Is Game Design its own Game?

Posted on 14 December, 2010


An interesting article on how “game design is a game” has appeared over on Inside Social Games, centring on the competition between social games designers and the use of AppData as a scoreboard.

Having monitored closely and reported the metrics on The Hunter whilst working at Emote Games I know from experience that it can be very tempting to respond rapidly to trends observed in daily metrics by rapidly implementing new features or tweaking existing ones in a way you know will appeal to the game community right there and then. This is one (certainly not the only) reason why ‘social games’ have achieved viral levels of rapid growth.

However there’s also a real danger of boom and bust with this approach. The temptation to respond immediately to available metrics is considerable, but may come at the cost of long-term strategy, and a planned, deep and involving game design. Furthermore, it is clear that this is the games industry at its most business-like: metrics drive design drive users drive monetization. As Zynga Beijing general manager Andy Tian said at GDC China, “We are not developing ‘cool’ features — we know we’re developing relevant features”.

There’s nothing wrong with that of course, a business needs to be commercially viable or else it won’t be a business for very long. But when you look at the vast amount of copycat titles on (for instance) Facebook it is very hard to see where the creativity, originality, art and imagination are in the design of social games.