7 Sources for Game Design Inspiration

or “Why you should listen to people other than me talk about game design.”

I’ve recently posted a number of articles on this blog regarding graphic design as it relates to game design. Writing about graphic design is EASY. I’ve been in the graphic design field for seven years, working mostly as  a pre-production designer for a printer. I’ve learned a ton. I hit my 10,000 hours. I consider my self very well versed in the subject. Game design, on the other hand… is a different matter entirely.


The main reason that I find it difficult, is that I find myself standing in the shadow of people waaaay more qualified to speak on this. I’ve only published one game. and our company, Ironmark Games has only existed for two years or so. This field is ripe with experts that have been working for dozens of year. Not to mention that many designers have pre-existing professional backgrounds in fields that are waaay more advanced than mine. I’m talking programmers and mathematicians and engineers. So, instead of trying to out-do them, I will just share what articles/videos/authors that I’ve gotten the most out of. Here we go!

1. Gil Hova’s lecture on the basics of game design at Metatopia 2015.
I feel like this is the quintessential talk on game design. It covers so many basic and advanced concepts in a very short time. Note the section on player heuristics and the definition of “fun.”
Gil has a number of lectures from that conference on YouTube and I recommend that you watch as many as you can. He’s a brilliant speaker.


2. Rym Decoster and Scott Rubin’s panel at PAX South 2016 on rules writing.
He and Scott cover the core principles of designing game rules at Pax South 2016. The video perfectly explains some essential ideas for understanding and writing rules.
They host a number of panels at the various PAX-es around the country on topics ranging from game theory to designing for the Atari 2600. They are really funny and expressive. Their panels are immensely informative.


3. Episode 127  of the podcast Ludology with Geoff Englestein and Mike Fitzgerald
This episode features some of the biggest game designers in the industry  all talking about where their ideas come from. IThe podcast is very informative and interesting. I listen to it often, but I find myself coming back to this episode often. Geoff and Mike are veteran designers and they have a ton of insight to both the industry and design in general.

4.  Drive to Work a podcast run by Mark Rosewater, the lead designer of Magic the Gathering.
Mark literally records the show on his ‘Drive to Work.’ His episodes on game design are particularly informative even if you don’t play or like Magic. He’s been designing a game that has existed for over 20 years. The man has a lot to say. His articles on the Wizards of the Coast website is also great.

5. “Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World,” by Jane McGonigal
Jane is a PHD and a designer of alternate reality games. This book is an outline of her philosophy that games are a super-powerful force in our lives. And that, as designers, we can use game-design to make the world a better place.

6. “Kobolds Guide to Game Design,” a collection of essays on game design curated by Mike Selinker
This collection of essays, curated by Mike Selinker, features some really heavy hitters in the field. The book is covers all aspects of game design from designing a game to development to publishing. It is a must-read.

7. “A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Build a Better Business by Building Community,” by Jamey Stegmaier
This is a condensed version of Jamey’s Kickstarter lessons, which is by far the most comprehensive and condensed text on the subject of crowdfunding. If you want comprehensive but NOT condensed you can read Jamey’s blog, which covers all aspects of running a crowdfunding campaign from start to finish.

As a nascent game designer, I often think of this quote from “Waking Life” – 2001, Richard Linklater:

“You haven’t met yourself yet, but the advantage to meeting others in the meantime, is that one of them may present you to yourself.”

Keep looking for people to teach you and you’ll keep growing.

Happy Game-Making,