Featuring a completely contrived but interesting Four Layer Model for Gameplay
So, I create LARP experiences, design games and the like. That means I think a lot about what makes something a game, and I like teasing out how systems work. Sometimes I do this just for fun, and sometimes it reveals some important things we should keep in mind when we are designing, running and playing games with each other.
A few years ago, I started unpacking the difference between a system and a game after reading the seminal and amazing book Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, a weighty 777 page tome about mathematics, rules and the nature of systems. And in spinning out these ideas, I came up with some categories of what goes into designing and playing a game. And I came to a beautifully weird conclusion –
I don’t design games. No one designs games.
We design systems – and we might suggest, cajole, pressure and clear our throats while nudging our head in the direction of how they might be turned into a game. But only a player can choose which game they play.
Beyond that, as a designer, I’m powerless. And that’s wonderfully humbling and utterly frightening.
Unpacking the Game Box
Now, going up to a game designer and telling them they don’t design games is a pretty bold move. It depends on a lot of definitions of what a game means, what rules mean, what a system means; and my choices of definitions here are just one option among many. But I think they tell us something useful about how playing games really works.Continue reading “You don’t design games, no one does”