Michele Mantovan

How to be a better game designer


In this post I would like to give you some basic game design concepts to create better games and videogames. This are some of the notes and lesson I’ve learned watching talks and, more importantly, creating my own games. Coming from a programming background I tend to not give the proper importance to game design, so I’ve decided to give it the right importance and to try training myself to use game design concepts more easily, studying and going on depth in more and more aspects.


01 – Expand your background

The first advice I can give you is to expand your background, I mean your general knowledge. Since game design involves a creative process, the more things you know, have seen, have touched, have experienced, the more you can pop out ideas. Starting doing new experiences is a good way to start. You can start watching more films you haven’t watched yet, read more books, visit some art expositions, etc…Game design is creative but is also ruled by some essential rules and best practices, so to understand it more you can play different videogames and try to learn from them, for example how the thing works on the same genre of games, how the controls works, progression and so on…


02 – Try to give more, not just gameplay

Once you have a good mechanic and your game is fun to play, try to give more than that by creating a world to put the player in, work on immersion and flow and give the player the right space to breath. The player has to acquire the will to play your game, once again to feel new sensations every time he plays. Giving more than a clear and guided goal but a more complex and variegated set of goals or purpose, can help to create the feel of an infinite play.


03 – Remember all types of players

When designing a game, keep in mind to visualize all possible scenario about the type of operation you allow and what the players can do with it. On this matter it is useful to remember yourself all the type of players. There are a lot of different types of players and some famous game designers categorized them in different ways, but the way I like the most is “The four types of players” (explained HERE). Try to design a progression that is suitable not for only one genre of player.


04 – Tune carefully your challenges

The progression of the players is one of the most important things that are not visible but are there, and the player can feel it very well. I mean the progression can be felt but not directly seen. Its sensation property makes the progression a crucial thing, and for this reason you have to carefully design the player progression, with the right challenges at the right time, and the gathered skills have to keep the mind flow of the player active. And remember this: easy to learn, difficult to master.


05 – Social Games

When designing a social game, think at all the tools you give to become social. Probably all of them are communication tools. Every communication tool lets the player use the tool in different ways. If you give too much space, you probably have to face problems of misuse of the tool. In the first place, you have to find the right tool for communication that can avoid misuses and secondly, think a proper way to both punish the misuse and reward the right use, in a fair way.


06 – Decide: game or market

A game can be a pure expression of art and technical skills or can be a mere selling product that has to satisfy the market in some specific ways. For me both sides are a little risky to make and they have both pros and cons, but I think that the truth is in the middle, as they say. A good game designer should find a good compromise between art and selling purposes.