Last fall at the start of the school year, legendary game designer and play theorist Bernie DeKoven visited the NYU Game Center for a lecture and workshop. I just came across these photos from his visit on the NYU Game Center flickr site and wanted to share them here.
Bernie had asked me to co-lead the 2-hour New Games session, and it was humbling to work side by side with him – like Mohammed Ali asking you to spar a few rounds. We led the 50 or so participants through Rock Paper Scissors Tag, Vampire, Prui, and many other classic New Games.
Bernie also recently published a new book – A Playful Path – with ETC press. It’s a spiritual successor to his groundbreaking book The Well-Played Game, full of stories and insights about living the playful life.
In a few hours I am heading to the airport to the Essen Game Fair – the largest tabletop game event in the world – to launch my board game Quantum with its publisher FunForge. As part of the pre-launch hype offensive, I wrote an essay for boardgamegeek.com about the design of the game.
Part of their Designer Diary series, the article details the evolution of the gameplay from my first playtest with game scholar Jesper Juul in my Brooklyn kitchen in 2010 to the final production push this past summer. Along the way, I discuss design issues such as the way that the information elements on a playing card signify their meaning and the importance of testing the learnability of rules.
FYI, the picture above was taken during a recent preview event of the game in Europe. That’s boardgame design legend Bruno Faidutti playing my game! I wasn’t there but I heard he enjoyed it.
See you at Essen!
how and why to iterate + a game modification exercise
In the syllabus I shared in my last How I Teach Game Design post, graded assignments are given out on one week, and then one or two or three weeks later, they are due. So what happens in-between, during the actual work time? The answer is: the iterative design process.
Iterative design means a process focused on playtesting. You produce a playable prototype of a game as quickly as possible, then playtest the prototype, and you decide how to evolve the game based on the experience of the playtest. One way of understanding iterative design would be its opposite: a designer who works out all of the details of a game in advance, and creates a final set of rules and other materials without ever actually playing the game.
Of course, this caricature is absurd: no game designer I know has ever released a game without playtesting it. But I do have a particularly strong emphasis on iterative design in my teaching and my creative practice as a designer. The game designer Kevin Cancienne once called me a “playtesting fundamentalist’ – and perhaps he’s right. (So much for my stance against fundamentalism.)
What’s the big deal about iteration? The behavior of complex, interactive systems – like games – is incredibly difficult to predict. You generally cannot know exactly what players are going to do once they start playing your game. The only way to find out is to actually build some primitive version of your game, have people play it, and see what happens. Each time you playtest, you find out what does and doesn’t work, make some adjustments, and then play again. That’s why it is called the iterative process – you create successive versions, or iterations, of your game as you go. Read the rest of this entry »
Nathalie and I have spent this week installing Interference in Track 16 gallery in Culver City. A small army from Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and the talents of some amazing riggers have been extremely helpful.
It’s coming along well and we will have everything ready to go by the opening on Wednesday next week. For more information about the opening, the exhibition, and other events related to Interference, see follow this link.
More installation photos below, taken by Sean Meredith of Track 16.
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