Designing With Intent

I recently had a fantastically constructive day of board game design.

It wasn’t constructive because a ton got done. It wasn’t constructive because there was some revelation or a milestone was hit. It was constructive because some key issues about the design were efficiently identified and actionable solutions were developed.

Hooray.

In all seriousness, that last sentence is very favorably engineered. The longer story is that my co-founder and I sat down for our first real internal playtest, got through half the game, then decided to call it off because it was taking a long time and was boring. Then we came up with a plan to make it faster and less boring.

Double Hooray.

The point is, that we were able to cut through the crap and move forward because we’re keeping the intent of the game and the intended market at the forefront of our decision-making process. The intent is to be fun. The intended market includes us. If the game isn’t fun for us, just focus on why it generally wasn’t fun for us, and let the design adapt to solve those issues. The nitty-gritty will come naturally, later. For us, it was focusing on the fun and broadly adjusting the game mechanics to adapt. For us, it was saying “they move too slowly, just make them all faster by 2” and worrying about re-balancing later.

I’ll give you a moment to voice your sentiments on this revelation aloud (read: get the “Duh, No Kidding” out of your system).

The reason I bothered to write an article about this is because it’s often disgustingly hard to design with intent. I cannot tell you how often I’m lured by the prospect of diving down the rabbit hole of design options and their attendant pros and cons and back-theory.

But scratching your intellectual curiosity is important, right?

But, there’s no faster way of proving your clout than being able to speak intelligently about the esoteric, right?

If we’re not designing with intent, all we end up with is a cache of disparate information and a shoddy product (or worse, no product). So if your goal is to design and produce games, and you instead spend all your time studying, you’ve failed. I’ve written before about starting and work focus.

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll be able to move past the lures of each individual hiccup and the bevy of potential solutions. We’ll be able to evaluate and tailor our designs based on what truly matters (e.g. fun). Everything else then becomes a tool to meet that end (rather than forcing what matters out of a collection of tools).

Remember: Nobody’s ever said, “Hey! You gotta check this awesome game out! It’s so statistically balanced!”.

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Author: Adam Levitus

I'm the mastermind and wizard (Order of Merlin, First Class) behind A Bit of Levity. Apart from travelling down the road of board game design, I have also created a greeting card design company (Pithy Diction) and co-founded/exited another greeting card subscription company (Greetfully). I'm from Chicago but now live in California (if that matters) - NorCal specifically (which apparently matters a lot).

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