Twitter thread reposted with permission:
Over the summer, I’ve been putting together a few threads looking back at my time in game design (my journey as a designer; games that influenced me). I had this idea to do a thread where I unpack game design ideas/theory that influenced me along the way, especially older stuff.
It felt like an important thing to take stock of, because (a.) it informed the work I made and was exposed to, but more importantly (b.) theory is often jargon-laded and difficult to penetrate, and people can feel shut-out by conversations they aren’t welcomed into.
I’m especially thinking about theory that emerged from The Forge and the Big Model, right now, because that’s the analysis I was trained on. But the more I thought about what I might want to relay, the shorter the list got.
In some cases, gaming culture advanced, and the need to make certain statements became irrelevant. They were just obvious. In some cases, better techniques changed the field or subverted commonly-held wisdom. So, this gets to be a really short thread.
There are only 2 theory bits from 2000-2010 that I look back at and think “oh yeah, that still feels useful.” First, a stripped-down definition of Creative Agenda. In short: people play games for different reasons, and you can’t cater to everybody at once. Choose your audience.
And secondly, the notion of the Fruitful Void (coined by @lumpleygames, I believe). [Editor: it was Ron Edwards, noted by Vincent Baker in a reply]. In short: yeah, your game is about what the mechanics are about, but it’s also about what is suspiciously absent from your mechanics, and yet clearly central to the story.
And finally, not a piece of theory but rather a reflection tool, here is The Big Three: 1. What is your game about? 2. What do the characters do? 3. What do the players do? I think it’s useful because it helps you remember that these questions are distinct from one another!
There! In my opinion, that’s everything that a modern game designer needs to know to be 100% caught up on all of the theory from The Forge / Big Model. Everything else of value has, in my opinion, already been absorbed into contemporary techniques & ideas (or disproven by them).