If there was a name for the game that game designers are playing these days when they’re talking to each other about the craft of design it would have to be “deconstruction”. The way you win this game is to continually parse down a successful play pattern until you’ve supposedly torn it into such tiny pieces that you can identify the core understandings found in the confetti.
But just because you can successfully identify a concept and give it a name doesn’t mean that it’s something that’s actually going to be useful. As anyone who likes to cook can tell you, it takes more than just fire and ingredients to make a great meal.
While the deconstructionist approach can be useful in the heat of production, I find it pays to temper it with a “design with your gut” approach . At the core of that is a need to try and simplify complicated ideas down into concepts that can be easily communicated to others. It’s human nature to want to complicate things as you go along, especially as you start to get a better understanding of an idea. There’s people out there making money telling people that there 400 character archetypes, or 300 emotions of gaming. While that might be a great way to sell a book, no one has convinced me that it’s a useful way to make a game.
My guideline on all this is much simpler; can you break it down to three ideas or less? Anyone who has s been in the software business for more than few weeks has probably heard the saying “Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick any two.” It’s a common way to a respond to a publisher who’s looking for a AAA title with no budget and a tight schedule. And when it comes right down to it everything in the software development world is either the good, the bad, or the ugly.