the case. You’ll see what types of games appeal to the hard-core hobbyist, the casual gamer, and the mass market. You’ll see why people are talking about certain games so much in forums and meet-ups, and you’ll make your own judgments about whether these games appeal to you.
By playing a wide variety of games, you’ll also figure out what types of games you enjoy the most. This is really important to figure out early on, because the games you will be creating are also the games you’ll be playing a whole lot. Through the process of designing a game, you’ll play your game over and over, in different iterations, and with different people, so you’d better like it!
Here are some suggestions from myself and other designers on games that all designers should try or at least be familiar with:
• Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)
• Magic: The Gathering
• Settlers of Catan (also known as Catan)
• Ticket to Ride
• Cards Against Humanity and/or Apples to Apples
• Agricola and/or Stone Age
• Seven Wonders
• Dixit and/or Codenames
• The Resistance
• Love Letter
• Pandemic (along with Pandemic Legacy)
So get out there and play some games!
What other games or genres do you think all designers should be familiar with?
Something like Terraforming Mars, because it is an engine builder.
Those types of games are the most satisfying to play because you end up with a working engine.