Friday, April 25, 2008


Young people seem to think it funny when they ask about a rule in one of my prototypes and I say "I don't remember". "But it's your game!" they say. Yes, but I have dozens of prototypes going, and I see no reason to remember all the rules--that's why I write them down. Further, if I rely on what's written, then I'll know that the way we're playing matches the way other people will ultimately be playing.

I have to remember as much as I can about the games that only have notes, not full rules--I don't write full rules until the game has been played several times. And at my age I have a lot more to remember than 20-somethings do. So I save my memory for what's important!

I am always a little fascinated by "designers" who say they're working on just one game. That certainly allows for full focus and full memorization of the rules, but given that the majority of games don't work out well, the more you work on, the more you're likely to have some that will "rise to the top". I try to approach it in a businesslike manner, the folks who design only one at a time certainly appear to be hobbyists only.


Jason K. said...

You bring up an aspect of game design that I've been curious about. I can understand that having several designs on your plate at one time allows you the flexibility of pursuing the direction your creativity takes you at the given moment. But how to do you keep the number of designs from being a distraction to your focus?

Lewis said...

One answer would be that if someone is serious about doing a job, one should be able to focus on whatever is necessary.

I think that good games, like babies, cannot be made in a month. Time for them to "lie fallow" is important, time for reflection, time for testing by a variety of folks. So this leaves plenty of time to work on other games.

I try to maintain a pace of one new game a month--not finished, but at least one new major conception, one prototype played by myself for the first time, one prototype played by other people for the first time, one set of rules written (prototypes don't usually have full sets of rules).

The most fun, for me, is playing the game the first few times, and second, seeing other people play the first time. Finishing a game is not nearly so much fun, though far more practical. But it is not a way to make a living, for me, though I'd like to make a profit.

After the fun comes the drudgery of playtesting over and over, making little (and sometimes big) tweaks, rewriting rules the umpteenth time, and then the even worse drudgery of trying to market the game. Not fun.

Is it a distraction to have so many games on the trot? Yes, but not badly so. And sometimes it's a welcome distraction.