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Design via Fantasy

July 11, 2008

I am currently working with [a publisher] to develop concepts for a series of games on [NDA] and [NDA]. During the development of these, I’ve been using a method of design that I’ve not really explored with this level of consistency before: design via fantasy. It’s literally all I’m doing.

Of course, there are a ton of different starting points for design. To name a few:

  • Fantasy: Who does the player want to be?
  • Action: What does the player want to do?
  • Setting: Where are we?
  • Narrative: What’s going on?
  • Out of Thin Air: Hey, I could make a game about…

… and I am about the 1,000th designer to design this way. There’s nothing new here. What was illuminating to me, though, is the consistent difference that starting with fantasy makes, particularly over action.

Let’s say the fantasy is Rock Star. Obviously, we’d got GH or Rock Band, but we could have a lot more too. Rock Stars do all kinds of things, particularly stars back in the old days of Hendrix, Joplin and the Doors. There are so many different sides we could explore there. From an inspiration point of view, starting with the fantasy sends your head down a dozen or more different paths, each of which could potentially be a game. GH and Rock Star are two of those possible paths.

Fantasy as a term is misleading, though. It implies something wild or high and mighty. It doesn’t have to, though. How many times have you been at work wishing you were sitting home doing nothing? How many times have you thought that doing someone else’s job would be amazing? Is that person a king or a rock star or an actress or a soldier in a war? There are all kinds of fantasies that we could make into games. Answer this question genuinely, and you will have one: What do you wish you could do right now that would actually be within your power to do within the next few hours? There’s a game there (even if your answer was sleep, there’s a game in that… several).

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 16, 2008 10:57 pm

    Here’s an interesting an idea of living out a Rockstar fantasy, following the Fleetwood Mac path.

    * Please select four starting members from the Roster.
    * One of your members has left the band! Do you wish to select new members from the Roster? Y/N
    * Go to studio and record? Y/N
    * Get addicted to drugs? Y/N
    * Throw microphone stand at fellow band member? Y/N
    * Have sex with fellow band member? Y/N
    * Record second album? Y/N
    * Break up personal relationship within the band? Y/N
    * Record a couple more albums, just to pay off expenses (rent, travel, clothes, equipment, etc.)? Y/N
    * Your lead female singer has recorded a solo album! Do you wish to kick her out of the band? Y/N
    * Your lead guitarist has left the band! Do you wish to break up the band? Y/N

    Some fantasies aren’t so pretty, but damn if they don’t make for some compelling gameplay.

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