In episode 13 of the Whose Turn is it Podcast, the hosts were asking the question “is there was a designer in every gamer?” The hosts were of the mind that there is a designer in every gamer, but the guest, Ignacy Trzewiczek, went so far as to say that most gamers are not qualified to design games and should not design games. I will let you listen to the episode to hear what exactly everyone had to say about the subject. I am here to offer my counter to the idea that gamers should not bother designing games at all.
The main reasons I took away from the podcast as to why gamers shouldn’t design games is that designing a game is very difficult and most gamers are not “qualified.” I have written previously about how hard it is to make a game. I have no issue with the idea that making a game is incredibly difficult. Designing a game is easy, but making that game into a physical product with finished art and getting that game to market and then have it be a commercial success….tough, double tough. Does this mean that gamers should not bother to design a game in the first place? No. I take issue with the idea that rather than set the level of expectation to where it should be, the words of wisdom are “don’t bother.”
If you want to design a game, you need to have an idea of where you want to go with your idea. If you want to make a game for your friends and family, make it, take your time and enjoy the process. If you want to shoot for the stars and make a game with the intent of commercial “success” (measure how you see fit) you better know the time and persistence required to make a game happen. Your ideas might be bad, but there are so many designers out there and designer resources (BGDF, BGG designer forums, Facebook forums, designer blogs, etc) where designers can go and talk about their ideas. Test your ideas and other designers will tell you if there is a game worth pursuing. If the community tells you that the idea isn’t that strong, make it better or start working on another idea, look for another designer to bounce ideas off of, read the good ideas of others and learn what it takes to make a game go from basic concept and turn it into a great game. There is an avenue for designers to travel where they can improve their skills and meet the people and develop the team required to make games. Very few people have all the required skills the make a game happen, but there is an established forum of designs who are on the web looking and willing to help one another.
Which brings up to qualifications;if you have played a designer game, or a mass market game, and you have a basic understanding of interesting mechanics, you are qualified to start building a game. If you are willing to build your skill set or work with people who can help you make a full game, you are qualified to make a game. The barrier to entry for making a game is minuscule. There are no qualification requirements when it comes to making a game other than the willingness to work hard.
What bothers me the most is this, it is hard enough to design a game without established industry folks like Ignacy telling aspiring designs “don’t.” How many potential designers will listen to the podcast, hear an established publisher say they are not qualified and those potential designers are shot down before they even began? I believe it is the responsibility of people within this industry to spread the word about our games and the people who design them. Telling potential designers that shouldn’t because it is hard and they are not qualified is just bad stewardship and hurts our industry. If one wanted to tell potential designers that getting a game from the idea conception phase to the published in your hands phase is very difficult, I am right there with them. Recently on twitter there was a discussion about people not wanting to design game because of the work involved, and I totally get it. That is a choice some people make and that is awesome, please keep playing and enjoying the games you love. For the aspiring designers out there, you better have a good understanding of what you are getting yourself into. That being said, it is A LOT of fun and you will meet a lot of great people. If I stopped designing games now, I can say that I have made friends, met some great people and learned a lot about how games work.
Make your games, please, please, please…make your games.
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