I’ve been suffering from severe doubt with regards to the value of my game design thoughts. A friend whose opinion I value on this matter continually subjects my thoughts to a kind of opposition that makes me doubt the validity of putting them on paper at all. Am I writing no more than a collection of misguided justifications for my own taste and perspective? Am I only an elitist clinging to what little foothold in the sheer cliff face of subjectivity that will allow me to raise my head above the press of all the other pundits and gamers?
I feel trapped between a will to further refine my thoughts and the knowledge that these thoughts may just be insubstantial and baseless. My doubts are only worsened because I cannot tell if my thoughts are actually baseless. I’m tempted to throw up my hands in despair after long conversations about fundamental topics in game design and how I approach its analysis. Perhaps I am no more than a thrashing lunatic—perhaps my mental faculties delude me into thinking that there is some significant systematic epistemology to game design at the very edge of my perception so, like a schizophrenic person, I continually shift my eyes to find the thing has disappeared, only to reappear once again barely out of my view a few seconds later.
“Fun” taunts me. Flitting before me, seemingly within my reach. I can nearly contain it in a theory only to see it has left merely one of its parts trapped in the confines of my thought, the rest of it still flutters, free. It slides through my fingers when I try to clap my hands together over it. I try to use logic to present ways to judge game design decisions, but the measuring stick is not logic, but fun. Logic can tell us if a game is designed consistently and if it follows some greater vision as evidenced by the patterns it exhibits when played and analyzed, but logic itself doesn’t capture the goal of game design, which is to generate fun.
Now that I’ve revealed my struggle to you, I wish to make clear a few points about my writing here so that you can better understand my intentions and why I communicate in the peculiar way I do.
A few things you should understand:
- If experts of game design exist, I am not one of them and may never be. I claim no expertise. I think about game design every day and try to do so productively. This separates me from many game designers who practice professionally, I am told. Does this qualify me to have an opinion? Not entirely. But I feel that expressing my opinion here for others to read, enjoy, and argue against is better than keeping these opinions unexplored and unexpressed.
- I’m just making stuff up here. I post my thoughts on game design. I express them not because I am in touch with some hidden truth to which others are blind. I write because I think, and thoughts unexpressed—especially those thoughts refined with some rigor—do nothing. There is no use in understanding and knowledge if it cannot be somehow conveyed. This is currently the primary way I can convey my limited understanding of game design. I’m working on games at the moment, but they are not close to release and may not be for some time. My only means of expression is this: the written word, written in the hopes that the small waves it generates among its readers will ignite some significant discussion, discovery, and ultimately better games.
- I don’t have evidence to show you—I write based on my experience, analysis, and thought experiments. All of the work on game design I’ve ever read (that I can remember) contributes parts to each of the pieces I post here. All of the conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues—each contributes. I base my thoughts on my own limited experience playing the games I find fun and a few that I do not enjoy but played to experiment. I do not approach game design as a scientist, but as a philosopher. If I make verifiable claims that I do not myself verify, I will gladly lean in the direction any significant evidence for or against my claim would sway me.
- I don’t write here because I’ve found the truth. This brings to mind an aphorism I believe to carry some valuable insight: “He who claims to have found the truth has definitely not.” I may write as if I have found the truth, but I only do so because to fill my writing with disclaimers would make each post an exercise in extracting meaning from apologies instead of directly absorbing meaning. I don’t wish to cloud my writing further than my meager communication and thinking skills so far have clouded it, so I write persuasively with a bold tone. If I am wrong, I hope that the tone makes my mistakes obvious and encourages others to challenge me. If I am right, it serves well at convincing others of my case.
- I am exploring. Because I am on a journey to find theories that allow myself and others to better design games, I write in an exploratory fashion. I try on new ideas through posting them on this blog and gauging reactions. I’ve learned significantly from this practice, and I will continue to do it. I hope that you can join me in this exploration—try to argue, in the comments, with the intention of exchanging information and ideas, not with the intention to show your superiority to me or to others in the conversation.
Now that I have written these disclaimers, I feel more comfortable proceeding. I hope that you will keep them in mind as you read my posts here.