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7:59am on Wednesday, 1st November, 2006:

Understanding Designers


I missed the Serious Games Summit, despite being in Washington DC the day before it started, because I have to write peer-reviewed papers to get in to such things. This meant I wasn't present when City of Heroes designer Jack Emmert gave his keynote on designing MMO behaviours.

This is probably just as well, as he's quoted here as follows:

"Game design is actually a new phenomenon in video games as a whole. It really came about around 10 years ago. ... Originally, you'd have a programmer and an artists, maybe. There were games that were done by just a programmer," says Emmert. "As the graphics ability got better, they hired artists." Now, as stories and content are more central to the game than they were a dozen years ago, "you've got to have somebody who thinks just about the game, hence, game designers."

No, what you had originally was a designer. The designer did the programming and perhaps the artwork, but that wasn't because they were a programmer, that was because they were a designer. If they were a programmer, they'd write a theatre-booking database or input/output libraries; only game designers wrote games. In time, the designers could offload programming to programmers in the same way they could offload artwork to artists, leaving them able to concentrate on design.

It's wrong to say that early computer games were designed by programmers. Early computer games were programmed by designers.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).