Game design tip from Richard Garfield: Play with a designer’s eye

I had the opportunity to meet Richard Garfield, designer of Magic: the Gathering, at an event last year. Actually, he started the whole field of trading card games. He was at the Magic World Championship 2010, held in Yokohama.

I waited in line to get his signature, and when it was my turn, I asked him whether he had any advice for an aspiring game designer.

I can’t remember his exact words, so I’ll paraphrase. He said I should try playing as many kinds of games as possible, even those that I do not like. Then I should try to discover why those games are fun.

This is a question that game designers should be asking themselves when playing a game. Even games that you hate must have a component that is fun for someone.

So start right now. When you play a game, don’t just play to win. Ask yourself:

  • Which part is fun? What makes this game fun?
  • Which part is boring/unfun?
  • What makes you want to play this game again?
Richard Garfield (left) and me

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