03 Jan

All You Really Need to be a Game Designer

Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.
Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.

Migrations playtest 1. Materials used: pen, paper.

I once saw a brilliant description of what it takes to be a writer. It was filmed during a writers’ conference, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve forgotten who said it, but one of the greats of Science Fiction. He was asked what it took to be a writer. He then picked up a piece of paper in his left hand, a pen in his right hand and mimed writing.

You don’t need fancy word processors to be a writer. All you need is to write. You don’t need fancy cubes to be a game designer. All you need is to design games.
We went to my parents for Christmas. On the way over I had some thoughts about an idea that’s been percolating in my brain for a while. Once the kids were asleep I decided to try it out.

I didn’t have any materials with me but I envisioned a light area control game, where you’d press your opponent away from your areas in a succession of staggered moves. I drew up some areas on a piece of paper and used numbers to signify player cubes. Each digit was one cube and the number said what color the cube was. When the cube moved I scratched it out and wrote it down in its new area.

It was slow, but not painfully so. In fact it was fun, and showed me that I didn’t need anything beyond pen and paper to playtest a game. And the basic idea was sound so now I’ll be testing it out further.

With real fancy cubes this time.

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