Game design documents

This week, we talked at some length about the “game design document,” a kind of loose rubric around which games are often (but not always) designed, funded, and built.

For next week, please think about the game you have been working towards — it may be the one you prototyped in C3 or Pico8, or it may be a different set of ideas that you’ve been kicking around.

In either case, prepare a one-to-two page “game design document” that features the information classically delivered on the first one or two pages, the “Game Overview.”  These pages might include, for example:

  1.  Your game colorfully, meaningfully described in no more than 5 sentences.  In other words, this is the “elevator pitch” for your game;
  2. A short, evocative list of sources, influences, and major competitors;
  3. A brief explanation of your target audience/market, together with insights as to how/why this game will appeal to her;
  4. Condensed description of important game mechanics/core game play.

This is, in effect, the “executive overview” of your game design document, and it should be assembled with care.  You should be able to explain or justify every sentence that appears therein.

Remember:  There is no single Game Design Document; rather, it is a genre of document that illuminates game-designer and game-publisher culture in interesting ways.  Even so, it can be very (very!) useful to force yourself to reduce your game to a coherent set of sentences.  As we’ve seen, gameplay almost always exceeds the grasp of language.

To that end, it is worth noting that these documents seem to gain greater purchase in the industry on a yearly basis.  Here is an outline, for example, for a game design document intended for a US national STEM Game Design contest (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, areas of study that American public education has been focused on for nearly a decade now):

For consideration:
Pierre (Game design document)

Generic game design document

Arcana Project game design document

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