The Moment a Game First Comes Together
Here’s a pic of a pile of pieces. It’s a paper prototype of a game I am currently working on. You can’t tell from the paper what the hell the game’s about, so there’s no worry about violating any NDA, unless your game is about blue and orange pieces of paper and multicolored flat marbles (in which case, screw off).
It’s a turn-based strategy game which makes it ideal for paper prototyping.
I was originally planning to prototype it last night, but something came up and I didn’t want the moment when the game first came alive to be rushed or half-hearted or anything but… well… a moment all to itself. For the first time ever, oddly enough, it occurred to me that I was being moderately protective of a moment that I’ve seemingly taken for granted – the moment a game first comes to life.
It’s a unique experience that is shared with only a few other mediums: music and theater come to mind. A musician can write an arrangement for a whole orchestra, but until he hears it played, he never really knows for sure just how it’s going to play. His experience might give him some idea, but you still never really know. That’s an amazing thing to me – the participatory nature of game design as an art form – that even the artist doesn’t know what it’s going to be like, not fully.
It also proves the point that the game is not the pieces or the board or the whatever, but rather something beyond that, something intangible. On occasion, I have heard others suggest that the game is the board, much like the chair is the seat, and if one knows how to design that, ship it. Except the game isn’t the board, it’s the person in the chair and what happens to that person, and I can take the same piece and make it do 10 different things before the first prototyping session is done. Frankly, the physical components of the game don’t matter much. I’ve played Civilization on too many different systems to count and on table tops, too.
I think it’s cool that it first happened tonight, and that I didn’t take it for granted.
(Necessary Geek Level to Appreciate: 10+)