What we’re doing

A game should be fun. It might also be educational, exciting, informative, thought-provoking, and emotionally compelling, but underlying all of that a game needs to be fun. If it fails at that no one will play it, and your game will not be able to achieve any other goals you have set for it.

The problem for a game designer is that saying “a game should be fun” just begs the question of how one makes them fun. As anyone who’s ever tried will tell you, making a game—any game, of any sort—is extremely difficult. Making that game good is even harder. It’s tough even to figure out what “good” means!

Here on this blog the goal is to answer seemingly unmanageable questions like “how does one make a game fun.” We’ll do it using tools provided by the law. Judges, juries, lawyers, and others in the legal system have to answer big, impossible questions all the time—just ask any family court judge about dividing custody between two good parents. Legal analysis is designed to help us handle unwieldy problems. I’ve been using it in my game design work for a little while now, and I’m confident that legal analysis techniques will continue to prove just as effective in dealing with issues of game design as it is in dealing with intractable questions in every other area of life.

I’ll be up front in saying that I don’t have all the answers. It might be that no one does; games are as old as human civilization, but game design as a field of study is young. My goal is to discover some of the principles underlying good game design, using my legal training to structure the process.

One of the first things law students learn (at least, law students in the United States) is that judges can’t just wander around pronouncing the law; rather, they decide the specific case in front of them. In order to hew as closely as possible to proper legal analytic technique, I’m going to stick with that case-specific methodology. The “case” here will be a game I have been working on for over a year. We’ll look at its problems, try to resolve them, and in the process we’ll derive lessons that will help us going forward. From time to time we’ll also take a look at other games, analyzing them in the same way.

The first rule of game design is the same as the first rule of being a lawyer: there’s no substitute for hard work. Hence, you can expect updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

It’s going to be a long, bumpy, but interesting ride. I hope you’ll join me.

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