The Joys of Game Design

You're unlikely to ever make money from game design, but there's a lot to enjoy.
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Instructed by Lewis Pulsipher Design / Game Design
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  • Lectures 28
  • Length 4.5 hours
  • Skill Level Beginner Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 10/2014 English

Course Description

My favorite game is the game of designing games. You're unlikely to ever make money from game design, but there's a lot to enjoy. This class discusses that side of design as a briefer companion to my "Brief Introduction to Game Design," which discusses the difficulties of making money, let alone making a living. Some of the "lectures" here are from the Brief Introduction.

What are the requirements?

  • A little imagination
  • A willingness to listen
  • Willingness to think - much of game design is thinking, though DOING is vital

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Understand the many reasons to design games OTHER THAN trying to make money
  • Get an initial understanding of what game design really is
  • Understand how to learn game design efficiently

Who is the target audience?

  • Anyone who is interested in game design - there's nothing of a technical nature here
  • Especially, anyone who wants to design for fun rather than for a living
  • Those interested in trying to make a living at game design might prefer take my Brief Introduction to Game Design (though this class is fine, too)

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: What it is and why it's fun

Let me add a note here. I am a "senior citizen." For most of my life, using the plural pronoun ("they") in order to avoid using "he" was notoriously bad grammar. So I tend to persist in using "he" to mean both male and female in obvious contexts, because "they" sounds Wrong. And that's the way it is.

Notes here about how the class works?

This course is dedicated to the NC State Tabletop Gamers Club.

There are lots of reasons to design games, aside from money. Money ISN'T a good reason, because most game designers make no money, or very little. Focus on non-monetary aspects, and if you happen to make money, all the better.


How do I know what I'm talking about? First published game more than 35 years ago. Taught video game production and design in college. Look me up in Wikipedia (entries: "Lewis Pulsipher"; "Britannia (board game)"; "Archomental").

By the way, you won't be seeing my face again in this course - it doesn't do you any good, does it? :-)

If you want to know more, you can listen to my interview on Tom Vasel's "Board Game University" or read my interview in RPGReview

When you start to design, the practical way is to modify an existing game, playtest it, and think about how a single modification has made so much (or so little) difference.


There are many, many misconceptions about what game design is. It isn't programming, art, sound, or other parts of game production. The game designer actually decides how the game is going to work, and tries to make sure that is entertaining.

"What Game Designers Do (According to the Internet)" by Liz England is an annotated compilation of (Internet) confusion about what a game designer actually does. Typically, the term "game design" is used when "game production" is meant. Unfortunately, many of the sites that are supposed to help game development wannabes are just advertisements for expensive for-profit schools and universities.

(This is from my Brief Intro to Game Design course.)

5 pages

Following the tradition of "six word stories", I asked blog readers to say something about game design in six words. Here are the most interesting responses.


The young hobbiest designer of "Collie of Duty" that I talk about has added a supplement with individual characters for the players: "Di-fur-sity".


There's not much to see in video game prototypes, so the examples here are from tabletop games. But those are the games you should be starting with even if you intend to design video games.


With very few exceptions, people don't get rich designing games. In fact, many people must have a full-time job, just as many novelists have full-time jobs.

People who don't believe this, should read the "lecture" I've added in the Bonus material, "A tax on people who are bad at math."

See this blog post for a measured view of indie game development:

Section 2: How to Learn

This is a brief exercise to help you internalize the vital truth that opinions about games vary greatly, and what you like isn't necessarily what others like.


A summary; just a different way of expressing this information.


Teachers who are video game designers start teaching with tabletop games, just as video game studios start with paper prototypes before making software, to test their ideas. There are many reasons why starting with the tabletop is quicker, which I explain.

From my Learning Game Design course.

1 page

Sometimes it's useful to try to summarize "everything" in one page. Here's my attempt for game design.


There's nothing here that I haven't said in my classes and blogs, but gathered and summarized for convenience. 10 is an arbitrary number; I'll have another video with 11 more sometime.


Video games owe a great deal to Dungeons & Dragons. And RPGs have been a large segment of tabletop gaming. Part 1.


Video games owe a great deal to Dungeons & Dragons. And RPGs have been a large segment of tabletop gaming. Part 2.

2 pages

Maxims are pithy phrases that can illuminate an idea. Game design maxims have been collected in one project, and I provide some of my own.


Nothing particularly new here, just a summary (with a bias toward professional rather than hobbiest game design).


Make complete games.


Many people who design games for fun like to convert well-known games between video and tabletop. They can never publish them, but can enjoy playing.


Most classic tabletop games are puzzles, deterministic, because the only uncertainty is in the intentions of the opponent. Adding uncertainty, in a variety of ways, leads to quite different experiences.

Section 3: Bonus material
14 pages

Lew's online courses and information sources

Lew's Published Games (as of August 2015)
20 pages

The era when books are the major source of information may be passing, but there were reasons to write a game design book.


Audio from UK Game Expo, 2011. Slides are attached as supplementary materials


I wouldn't have written my book if it were "just another game design book"

5 pages

See how other people think, and what their experience has been.

Section 4: Only for those who are convinced they're going to get rich
4 pages

You need not read this if you accept that game design is not a way to get rich.

It's from my Brief Introduction to Game Design class, which is much longer than this one, and much more oriented toward professional game design.

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Instructor Biography

Lewis Pulsipher, Commercially Published Game Designer, College Teacher

Dr. Lewis Pulsipher (Wikipedia: "Lewis Pulsipher"; "Britannia (board game)"; "Archomental" ) is the designer of half a dozen commercially published boardgames. His game "Britannia" is described in an Armchair General review "as one of the great titles in the world of games." Britannia was also one of the 100 games highlighted in the book "Hobby Games: the 100 Best". He has over 17,000 classroom hours of teaching experience including teaching video game design and production, and over 20 years of part-time graduate teaching experience.

His book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" (McFarland) focuses on practical advice for beginning game designers, about how you actually create and complete game designs. He also contributed to the books "Tabletop: Analog Game Design," "Hobby Games: the 100 Best," "Family Games: the 100 Best." His game design blog has been active since 2004, and he is a contributor and "expert blogger" on Gamasutra, the #1 site for professional video game developers.

His latest published game is the 2011 reissue with additions of "Dragon Rage," originally published in 1982. Three new versions of Britannia, including a 90-120 minute version and a diceless version, are forthcoming, as well as several other games from Worthington Publishing and others. His Viking adventure game "Sea Kings" was published by Worthington in August 2015.

Lew has a Ph.D. in military and diplomatic history from Duke University, from ancient days when degrees in media, computer networking, or game design did not exist--nor did IBM PCs. In 2012 he was a speaker at the East Coast Game Conference, PrezCon, Origins Game Fair, and World Boardgaming Championships. Long ago he was contributing editor for White Dwarf and Dragon magazines, and publisher of various game fanzines. In 2013 he was Industry Insider Guest of Honor at GenCon, and in 2014 is again speaker at the ECGC.

Game design blog and teach game design blogs are on blogspot

"Expert blogger", Gamasutra

former contributing editor, White Dwarf, Dragon, Space Gamer, etc.

former publisher, Supernova, Blood and Iron, Sweep of History, etc.

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest." --Mark Twain

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