5 Top Tips For Designing Your Own Game

2448x1632 option 1.jpg

I was spending a lazy September Saturday afternoon at the flat of my dear friend Charlie, one of the very first guests on my The Floor is Lava podcast. Just like me, he loves making up games, and a number of his games have appeared on the pages of The Floor is Lava (the book, this time). Where’s Voldemort is my particular favourite of his, and judging by the number of readers who now report to playing that game too, I’m definitely not alone.

Anyway, we’d almost finished our nachos, as one tends to do, when Charlie suggested we test out his latest game. It’s a hybrid of Scrabble and Texas Hold’em, with a simple set of rules and massive replay value, and it’s intensely satisfying. We played until we were all bankrupt and Charlie had, without much fanfare, collected all of our chips without really losing a hand. It was incredible.

The game works great. It needs a bit of refinement (don’t we all?) but that’s part of the thrilling process of creating a game. On holiday this year I began creating a card game that involves vocabulary and…folding…and after a dozen plays-through all I can say is that it’s really, really not good. Despite that, I think some day it might be amazing. It needs time, and balancing, and it needs to be played by a range of people, each of whom will think about the rules differently and try different tactics.

I honestly think this process is more exciting than actually playing a game. I love the fluid nature of a set of rules that aren’t cooked yet, the idea that together with your opponents, you’re discovering what makes the game fun, testing its limits, blotting out methods where the game could be ‘solved’ and gently coercing future players to lead themselves into exciting situations.

With this in mind, I’ve made one of the seven games in every round of my podcast an artisan game, that is, one I’ve made up specifically for the guest. In terms of planning each episode, creating this game takes as long as the rest combined, and it doesn’t always work, but that’s fine by me. It’s produced gems like  Paddy’s Menagerie  and  Tipping Point , which are now staples of the podcast, and some absolute car crashes that have at least made fun audio. Almost twenty episodes in, I regularly worry that I’ll run out of ideas, that there are only so many games one can actually make up before they’ve all been created, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I want to share the joy of making up games. I want to show you how easy it is. So, with that in mind, here are some top tips for creating your own games:  There are two main elements to a game: the win condition and the actual activity of how you play. For me, the latter is much more important. The actual meat of what you’re doing during a game must be fun, so build it around something you love doing. Whether that’s calculating, lying, memorising, plotting, that’s up to you.  Rules have two functions: keeping things fun, or blocking easy wins. The more you play, the more these rules will develop, but each time you impose a new rule, think whether it’s the former or the latter. If it’s neither, is the new rule necessary?  Don’t worry too much about the win condition to begin with. Many games in  The Floor is Lava  don’t really finish, and that’s fine. The fun’s in the play, not the victory.  Test, test, test. However perfect you think your game is, somebody else might ‘solve’ it in a moment. Never assume your game is finished, because the rules can always change between games to make the next one more fun.  Give your game replay value by making sure that each playing of the game feels subtly different. That could be some element of random generation, the requirement of new ideas or anything, really. Just make sure that it’s not too repetitive.  So what’re your made-up games? What fountains of fun have you brought into the world? Got any ideas that you want to turn into a fully-fledged game? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter or via smoke signal, and let’s play!

With this in mind, I’ve made one of the seven games in every round of my podcast an artisan game, that is, one I’ve made up specifically for the guest. In terms of planning each episode, creating this game takes as long as the rest combined, and it doesn’t always work, but that’s fine by me. It’s produced gems like Paddy’s Menagerie and Tipping Point, which are now staples of the podcast, and some absolute car crashes that have at least made fun audio. Almost twenty episodes in, I regularly worry that I’ll run out of ideas, that there are only so many games one can actually make up before they’ve all been created, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I want to share the joy of making up games. I want to show you how easy it is. So, with that in mind, here are some top tips for creating your own games:

There are two main elements to a game: the win condition and the actual activity of how you play. For me, the latter is much more important. The actual meat of what you’re doing during a game must be fun, so build it around something you love doing. Whether that’s calculating, lying, memorising, plotting, that’s up to you.

Rules have two functions: keeping things fun, or blocking easy wins. The more you play, the more these rules will develop, but each time you impose a new rule, think whether it’s the former or the latter. If it’s neither, is the new rule necessary?

Don’t worry too much about the win condition to begin with. Many games in The Floor is Lava don’t really finish, and that’s fine. The fun’s in the play, not the victory.

Test, test, test. However perfect you think your game is, somebody else might ‘solve’ it in a moment. Never assume your game is finished, because the rules can always change between games to make the next one more fun.

Give your game replay value by making sure that each playing of the game feels subtly different. That could be some element of random generation, the requirement of new ideas or anything, really. Just make sure that it’s not too repetitive.

So what’re your made-up games? What fountains of fun have you brought into the world? Got any ideas that you want to turn into a fully-fledged game? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter or via smoke signal, and let’s play!

BlogIvan Brett