CMU Partner Post

It’s All Fun and Games: The Importance of the Player Experience and its Role in Game Design

CMU returns to give you a look at the upcoming course in applied tabletop game design. The course is called “Core Loop: Finding, Amplifying, and Refining the Fun,” and is taught by game design veteran Damon Stone, with industry expert Andrew D. Devenney, co-owner and publisher of Superhero Necromancer Press. Below, Stone tells us a bit more about this exciting 6.5-week course.

I have the pleasure of teaching the next 6.5-week game design course as part of the Gen Con-Central Michigan University Certificate in Applied Game Design program. The course is titled “Core Loop: Finding, Amplifying, and Refining the Fun,” and it will center around the importance of defining the central way in which your players will interact with your game — the how, what, when, and why — and help refine the designer’s ideas to maximize player enjoyment. It will run Mondays and Wednesdays from 8-10 pm August 28 – October 9 this fall.

There are four extremely important reasons why a game designer should take this course:

1. No matter how great the idea is, if it isn’t translated in a way that clicks with the players, your game is very unlike to get published.

This includes everything from what genre your game is, all the way to what players are doing to meet their win conditions. If it doesn’t match their desires and expectations, publishers aren’t likely to have confidence in your design, and if you self-publish, players won’t back it.

Making the right choices about genre, interlocking mechanisms, and how to abstract what your game is portraying are the first and often most important design decisions you’ll make.

2. You get to make one first impression, and with ~3,500 games released a year, it has got to be a great one.

When you sit down and play a game for that first time you want to be entertained. You are hoping to get sucked right in. As you read the rules, or watch a review or learn to play, the quality of the components and elegance of gameplay make a distinct impression, but ultimately what experience you have in that first game will override almost everything else.

Learning what makes your game standout and centering the players experience on the most fun decisions and interactions can’t be substituted.

3. A game that gets published but can’t engage its players will languish on shelves.

Mediocre games do find publishers or enough backers to see print, but word gets around. Players don’t buy games their friends or favorite reviewers pan. Games that are gifts or bought simply because of slick marketing won’t hit the table if everyone’s experience is tepid. Even games that are fine, or even good, but have uneven play experiences because of a particular group of players can cause it to get pushed to the bottom of the kallax.

Immersing your players in the game while giving a positive feedback loop where they are rewarded for engaging with the game will create a lasting positive impression.

4. Life is busy and free time for your game competes not just with every other tabletop game but every video game, every movie, every book, and every social media platform, along with everything else people do for entertainment and escape.

While tabletop gamers are predisposed towards seeking new tabletop games to experience and share with their friends, you want your game to hold a position of priority and pride in their collection. Nothing convinces someone to buy a game as quickly as a trusted friend falling in love with it.

Refining the game to enhance the elements players like and rewarding them for doing what they enjoy creates fidelity, and the only way to get there is by patient work and careful questions in the early playtesting.

In “Core Loop: Finding, Amplifying, and Refining the Fun,” we’ll work together to meet each of these challenges and give you the tools to improve your design skills and refine your design process. 

Damon Stone

Damon Stone is a veteran of game design, having such credits as Android: Netrunner, A Game of Thrones LCG, Call of Cthulhu LCG, and more.

You can sign up for the course “Core Loop: Finding, Amplifying, and Refining the Fun” through CMU. For more information on CMU’s Center for Learning through Games and Simulations, please visit their website.