I’m a fan of the Game Designers of North Carolina Podcast (GDoNC), which features conversations between game designers on design-related topics. In episode 33, Mark McGee spoke about how he designed his games around a central message, a kind of moral of the game. He mentioned a couple, like “teamwork is awesome or “you can have it now if you pay more.”
I love this idea. It reminded me of the idea of a pattern language, which is a grouping of good design practices, or patterns, in a particular field, that I had read about in the context of architecture. One famous example from Christopher Alexander’s seminal book, A Pattern Language, is that porches or balconies that are less than six feet deep are rarely used. If you’re going to make one, make it at least that big.
These kinds of patterns are incredibly important to designers, but they can be difficult to collect and define. In game design, these patterns aren’t exactly mechanisms. What I think they might be is ideas that organize the interactions and dynamics that exist in a game. They help identify things which are typically interesting, fun, and engaging, patterns of behavior and design which are typical and effective in designing games.
I’ve gone through my personal list of “best” games, and from each I’ve culled a design pattern I’d like to talk about. Over the next year, I’ll post on a weekly basis about a design pattern and games that use it. I hope you’ll join the conversation, add your observations, and share the patterns you’ve used in design, or that you’ve most enjoyed as a player. Let’s get to it!