Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Care and Feeding of Game Designers

We programmers like to think of most game design information as just data. Game design tools are just glorified data entry tools, when it comes down to it. Most of this stuff could be done in a good spreadsheet program. We like to think that as long as you provide all the means they need to put the data in the appropriate places somehow, it hardly matters what the path was like. This is a mistake.

I discovered a few years ago that my writing -- regardless of whether it's fiction or nonfiction -- is drastically better when I type my words than it is when I write them on paper. The reason for this is because I type faster than I write, I can change my words with greater ease, and I am afforded a greater latitude for writing in a non-linear fashion, as it suits me. Ultimately, a text editor in a computer provides a better flow for me than pen-and-paper does. Because of that flow, I am able to produce better work.

Game design is not just data entry. It's a creative process. It's like composing music. If the game designer has to spend a lot of time fighting with a clunky interface, it's going to disrupt her flow. She will produce less work, and it will be of lower quality. This lowers the quality of the resulting game, and reflects poorly on the entire team. We programmers should be providing opportunities for our team-mates to do the best work they possibly can. The tools we provide them should be a delight to use.

Now, if only someone cared that much about the tools I have to use...

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