The Role of the Game Designer: LMG’s Second Presentation at the Bon Air Library
On October 15, 2023, Aaron Goodwine and Glenn Essex gave a presentation at the Bon Air branch of the Louisville Free Public Library (LFPL) about the role of a game designer. This presentation was the second in a series presented by Louisville Makes Games (LMG) in collaboration with LFPL to introduce more people to game development.
Aaron and Glenn began by asking the question, “What does a game designer do?” The answer can vary based on the size of the studio and the scope of a project. A game designer may create design documents to help guide a team of programmers and artists in implementing the design, or they may work to implement designs themselves, either using code, or physical prototypes.
They then discussed the components that make up a game: The objective, the rules, and the mechanics. The objectives are what the player is trying to do in a game, the rules are the obstacles that restrict how the player can proceed and the mechanics are the means by which the player achieves the objective. For example, consider a running track. The goal is to reach the finish line, the rules are the lanes drawn onto the track, and the mechanics might be running, walking or jumping.
With the role of the game designer and the components of games defined, how does one actually start to design a game? Two possible approaches were presented: top-down and bottom-up design. Imagine the elements of a game arranged in a tower, where at the bottom are verbs that describe the most basic actions in a game, and at the top is the concept, encompassing the overall message or broad themes of a game.
A designer working from the top-down would begin with a concept or feeling they want to communicate to the player, then work their way down to find a design that best supports that vision. A designer working from the bottom-up would begin with the most basic interactions they want in their game, then work their way up to create a setting or theme that fits with those actions.
To put the knowledge presented to use, participants became game designers! The audience split into groups and grabbed bags filled with random game pieces. They were tasked with designing a tabletop game to a theme randomly chosen from audience-submitted words. The words drawn were: “weird”, “expansive”, and “intense”.
Afterward, teams were asked to describe the objectives, rules, and mechanics of their game, and whether they used a top-down or a bottom-up approach. A lot of really cool games emerged from this exercise, and the audience got a chance to put into practice the knowledge and techniques provided during the presentation.
The second presentation at Bon Air was a huge success, and I’d like to thank Aaron and Glenn for organizing such a valuable presentation, the Bon Air branch of the Louisville Free Public Library for hosting, and the audience for their participation.
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