The Big Answer

I’m relaunching The Big Question / The Big Answer feature on Go Forth And Game. In The Big Question / The Big Answer I ask designers and gamers a question related to gaming via Twitter, email, and other means. I then gather and compile the answers and will post them.

This time I asked my game designer acquaintances this question – Why Do You Design Games? What is your motivation?

I got some pretty good feedback from a number of nice designers. Here’s what they said.

-Odin Phong, a game blogger says “I do it because I like playing new games and it keeps my brain engaged.”

-Savage Yeti Games, creators of PatchWord, replied “It keeps my mind active and there’s something about making disparate ideas mesh together into a new whole.”

-Rick Lorenzon, designer of Lords of Alchemy, says “I started designing because I wanted to create a heightened experience of anticipation, excitement, and memorable moments. I’m still doing it because it’s working!”

-Chris Chung, the designer of Lanterns: The Harvest Festival published by Foxtrot and Renegade Game and he’s the head of Flash Forward Games says “I love being able to express my creativity. It lets me stay connected with my friends through a shared dream of designing games and the thrill of seeing people around the world enjoy my game is an amazing feeling.”

-Ben Pinchback, the co-designer of upcoming Legends of Sleepy Hollow from Dice Hate Me Games and numerous other games like Fleet and the new hottness – Wasteland Express Delivery Service, says “I need a creative outlet to keep me sane. For about 15 years that was music. But when kids came along I didn’t have the time or schedule flexibility for that anymore. Game design keeps my mind happy while I do things in life I gotta do – work, commuting, doing dishes, cleaning up pee, etc.”

-Philip duBarry, who designed Revolution!, Black Orchestra, and many other games replied “Well, I’m not exactly sure. I just know I have to. The games come into my head and I am compelled to figure them out. Additionally, once I got my first game published, I figured I could do it again. At this point I’m aiming to make a really, truly good game. There’s a real joy in pursuing new game designs – can’t imagine not doing it.”

-Michael Fox, who designed Keep Running, Pocket Universe, and the co-designer of Ace of Spies AND podcaster extraordinaire on The Little Metal Dog Show, answered “Ok, why do I make games? Firstly, to stop the churn of ideas in my head – I need to get the concepts out and on paper. From then it’s the joy of seeing one of those scraps form and coalesce into something workable, often combining with another idea that’s also been scribbled down somewhere else. It’s like building a pyramid, all those scraps are the base, and when they start combining they become the next level. Some of those ideas are good enough to keep working on and some of those eventually evolve into a beautiful, fully produced game. It’s a journey that is often stressful, but always fun (if not always enjoyable!).”

-Black Tom (@TheBlackTom) says “I don’t know. It just happens.”

-Matthew Kiehl, designer of The Land of Eyas, answered “Designing games is like a game itself, but I have the power to seek out new experiences and to tinker.”

-Paul Owen, designer of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles from BlueSquare Games, says “There’s something about games that makes me think there’s a ‘holy grail’ game experience that hasn’t been invented yet. Lots of games give us a glimpse into that experience. I want to help discover that El Dorado.”

-Diane Sauer of Shoot Again Games and designer of Conspriacy! and Bigfoot vs. Yeti explains “I design games because I find it extremely pleasing to see others enjoying my games. Doubly so when they are players new to gaming.”

-Steve Segedy is the production editor/editor/day-to-day guy at Bully Pulpit Games (Fiasco, The Warren, The Skeletons, The Shab-al-Hiri Roach) says “That’s a big question! At this point I’m involved because I’ve found that the business of bringing games to life is kind of game design itself – working out usability issues with the text, thinking about product design, finding ways to reach the audiences who really appreciate and engage with a game. Those are exciting challenges to me. I’m also enjoying growing our business so that we can better help other people get involved, by both guiding and promoting other designers’ work and by hiring people to work on projects with us.”

-Jason Morningstar is also from Bully Pulpit Games. He is the award winning designer of Fiasco, Durance, Carolina Death Crawl, Winterhorn, and many other rpgs. He says “I design games because I don’t have a choice. It’s something that’s been part of me since I was very young. I designed a game in first grade and have designed games ever since. It’s one way I interface with the world and puzzle out my own thoughts and feelings. On top of that creative compulsion, making games is a way to create meaningful experiences for friends and strangers, to share my views sometimes, and, selfishly, to make sure there are games in the world that precisely meet my needs.”

Now to answer my own question. I need a creative outlet. As a kid it was drawing. I used to be pretty good. It turned to rpgs later. I was always the GM as I liked (and still do) creating the worlds and scenarios involved. I discovered indie rpgs and have a couple of Fiasco playsets published (I’m pretty proud of then and got paid. So I guess that makes me a professional.) Now, while I still tinker with some Fiasco playsets I focus mainly on board games. I have three games in prototype right now – Duck Blind, Tourist Traps, and Paparazzi. The first two will be going out for blind playtesting soon I hope. I have a ton more ideas in the queue. Back to the answer I like how Pinchback put it. ‘Game design keeps my mind happy.’ Being creative is part of me. I can’t not do something – paint, design games, work on rpgs. I always have something going. Additionally I was diagnosed with mild depression last year. My therapist told me that I needed to do several things that make me happy every day. Game design is one of those things.  Kind of like a Transformer, it’s therapy in disguise. So, game serves me in several ways. Mainly it helps keep me happy and let’s me make cool things.  I think that’s pretty important.

Not as many people responded as I had hoped this time but it was over the holidays. If you have your own ideas or would like to contribute to the conversation, please post a response below. Or tweet at me – @tomgurg. Or email –

Thanks for taking the time to join me on Go Forth And Game.




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