Greetings Homo Ludens,
Games are more than just gameplay, at least when they have a story to tell. In the realm of interactive storytelling it is vital to create an emotional experience for the player!
Thus this demands more than just writing down 'cool' ideas. One has to work them out and communicate them to the team. Design documents aren't just bibles; they are planning devices, description of tasks, they are those things, which need to be done.
Therefore I am teaching a 'new role of the game designer as author AND director' in my game design courses at the Mediadesign University of Applied Sciences, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Having learned from my scientific research and professional achievements during my time in the games industry from my point of view "games" aren't just games, but a media form of their own. Thus we can produce ANY content with a media form, can't we?
To create thrilling games one can't rely only onto the functionality of game-mechanics, one has to "compose" the sensual elements - often considered as chaotical and therefore ignored - to an emotional experience, to ‘Art’.
Therefore I understand (and teach) game design as a mixture of concept-writing (authorship), directing (the team) and project management (the logistics). Design documents aren't encyclopedias of cool ideas but task orders for all the different members of a team committing to do the job.
The Lead Game Designer or Game Director is a Jack-of-all-Trades, doing an outline, trimming the vision and keeping it together during development. Due to this, he is a person in charge of the creative aspects, or else the vision might be compromised or worse, corrupted.
For narrative games just creating game-mechanics doesn't creates fun at all. Thus it is vital to work on the "living game", developed after a basic concept into something that can be touched, interacted with and then be enhanced. This experimental design is something that must be planned to avoid exploding development costs, but the controlled input of new ideas can improve the quality of a product (or piece of art, whatever your point of view might be).
Considering games as an art-form I put a high emphasis on the "soft" or "chaotic" elements of development like an intuitive interface-design or the atmospheric context of all elements. Therefore I do not consider the game-functionality as a superior thing, dictating and eventually corrupting all other artistical needs (if it comes to the narrative aspects!). It is my goal to design an interactive experience rather than a game or toy, thus I try to establish connections between elements, items and characters in an interactive environment. This requires a different approach to game design, as one has to cover the aspects of architecture, geography, maths and physics along with all other parts that influence a theme to be designed.
To me Game Design is more than just writing concepts. It means directing a game production as well. It is a functional composition of the technological and artistical elements, be it storytelling, interface design, atmospheric sound and music design or art. Here I am using sound and music early during a development to find the right mood or tune.
After all, lead game design means to be interesting in everything.
Games are an art form and I am proud to be a part of educating the next generation to advance this form into new directions because we can do a lot more than we are doing now in games!
Here you will find articles and podcast on games, game design and game producing.
Prof. Dr. Michael Bhatty
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