Today, in Episode 36* of the Clockwork Game Design Podcast, I had a great conversation with BrainGoodGames‘ Brett Lowey. If you don’t already know BrainGoodGames, they make some of the best single-player strategy games out there. All four of Brett’s games—Militia, Axes & Acres, Skyboats, as well as his latest, Minos Strategos—are available on Steam.
But making great games isn’t necessarily enough for me to want to have a conversation with someone. What made me interested was “BrainGoodGames’ Design Commandments” which he posted on his site recently.
The conversation was great and went to a bunch of interesting places. We covered his commandments, of course, but discussed his origins and what he considers to be the successes and failures of his games.
I should mention also that Brett is one of the editors over at gamedesigntheory.org, the new site I recently launched that highlights current game design bloggers and media producers.
Enjoy the episode!
*PS I think I said it’s 35 in the episode itself – ignore me!
It is common to hear players talk about “tactics” and “strategy” in games. In this case, the colloquial understanding of these terms happens to be pretty useful, in that it maps well to something that actually goes on in playing strategy games. With that said, it’s worth taking a moment to clarify these terms:
“Tactics” usually refers to “short-term decision-making”. Questions like “should I move this character two steps forward, or three steps forward” are questions of tactics. Tactics are micro-level decisions in strategy game play.
“Strategy” usually refers to “longer-term decision-making”. Questions like “should I be aggressive early, or be defensive now and attack later on” are longer-scale choices about a game that players make. Strategies are macro-level decisions in strategy game play.
A few months ago, I posted a thread on /r/gamedesign about how we should make 2017 a year with more game design blogging. Since then, a few Dinofarm Forums members have talked about starting up a game design writing career (or re-starting one). The last few days have had a huge uptick in interesting, quality articles on game design. I may be biased, because these are people who hover near my circles, but I find these to be some of the best articles on game design I’ve read in many years. (Here’s the good news: if you’re a reader of my work, you may also have the same biases!)
Here are some of the users over at the Dinofarm Forums (and the Discord!) who have been writing stuff recently. Follow these blogs!
Evizaer – Some of my long-term fans might remember Evizaer from an appearance he made on my old podcast years ago. He recently has started up a new blog and has a new article up about analogy (sort of like theme) that I think is quite good!
Elliot George – A newcomer to the Dinofarm community, Elliot produced this great piece, which is easily one of the most thoughtful pieces on strategy game design I’ve read in years.
Disquisitor Sam – Started his new blog last year (I think) but it has recently gotten a facelift. His article on Auro I particularly recommend!
Already, 2017 is looking like it might be better than the last three years of game design writing combined. I should mention that a lot of these have happened in the last 36 hours. There are also rumblings on the forum of other people who are also starting blogs. Like I said in that reddit thread: if you’ve been thinking about writing about game design, do it! Ping me anywhere you can, and I’ll share your work. I want to do whatever I can to help foster a community of thought on game design.
Today I spoke with Carolyn Petit, the managing editor of Feminist Frequency, which you’ve probably heard about, since they’re easily the most successful and influential feminist/socially progressive games criticism outlet out there. A heads up: this is not a big formal “game design” conversation
Instead, here are some of the things we did talk about:
Writer and critic Tevis Thompson has been on my radar a long time as a rare person who talks about games in a way that is markedly less alienating to me than usual. I recently heard him on the 1099 podcast, which I recommend people check out, and I thought we could have a really good discussion about games and games culture, which that conversation just barely touched upon. And that’s just what we did! In this conversation we talked about big-budget games like The Witcher and The Last Guardian, violence glorification and other toxic politics of games, the hyper-defensive culture surrounding games, and a lot more.
Check out Tevis’s site here. Follow him on Twitter here.
As always, I look forward to hearing what you guys have to say about it in the comments. And if you want to support the show, do so here.