The Write Way Forward for Your Game

By Alan Emrich

Copyright (C) 2019 Alan Emrich; all rights reserved

So, you have been around the game table a few times, maybe a few years. Now, you have this great idea for a game. You know a lot of people would like it – you would like it, right, so why wouldn’t a lot of people? The real question is: how do you go about actually creating a new game?

Begin with some self-assessment. In much the same way that many kids grow up wanting to write a novel, gamers grow up wanting to make a game. It is a creative urge inside us desiring an outlet. Know that your desire to make a game is not out of the “game stream” and quite common. Every gamer, and I mean every gamer, has their “great idea for a game” inside them; if not now, they will soon. Like The Walking Dead, among gamers we are all infected.

About the Author

In my articles, I will stake you to some valuable advice about making games. Whether it is systems, mechanics, ergonomics, publishers, printers, crowdfunding, marketing, or gamers themselves, I have been living “this dream of making games” since the mid-1970s. I’ve worked with more programmers, artists, and managers than I can remember and have assiduously tried to learn from each of them.

When I started my journey there were no courses, no books, and no schools to teach me about making games. Unable to turn to an internet that was still decades from invention and well before the age of personal computers, we created and published great games applying the same art, craft, and science still used today (now made easier by modern technology).

The Time Capsule Mentality

Let us examine making games together and, just as every great journey begins with a single step, I would like you to share a series of epiphanies with me for your first step. These will light the path’s beginning to game creation. Be warned, this is not the advice you might be expecting; it is something far more fundamental:

  • A great game always begins with a great idea for a game. In a future article, we will examine what makes a game idea great and where these ideas that become games originate, but for right now you believe in your game idea, so let’s go with that…

James F. ("Jim") Dunnigan circa 1975 established the rules of game design and recognized that "Game design is primarily an act of communication."
  • Creating games is primarily an act of communication. This is a people endeavor; by people and for people. Game creation and publishing only works where there is excellent communication – internally among the creative team; between that team and intelligent, experienced, and decisive management; to and among the fan base (from the gaming “tell”igentsia opinion leaders to the eager and attentive card-carrying dice-chuckers playing for fun); via marketing and promotional outreach; supporting the hobby media; and right down to communicating the game rules, systems, mechanics, and graphics to players. Ultimately, all game endeavors rise or fall on communication where type, quality, and timing are everything. Where you fail in communication, your game fails.

  • Creating games is a written communication venture. When making games, unless you are the only person who will create it, market it to, and play it, you are going to need to communicate with others in writing. It is impossible to overstate the importance of high level written communication skills when making games. There are no “for dummies” here; dummies don’t make games and dummies don’t play them (unless you are onto something in the Uno or Exploding Kittens ilk, which do broaden the common denominator considerably). Developers and customers are smart enough to actually afford great games, they have the time and brains to learn them, and they are dedicated enough to do their reading about them. You are definitely aiming at a more intellectually curious “geeky” crowd with modern hobby games, and these people read. Your seeds of writing will find fertile soil among them and, as your writing grows roots, you have a singular opportunity to c