009 : What Is A Game? I’ve Got The Story – Not Sure What’s Next

Game Design Zen : Episode 009

What Now? I’ve got a great story, set in a far-distant future. Not sure what to do next. As crazy as it sounds, this happens sometimes. This episode explores what a game is to help us all improve our designs.

  • Kenzai’s Request – More Conversational (0:40)
  • League of Legends World Championships (05:15)
  • “How do I fill this with something exciting?” (06:10)
  • What is a Game? (08:40)
    • Ted Brown’s Idea (13:10)
    • Goals + Mechanics + Feedback
    • Why We Care – The Definition In Our Head (18:20)
  • What is a Mechanic? (20:45)
    • What’s the Player Doing? (22:20)
    • The Core Mechanic! World of Warcraft + GTAV
  • Start With One (27:00)
  • Zen Moment (28:00)
    • The One Line Elevator Pitch

Game Design Zen is the intersection of game design, life, and the pursuit of excellence. It is the #1 resource for developers, artists, and designers including the art, science, and business of better games. Level up to zen.

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So flow all over again. When a teacher mentions the same concepts in multiple lessons it's worth listening too. What puzzles me in this one is why you didn't tell us you were re-emphasising flow, or at least draw the parallel.

Goals = Clear goals

A way to accomplish them = Balanced difficulty

Feedback = Feedback

And stop there, it might be enough = No distractions

Was I the only one that went straight there as soon as the idea was presented?

And for the record I like the lecture style. While I consider us to be friends, I am also learning hidden mysteries of the universe. The lecture style helps give it a sense of authority that subconsciously helps me listen. Or something like that.


The good news: I've finally found a good game design podcast that gives strong practical insights without wasting time.

The bad news: I'm now out of episodes to listen to.

Anyway, I've been really enjoying and learning from these. No specific feedback, but keep up the great work.


With the talk of academic definitions I was wondering what are some places I can find academic game design discussion. I'm a physicist when im not trying to make games so I would love to find the game design equivalent of Nature, does this exist?

gigiwoo moderator

@bennnnnnnnnnnnnnnn Welcome back benn nnn nnnnn n nnnn :). My favorite design book is Art of Game Design (Jesse Schell). In that, he presents his definition for game. As for researchers, I'm quite fond of Raph Koster's work. Starting with A Theory of Fun, he has published lots on this space. Lots on his web site (raphkoster.com) or look for his articles on Gamasutra, where he talks about Ludeme's, clones, and what a game is. Much respect goes out to Koster.


Jeez, I think I was somewhat rude in the way I expressed myself. I cringed when you repeated my words back at me at around the 5 minute mark. Next time I'm gonna read my own words aloud before hitting the "Post comment" button.

Thank you for listening to me even after that unfortunate choice of words. I'm not sure I myself would've responded if I had been in your place.

Andrew Gray
Andrew Gray

@Kensai__ I wouldn't call your comment 'rude' per se; 'brusque' is probably the word I'd go with.

Still, I think you brought up ligitimate critiques.  Gigiwoo has been finding his voice, and as a fan of this podcast, I agree the tone felt 'off'.  When every truth is an Ultimate Truth™, the podcast has nowhere to go.  Like flow, the velocity of the podcast needs somewhere to go.  I guess a side-effect of that is that it *can* be interpreted as sounding arrogant or mystical.

This new podcast?  It sounds a lot better - specifically a lot more organic.  Good job @Gigiwoo!

gigiwoo moderator

@Kensai__ Andrew is right - it wasn't rude. I'm still finding my voice. And my wife tells me that Ep9 didn't quite hit the mark. So, I'm still working on it. 

The problem is that I do best when getting live feedback from real people. The podcast format makes that tough. Still working on it.