We Were All Born Game Designers

We were all born game designers. A look into how as kids growing up we designed our own game and balances for the perfect challenge and reward.

We were all born game designers. This is what i said to a group of trainees to whom i was giving an introduction to the gaming business.

I had an audience of programmers, graphic artists, animators and sales executives. Most very good in their fields but little knowledge of gaming.

The first question I asked them was how many of you have played with your friends as children? All hands went up.

The Second question I asked them what they played most? Answers I got were games of cricket (India’s most popular sport) every kid in India dreams of being either a cricketer or a bollywood star). Or a game of make believe being super heroes or playing house , The women were the first to admit playing house some of the guys were a bit sheepish to admit.

Anyways what I asked them next got everyone quite going that they surely did not have access to a stadium to play cricket or a mockup of superhero clothing or costume to play. Light sabers are still hard to come by in INDIA.

Most cricket games were played in parking lots or short backalleys. A coffee table cover sufficed as a cape, but in here lay the game designer in them.

To fit their environment they needed to rework the rules, get everyone to agree to them and make sure the challenges and rewards were balanced out. It also gave some individuals better capabilities than others who over time became champions in their own rights and gave birth to some serious competition.

The subtle beauty of this game design was the way new rules were added dynamically , as soon as it was felt something was not right or was too one sided, all it took was one suggestion and a quick vote and the game changed.  Sometime taking the advantage from the champions and giving it to new comers. Giving the game a longer life then intended.

For example when we played cricket which traditionally needs a large ground and open space to play. It was very successfully modified to be played in small parking lots with various new rules added to avoid a beating from the car owner for denting their cars.

Firstly the typical cricket ball which is quite heavy and dense was replaced with a tennis ball, which added new challenges to the game. Tennis balls tended to bounce much higher and the slightest impact would send it sailing.

So there were further rules the ball could not be hit over a certain height, this ceiling was decided on the basis of where the lightening fixtures were kept. So as to minimize damage and penalize any player for hitting it. There by declaring him out of the game. Whereas in the actual game of cricket big lofted shots were more often than not awarded with six runs

This brought about new techniques of play, players would need to control their bat much more than before, the experts would figure out where and how to perfectly place the ball without making it go over the tops. Soon they become the most coveted people to have in your team, though these same player would have had a tough time even connecting a 5.5 ounce cricket ball being thrown at them at 60 km/hr.

When as kids we played make believe each kid simply called first for which superhero he wanted to be that was it. No fighting no bickering and no messages saying ‘this name is taken’.

Each kid decided what superhero he played and set out what his powers were and simply based on that each player would win or lose, today we call that AI and Game Balancing.

Some where along the path we grew up and did other things, but still game play is a part of our lives every day, between lovers playing make believe, even here there are rules, and costumes and challenges and rewards though sometimes with some help from the blue pill. Well what the hell that’s a POWER UP.

 Chirag Desai 



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