What's the point of designing games? In this philosophical piece
, veteran educator and designer Ernest Adams examines the concepts of fun, enjoyment, and personal fulfillment to reveal the key, uplifting tenets of game creation.
According to Adams, creative works can be art, light entertainment, or something in between. If a game seems more art than light entertainment, than it is likely more about the designer than it is about the player:
"Art requires an artist, and those few games that have consciously striven to be works of art have been about what the designer wants to say, not what the player wants to do. Great art says new and profound things, and someday a video game will deserve to be called great art.
If a game is more light entertainment than art, then it is usually made for sale and optimized to be enjoyable by as many people as possible -- sometimes at the behest of the marketing department, and in spite of the designer's personal desires. Innovation and depth take a back seat to mass appeal.
As creative people, we all have to decide where we want to lie along that continuum -- between breaking new ground with our aesthetic vision and seeking to please as many people as we can. With the presentational arts, especially those created by a single individual, the issue is reasonably clear."
Video games, however, complicate the issue, as designers cannot make a game that is purely personal expression -- it must involve the player, giving the player something to do, or it's not a game at all.
"The tao must partake of the eternal yin-yang of the player and the designer. Without the player, there is no game. Without the designer, there is no game.
Each player contains with himself a game designer, because in playing he seeks to understand the game's design. Each designer contains within herself a player, because in designing she seeks to understand how the player will play it. Neither is certain of the other, but both must strive.
The tao of game design, then, requires two precepts: know thyself, and know thy player."
You can read the full feature
on the tao of game design, which delves deeper into how designers can "know thyself and thy player" to create an entertaining game (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).