Game Design

using design games

  • Objectives: There needs to be some kind of goal or outcome that people can work towards. The more concrete and defined these are, the easier it is for people to participate. However, fuzzy objectives can be more rewarding, since they model real situations better. Consider more ambiguous objectives for teams that are already gelled and accept the ideas for design games.
  • Constraints: There needs to be some limits on what players can or can’t do when achieving those objectives. Constraints should be relevant, related to each other, and present a coherent whole.
  • Success criteria: There needs to be some way of knowing when the objectives are met. Clear success criteria help establish expectations and buy-in for game participation. Some games are more unstructured, with less well defined criteria. Classic role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons don’t have a clear overall objective. That ambiguity can make such games better able to model some scenarios, but harder to sell inside an organization because they don’t have a set ending.
  • Reward: Incentives that reward success can be intrinsic outcomes of the game (good results, recognition), embedded in the game itself (getting more Monopoly money), or external recognition or prizes (the winner gets dinner at a nice restaurant). Balancing rewards between players can be a challenge, and needs to be considered when adopting games.
  • Play: The most important reward needs to be a sense of fun, encouraging interaction and intrinsic value for the game. That sense of play can be elusive—playtesting a design game in your own team is important to get a sense of what is fun, and what isn’t before you roll it out with a larger group. Play operates in the area of flow—balance the challenges of the game with the abilities of the players.
  • Competition (sometimes): Sometimes, but not always, design games can involve individuals or teams competing to achieve those game objectives. While competition can be an easy game mechanic to introduce, it can also create the wrong dynamic depending on organizational culture and individual participants. Does competition make things fun, or turn people into raving lunatics bent on winning at all costs? If it’s the latter, you might look for more cooperative alternatives, including setting competition against previous performances, like beating your old record for ideas generated, instead of against other teams or individuals.