Introducing my new video series: 3 Minute Game Design

I’ve started a new video series called 3 Minute Game Design. I created a YouTube channel for it, and have posted the first entry in the series. Episode 1 discusses some fundamental ideas like prescriptive language and the very idea that we can prescribe guidelines for better game design.

If you like this video series and want to see more episodes, please support my Patreon campaign.

Clockwork Game Design is now available for pre-order!

For the last year or so, I’ve been working hard on a book called Clockwork Game Design. It details a clear, useful design pattern for building elegant strategy games.


How does it differ from my first book, Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy for Understanding Games? Game Design Theory was very broad. It talks about the history of interactive systems design, it talks about other forms such as puzzles and toys, and it talks a lot about modern videogames and some specific problems with them.

Clockwork Game Design is narrow and focused. It asks a specific question: how do we go forward with strategy game design? How do we make games that are significantly better than the ones we’ve made in the past? How do we make games that are not only easier to learn than existing games, but also have longer life-spans?

The answer is in the Clockwork Design Pattern.

The Clockwork Design Pattern is one that starts with a core mechanism – a basic action that is the primary means of interaction with the system. Supporting mechanisms support – but do not fight with – the core mechanism, and all of this is anchored by the Goal. The Goal is the ultimate expression of the core mechanism action.

To the extent that designers are able to create depth and elegance, they’re already using elements of this design pattern without even necessarily knowing it.

If you want to design strategy games, and you can only own one book on the topic, it should be Clockwork Game Design. Pre-order it now on!


Violence, Part 2: Game Design Ramifications

starcraftIn Part 1, I discussed the cultural and messaging problems involved with portraying the glorification of violence. In this part, I’ll be discussing the mechanical ruleset issues that tend to arise as a result of working with violent themes and settings.

I do not advocate “starting with theme” – you should certainly not start a game design out by saying something like “Three heroic warriors travel into the Grundendo Forest to find the Enchanted Obelisk and destroy the evil villain Sorcerer Johns.” This is not a game design concept, and I think most designers understand that. You’re not only failing to communicate any mechanical, rule-based idea, but you’re also restricting your ability to develop rules by the metaphor. Essentially, it’s working backwards: theme is the metaphor we apply to our rules to help communicate them. Starting a game design with a theme is like starting a novel with painting the cover artwork.

With that said, it’s useful to at least use small, loose bits of theme, especially during a game’s earliest design phases. If you’re like most designers, you probably start with a “genre” of some kind or a specific game – perhaps something like, “it’s like Advance Wars, but _____”, or it’s a “Rogue-like, but _____”. With that as your “base”, you work out from there. If you’re a good designer, you probably do a lot of problem solving, which involves a lot of dramatic changes to those systems, but you still have that original genre or game as a base. Continue reading