Game Design

Game Design is a relatively new field of study that is gradually distinguishing itself as an accredited pursuit. It is also known as "ludology", derived from a Latin root denoting subjects dealing with play and games. Currently, few universities offer Majors in Game Design, and those that do are considered to be under constant scrutiny relative to their more established traditional brethren. It is worth noting that "Video Game Design," as it is offered by a couple of universities, can be considered a sub-field of Game Design. A cursory examination of the tenets of Game Design will show that all games - board, video, computer, card and sport - share a conceptual foundation in culture, semiotics and meaning.1

The first step towards understanding why Game Design exists is learning about the niche it fills. Consider, for a moment, a video game. It is comprised primarily of computer code and art. It seems intuitive, then, that to create a video game, one must find a computer programmer and an artist. However, similar to Scott McCloud's analysis of illustration and writing combining to form sequential art, code and art combine to form more than the sum of their parts as a video game. The artist's specialty lies in representing game tokens via illustration; the coder's specialty lies in creating data structures which are manipulated in meaningful ways by algorithms. However, there is no intrinsic part of illustration or computer coding that involves the analysis of what is being illustrated, of what is being coded.

This is where the game designer steps in. The game designer is a game's architect: Working with the laws set forth by culture and interactivity, he designs the end product which is in turn created by the coders and artists. So, a field that could have easily been considered vestigial is in fact absolutely vital to the process in question. Game designers study the context and inner workings of games themselves, seeking to understand what makes a game fun, or meaningful. A game without a designer is like a building without an architect: chaos, most likely doomed from its inception to an ignominious demise. (This is not to imply that artists and coders cannot also be game designers, or study and apply game design to their projects.)

Rules of Play:
Rules of Play is a book by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. It is widely considered to be the first cohesive attempt at creating a universal language with which we can discuss Game Design. Salen & Zimmerman consider the most abstract factors of Game Design and begin to expound on their specifics by creating a general system of understanding games via three main fields: rules, play and culture.

Since Game Design is indeed, a very new field which I do not consider myself an expert in, and to avoid redundant paraphrasing of Salen & Zimmerman's work, this node will, for now, end here. However, expect numerous updates as I document my impressions and insights during my own personal study of ludology.

1: See Chapter 1 of Rules of Play, by Salen & Zimmerman.

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