Teaching Game Design at Future Games
In January, I had the opportunity to teach the Advanced Game Design course to the Design class of Future Games school here in Stockholm. Future Games is the 2nd best game development education in the world!
Arrowhead has a very strong and precise design philosophy when it comes to game design and a clear idea of what makes an Arrowhead game. So, when I got the assignment, I thought a lot about how to create a course that would cover the most important theoretical concept from game design. This reflected my personal values as a game designer and focused on what Arrowhead stands for. The length of the course was two weeks and Future Games is strongly focused on practical knowledge and hands-on exercises so juggling all these requirements was a challenge.
I decided to structure the course on three pillars:
- Core design concepts
- How to design game systems
- Practical information on the everyday work of a designer, including a whole lesson about the specific work I do as AI and Enemy Designer.
I believe that a game designer is, first, a designer, meaning that anyone who wants to work in this field should know the basic principles of usability, product design and design philosophy. I also believe that focusing on game systems and their balance is the most efficient way to approach most game problems and it’s a good exercise for students to start thinking in a more holistic way about how games really work.
There is a lot of interest in emergent systems and game systems that focus on players’ freedom. I think that young designers embrace the fact that video games have become incredibly complex compared to even just a decade ago. I saw a genuine desire to raise the bar of what games can be, and the designers have an open mind to make complex and engaging games that give true freedom of expression to players.
Teaching made me realize how important it is, for game designers, to solve problems. The students knew already that a game designer is not an “idea person” that generates ideas that other people will make, but rather a problem solver that tries ideas, implements mechanics, fixes bugs and unbalanced systems. To truly get into a problem-solving mindset means being able to be creative within all the constraints of the development process of any game.
The beauty of working with game design is all in the endless series of problems to fix, creative solutions to implement and experiences to craft. When a designer succeeds, the players will not even notice the details and the amount of work behind every single element in a game: it will just feel like a coherent experience. In the end, I hope this course gave the students a better idea of what it means to work as a designer, and it inspired them to try and make better games.