- Build your game around social goals or build in social goals after youve got your game? Theres no right answer. There are successful games that have emerged from both design ideologies. Take note of Plague an addictive strategy game, now a global phenomenon, which is full of educational content subtly interwoven into gameplay. Founder and designer James Vaughan stresses designing first and foremost a fun game. Little did he know that the CDC would be using his game to teach employees. On the other hand, consider the explicit social goal-centricity of Math Blaster and Reader Rabbit. Completely different audience and design philosophy, but still best-sellers and great games.
- A game is more than a series of incentives. Think about it, are you deeply engaged and driven to level up by your frequent flyer plan? Unlikely. A game should create an experience that evokes emotion and provides a satisfying sense of progress. In the same vein, attaching a points system to an activity does not automatically turn that activity into a game.
- Build your game into an established genre. While creativity and innovation in games is something all should strive for, having a framework is extremely important. By using an established genre of games, youll have some idea as to what mechanics you should incorporate, and you can refer to games within the genre to see what has worked and what flopped.
- Show dont tell. Regardless of your approach to game design, you must unify the objectives of gameplay with any other social objectives you have. Any features included to serve your social objectives without advancing gameplay must be modified or dropped. Videos which stop gameplay or large blocks of text are no-nos.
- Get help. If youre serious about building a quality game, youll almost certainly need the help of a talented and experienced game designer. Going without will likely leave you frustrated with pages of design questions that could easily be answered by someone with experience. Dont stop there, however, enlist the voice of the market to guide your design through frequent playtests as well. Finally, stop reading this and start playing! Download every game you can and see what you can learn.
– Alex Ryu is the CEO and a Co-Founder of LifeGuard Games, which builds apps to help kids manage health conditions. Alex is currently on a leave of absence from Harvard Medical School to pursue his goal of improving health management with innovative products.