Problems in the Game Industry: Thoughts on Think Like a Game Designer #1

People in tech startups admonish new founders to “solve a problem” or look into an industry and find a “pain point.” Now that I have started working on games, I thought this advice was behind me. Yet, in listening to Justin Gary’s podcast Think Like a Game Designer, I realized that I was right back where I started.

In the pod, Justin interviews legendary designer Mike Selinker. When asked how he comes up with games, Mike says he often starts with a negative… what doesn’t exist in the game industry that he wants or needs. He gives the example of his Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which solved the problem of “discovering I no longer had the time to play roleplaying games, I couldn’t get a group together, and when I could get a group together, every week meant every 11 weeks.”

So he set off not just to make a fun game, but to solve that problem. It gave him a focus to think about, that is “maybe it’s because no one can make the commitment to invest in the character development or the design of the scenarios.”

And once you have a problem, the solution can unfold from there, which of course still requires thinking about what makes roleplaying fun: “what if the environment was more streamlined… you could do it in an hour and didn’t have to take notes, but still got the experience of playing in a group and working towards a common goal and having a variety of adventures and building your character over time.”

So that’s interesting… here I was thinking that I just had to learn to be a game designer and make really fun games, but in the end, new games are like any other app in that they have to solve a problem that old games didn’t solve.

I am way behind on this pod, but I’ll be listening to more episodes on my daily walks.