Contests Explained

I have described the four essential “forms” of interactive entertainment, based on four distinct values that these four types of play produce. You can get a more in-depth introduction on these forms by reading this, but I’ll quickly break it down here.

First, you start off with a “bare interactive system” – this is an interactive system that has no goal. I call this the toy. Add a goal, and you have a puzzle. Allow for measurement, and you have a contest. Obfuscate the gamestate (allowing for decision-making) and you have a game.

I would say that the vast majority of people roughly agree with me on the first two forms, toy and puzzle. This makes sense – it makes sense that we would understand these forms first, because they are the simplest. Continue reading

The Clockwork Game Design Podcast: Episode 10 – Design, Improvisation, and Individuality


In today’s (short) episode I talk about design as the most consistent way to create value. I also talk about how yes, it is wonderful that we’re all special snowflakes and we should be expressing our individuality, but the idea that we do that best by creating “one draft” of our work is a myth. We express more of ourselves through the process of revision.

I also talk a bit about the concept of “can something be over-designed”, and a semi-sidetrack about general anti-science/progress thinking (as usual).


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Sneaky, Abusive Sentence Starters

When we write, we should try to be as clear, concise, and direct as possible. This goes for any kind of writing, whether you’re writing a tweet, an instant message, an essay, or a book.

There is a temptation, especially when you’re trying to convince a reader of a position, to insert sneaky, “cheap” tactics words and phrases into your language. Today I want to discuss a few sneaky and abusive writing techniques which have wormed their way into the vernacular of many of us. Continue reading

The Clockwork Game Design Podcast: Episode 9 – Popular Games


In today’s episode, I discuss many of the world’s most popular videogames and boardgames, and analyze them through a Clockwork Game Design lens. Titles like Tetris, Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario Bros, as well as board games like Agricola and Android: Netrunner, and many more.

Definitely along the lines of a slightly more rambly episode, with less of a direct thesis statement than most episodes, but as I say in the episode – it’s an experiment. Let me know how it went in the comments!

Also – the show is now up on iTunes. Please consider leaving a review there if you can.

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Game Designers: Learn to Program


When I was 11, my family got its first computer: an AST “Advantage!”, which sported a 66 MHz 486 processor, 4 MB ram and 32 MB of hard drive space. It wasn’t the greatest computer, even for the time, but it did have QBasic on it, and having always wanted to make games, I immediately dove into coding.

I stuck with QBasic for the following¬†decade¬†or so simply because I was comfortable with it. I made a bunch of shooters, platformers, and actually a lot of weird games. I made one called “Kill the Innocent” (download it here, but you’ll need DosBox to make it work), which featured stick figures walking along a bridge, and you aim a gun at them and just kill them. I remember coding a detailed system for how the man’s top-hat would float gently to the ground, and a very simple physics system that would allow you to juggle the man’s head in mid-air with shotgun blasts. (I guess I was subtly picking up on the ugliness of violence in videogames even back then, although I certainly wasn’t conscious of it, being that my AST Advantage was running Doom so often.) Continue reading