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Game devs talk design methods, system mechanics in design summit

For anyone with an interest in game design, Polaris' developer summit has different articles covering various aspects of design development.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

March 13, 2023

2 Min Read
Photograph of a game developer working on their computer.
Image taken from the University of Central Florida's website for its game design program.

A group of game designers have published their own writeups for various facets of game design for other developers to use. 

The Polaris Game Design Retreat has recently released the reports from their 2022 gathering. Described as a "think-tank style" conference, Polaris features high-level game designers collaborating on "solving the toughest problems in games." 

By its own admission, this is meant as a successor to Project Horseshoe, a now retired think-tank conference for game designers that ended in 2019. Polaris bills itself as "offering a retreat experience that’s uniquely inspiring and instructive for senior- or lead-level game designers."

For developers that specialize in design (or aspiring developers who want to specialize in design), the findings from Polaris should prove to be invaluable. For 2022, such topics included multiplayer games focused on positive social behavior, and how to weave narrative into a game's mechanics and systems. 

In the latter report, for example, the featured speakers highlight a form of divergent design where a game's story and mechanics have different conversations. Naughty Dog's Uncharted series is cited as a prime example, since it lead character Nathan Drake is framed as morally correct, even as the games have him killing dozens of people. 

Rather than condemning that ludonarrative dissonance, the report aims to show how it can be the feature of a game rather than an oversight from the developers. 

The list of reports from 2022's Polaris event can be found here. At time of writing, Polaris has yet to secure a date for a three-day conference in 2023.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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