Learning Game Design: Part 1
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Learning Game Design: Part 1

The process of specifying and modifying the way the game plays: not programming, art, marketing, licensing, sound, etc.
3.8 (6 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
42 students enrolled
Created by Lewis Pulsipher
Last updated 5/2017
Current price: $39 Original price: $45 Discount: 13% off
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  • 8 hours on-demand video
  • 20 Articles
  • 23 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Learn the fundamentals of game design - any kind of game
  • Learn to avoid false assumptions that many beginning designers believe
  • Learn a process and structure for designing games
  • Learn what makes a game "good"
  • Learn the vital importance of repeated playtesting and modification, the "heart" of game design
  • Create and COMPLETE a game. This is likely to take a long time, likely much longer than it takes to go through the course lectures
  • And much more . . .
View Curriculum
  • A familiarity with many kinds of games. If you think Monopoly is a good game, you have a very long way to go
  • An open mind. If you think you know it all, you probably won't like what I have to say
  • Being a "bad-dude gamer" or expert game player *not* required - game design is a different set of skills!
  • No programming or other technical skills necessary

[Note: This course exists because my original course "Learning Game Design: as a job or a hobby" more than doubled in size over time, becoming much too large for Udemy's new structure. That massive course is no longer available, instead there is "Learning Game Design" parts 1 and 2. As with that original course, this one is not subject to massive discounts, which only serve to offend those who paid full or near-full price.]

This pair of "Learning Game Design" courses is designed for people who want to design games - video or tabletop - but lack information about what is really involved and how to go about it. It's not rocket science, but commercial design is a JOB - one that cannot be done by rote, there is no "Easy Button". I'm not here to encourage you, or entice you, or entertain you, I'm here to inform you. I assume you have the motivation to learn how to design games, you just need to know how. And that means you need to do it from start to finish, to complete games rather than merely start them.

We'll discuss the process of game design, the possible structures in games, the best way to start learning game design, what makes a game good (there's a great variety of opinion about this), ways to provide a framework for your design efforts, ways to keep records of your work, software to help you learn. Many aspiring game designers have crippling misconceptions (such as the notion that it's all about a great idea, or that everyone likes the same games they do), and I'll try to clear those out of your way.

This is not a "comprehensive" series because there's no such thing. It is a pair of courses about learning game design. Learning is a process that goes on throughout a game designer's career, and it starts here.

This class will never be offered for free or at very deep discounts. That is disrespectful to me and to the students who pay full price or near it.

Keep in mind, this course is not about game development, that is, not about programming, art, sound, and so forth. It is only about game design.Most so-called "game design" courses are actually about game development, with just a little game design involved.

Following are comments from people who took the original course "Learning Game Design: as a job or a hobby":

Great course! Good for the starter like myself :)

Currently I follow this course (at 75% so far) and its a great course for beginner game designers like myself. The course is not a 1 click button and after your a game designer no (please send message if you found that course btw) but it gives a good frame work, hand outs, ideas and background about both video games and tabletop games.

So if you wanted to start with game design this is a great first step.

The teacher is clear and good to follow ( I am a student from The Netherlands and got no problem following this course). Also the course got some assignment I strongly recommend doing them I finaly found out why I Hate Monopoly :)

Cheers all hope this was usefull,



Mark Frazier


Designs In Creative Entertainment, LLC.

An ideal introduction to game design

Dr. Pulsipher distills the critical elements of designing games into manageable chunks. This is an ideal course to take if you are interested in designing games, regardless of whether you intend to pursue it as a career or not.

Much of the material covers the specifics of the process of game design, but there is alot of prime advice to be had in the lectures on creating the right conditions for quality feedback and on understanding the realities of the publishing business.

A must-have certification if you're serious about designing, and I'd say, even publishing games!


Pull Back the Curtain on the Game Design Process

I know that in the past there's only been a couple of times that I managed to blunder into some sort of prototype, but I had no clue as to what I was doing that was different than usual. Well... the material in this course nails down precisely what to do to get over that initial hump. It can save you from countless false starts and dumb ideas. And unlike other commentary on the design process, Dr. Pulsipher provides a whole menu of things that you can do in each phase of development.

This material reveals more of the dials and knobs of gaming than I even knew existed. And being aware of these things was enough to shift me from having an occasional promising idea to having more ideas than I know what to do with. Even just playing new games now, I cannot help but see "behind the curtain" and into the dilemmas the designers were facing. If you care about game design and actually do the work that this course entails, you are in for a profoundly illuminating experience.

Who is the target audience?
  • Anyone who wants help in designing games, professionally or as a hobby
Curriculum For This Course
102 Lectures
The Beginning
10 Lectures 36:30
Yes, there are fundamental things to know about game design, but in the end it's about thinking and problem-solving, and cannot be learned by rote. There are no infallible steps to follow. You have to DO it to "get" some of the difficulties.
Preview 02:05

This is a discussion of what you'll learn and how the class works. Keep in mind, there are two parts to the class: this is a description of the entire two-part course.

I might add that it isn't necessary to take the course in exact order. If you see a topic that interests you, there's nothing that says you can't listen out of order.

Preview 05:39

You have two choices in addition to the 1 minute main video.

Notice the resource PDF which goes into more detail than this quite brief video. This is written in the third person, as is required for most mini-biographies.)  

Notice also the resource two and a half minute video, in which you actually see me talking. It's the original intro the the larger course, from 2012.

Introducing the Teacher

You can't learn game design by rote, my memorizing steps. It's about critical thinking and problem-solving, which cannot be done by rote. There is no "Easy Button" here.

Game Design is Education, not Rote Learning

This is the main assignment for the course, to create a game prototype and test it at least ten times.

The Main Assignment

Udemy classes are traditionally organized as oral books, without interaction with students. This is not so different from lecture classes in universities where the instructor talks at hundreds of students and doesn't know any of them.

I come from a seated classroom environment (college), where I rarely had as many as 25 students, and I could talk with them, not at them.

Online classes provide very few opportunities for interaction. I've tried to do it through a discussion group on Yahoo Group, but that hasn't worked. Facebook seems to be favored these days but I haven't set that up as of now.

I may try an "Ask Me Anything" online, but that usually requires a larger following than these specialized classes afford.


It's virtually impossible to tell whether a game is "really good" or
not without extensive playtesting. Experienced people can spot the weak
games (usually), and the ones that might be easily fixed to be decent

I strongly prefer performance-based assessments for game design. There is no practical way to do this in the current format.

I've added some traditional tests to the course, though even as
traditional tests go I prefer short answer and essay, which is not
practical in this format.

Even though game design is much about thinking, what matters is what
you can do, not what you can respond to on a highly simplified test.


There's a lot of material in the course, but the most time-consuming part will be if you actually try to make a game.
Course Length - Depends on How Long Your Game Takes

Student entry survey - 10 questions, voluntary

Student entry survey - 10 questions, voluntary

There's lots of material "out there", but less that's well-organized, and even less that directly addresses the process of game design as opposed to game analysis, game business, game production . . .
Supplemental books and other materials
What game design is - and is not
13 Lectures 48:11

We need to briefly define what we're talking about.


See attached resource PDF file

Six Words about what a Game Designer Is/Does

Keep yourself out of the game - it's for the players, not for you. When you have LOTS of experience, then you can consider making games for yourself.

Stay Behind the Curtain

Some gamers want to be led by the nose when they play, but many of the hard core do not: they want to feel that they're in control of their fate. You are not trying to control their minds!

The Bonus section includes a much longer (2 parts), more recent, discussion of this topic.

Is game design about "mind control"?

Deconstruct Monopoly - which is NOT a good game - listing the problems that you will then try to solve in the next step of the exercise.

For one student's attempt at this - and he likes Monopoly - see http://jeffro.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/your-first-task-deconstruct-monopoly/

Monopoly Exercise

The fundamental difference in design is not electronic games versus non-electronic, it's games with human opposition versus those that don't have human opposition.

I failed to think of the exact word I wanted for digital, which is "discrete", as opposed to the continuous gradual change of analog.

Preview 04:43

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:http://gamasutra.com/blogs/SarahWoodrow/20140102/206583/7_truths_about_indie_game_development.php

Jim Butcher (author of the Dresden Files and others) has the following note on his Website (http://www.jim-butcher.com/jim). "Jim goes by the moniker Longshot in a number of online locales. He came by this name in the early 1990?s when he decided he would become a published author. Usually only 3 in 1000 who make such an attempt actually manage to become published; of those, only 1 in 10 make enough money to call it a living."

The numbers, I suspect, refer to the time before self-publishing became practical. Butcher spent at least two years finding a publisher for his first Dresden book.

Make Money? Maybe. Get Rich? Most Unlikely

You need a plan to get to your goal, or you're just another dreamer wasting his time.


I'm not sure there's any major industry where the "wannabes" have so many illusions and delusions about how things work. Here are some about game design.

Typical Illusions of Aspiring Game Designers

Other than making money, there are lots of reasons, personal and otherwise, for designing games, just as well because it's hard to make money. My apologies for the mysterious flickering of the last slide.

Reasons to Design Games

"Work" is a relative term. To those who like to paint miniature figures, it's fun. To me, it's tedious work. Even playing a professional sport - a kids' game - for a (likely wealthy) living, is sometimes work.

When there's no pressure on you to make money, game design is rarely work. Once there's pressure to make money, parts of it can become work. If you're making a living, which likely means you're working as a salaried full-time employee, then you're probably working on someone else's idea for a game, quite possibly one you don't particularly care for: then game design is most like work.

If you think game design is just about getting ideas, you'll learn below that it's far from that. If you think it's about playing games, you'll learn it's far from that. And you'll begin to understand how it can be work.

In 2014, Warren Spector (director of a specialized game school at the time, most well-known for Deus Ex) said of game development as a whole: "For starters, make sure you're truly passionate about making games. It's grindingly hard work and if you don't love it, it'll wear you down in a hurry."

Is it really work?! Fun as a hobby, work when it involves trying to make money

Games are, in most cases, entertainment. If you think you have something deep to say to the world in a game, beware. Publishers are there to make money, not to change the world. And most of the "deep messages" game designers think they have, are merely about the designers, and players aren't interested.


My take on Monopoly's problems
The best ways to learn (other than this course!)
12 Lectures 01:12:15

Any aspiring designer must complete games, to prove he can do it to a potential employer, or to be able to offer them to publishers for licensing. If you're only designing as a hobby, you can leave games unfinished, of course.

Preview 02:28

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.

The Quickest Way to Learn Game Design

Free tools such as Gamemaker or even Unity can help make game software easier to create, if you insist on starting with software rather than paper prototypes. Unity is clearly the #1 engine for making small commercial games these days, though some well-known commercial games have been made with Gamemaker.

The website, "How can I learn Gamemaker language", lists many books and other resources for learning Gamemaker. http://unluckystudio.com/how-can-i-learn-game-maker-language/

Here's a site that shows quite a few commercial games made with Gamemaker. http://makegames.pixelprospector.com/gamemaker-games

http://makegames.pixelprospector.com/ is itself a list of mostly-free development tools that help people learn game development.

Epic now offers their Unreal 4 engine on subscription for $19 a month (and 5% of gross for anything you actually sell made with Unreal). Epic's Tim Sweeney talking about changes in the Unreal engine (both in economics and in programming) http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/213647/Epics_Tim_Sweeney_lays_out_the_case_for_Unreal_Engine_4.php If you're already a programmer you might look into this, but Unreal is a top end, complex, engine.

Preview 07:32

Demonstration of Gamemaker

Gamemaker demo

Level design is a way to design sub-games and make (and test) them using a level editor. If you're really interested in programming, you may wish to get into modding in the long run.

Creating Levels and Making Mods

Classic (such as chess) and traditional commercial games (such as Monopoly) are not good guides to what's good in a game. They benefit greatly from being there first, and from being games that "everyone knows how to play".

Traditional Games are NOT a Good Guide

This is one "solution" (mine) to the problems with Monopoly, with
an eye to making it an adult hobbyist game rather than a family game.

To see an entertaining blog account of one student's own attempt at "solutions" see https://jeffro.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/design-study-number-two-boiling-point/

For another, see http://blogg.olivertwistor.nu/2014/10/forslag-pa-forbattringar-av-spelet-monopol/ (Google translates the Swedish well)

See accompanying PDF

A Monopoly "solution"

Why do people think they'll design great games as soon as they start? In other creative fields, practitioners are almost never good when they begin. Why would you be in game design?

When you first do any complicated thing, you won't be good at it

In general, a broad formal education is very useful for game designers. On the other hand it's hard to find schools that primarily teach game design, even though they may call what they're doing game design (it usually isn't).

Formal Education (a degree?)

You need to know lots of games, but that doesn't mean you need to play lots of them. You may be better at learning about games in other ways. Moreover, people who play games constantly don't have time for game design. Some people even say that hard core gamers make poor designers, because they are using different skills than designers need.

Blog version:


Play Lots of Games? Maybe.

The best way to learn is to make games. The second best way is to talk with (and listen to) other game designers, whether informally or in a class. After that there are many sources of learning, and I've ranked those in a two-part screencast.

Ranking sources of information about game design, part 1

Part 2.

Ranking sources of information about game design, part 2

Self-assessment: Definitions and the Best Ways to Learn
10 questions
Getting Started
21 Lectures 01:38:50

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.

Preview 03:38

Accept that individual ideas are worthless, but you must work to get lots of ideas, and you'll be on your way to understanding game design.

Even though there's "nothing new under the sun", you can make an idea your own. Phil Luddington recently made a useful comparison: "The idea is like your finger, we all have them, but the implementation is like your fingerprint, everyone's is unique."

The Idea is NOT the Game - Part 1

Continuation of previous video.

The Idea is NOT the Game - Part 2

"There is nothing new under the sun". But you can borrow techniques, do mashups, combine in new ways. That's not pure innovation but it can result in good games.

Innovation is highly overrated. "Innovation" depends heavily on what you're used to, what you've seen before. Some people might have thought Stratego was innovative when it came out after WW II, but in fact it derives from and is almost identical to a game on the market in Britain since 1909 (L'Attaque). Yet even today, Stratego will be "innovative" to someone who has never encountered that kind of game before.

I discuss "Innovation in Game Design" in this blog post: http://gamasutra.com/blogs/edit/blog/item/90787/index.php

What many people really want from a game is not innovation but surprise. I think surprise can come from how you do things, what elements you put together, how you model something - from many things other than innovation.

Also see "We need to get over innovation": gamasutra.com/blogs/TomBattey/20140129/209583/We_Need_to_Get_Over_Innovation.php?

Preview 04:54

There are many ways for a game to originate in your mind. I describe most if not all of them, such as story, mechanics, components, and more.

Origins of Games

Your first game must be a game, not a story, not a wish-list for "better" than an existing game.

Supplementary material is an attempt to describe briefly in text what you need to consider.

Making Your Very First Game

Unless you're only going to play your game with your friends (no reproduction), it's a bad idea to use someone else's IP (intellectual property) - characters, stories, settings. A license to publish using their IP will probably cost the earth, if a license is available at all.

Using Someone Else's Intellectual Property? Avoid it!

Games, puzzles, and contests (which are also called "parallel competitions") are all collectively called "games", but have different characteristics that call for different efforts from the designer.

Games, Puzzles, and Contests

Atoms and loops are the small parts of a game that have to be good, or the whole thing will falter.

"Atoms" and "Game Loops"

Atoms and loops are the small parts of a game that have to be good, or the whole thing will falter.
Games Need Simplicity, Puzzles May Benefit from Complexity

Some quotations from mostly-famous people that can be related to game design. Attached.

Quotations related to game design

Most games have both system and psychological components. The former is associated with puzzles, the latter with games with human opposition, but it is not always clearcut.
The System and the Psychological

Math, People, Story: three kinds of games, and a designer cannot pretend all three don't exist, even if he or she only likes one kind.

Preview 07:59

Another fundamental divide in games, between those where the player creates the narrative/story of the game, and those where the designer creates the narrative. Stories and puzzles are the latter, games with human opposition are often the former.
"Rules emergent" versus "Progressive"

This applies mostly to multi-sided tabletop games, though it would also apply to video games where there are more than two sides, each with at least one human in charge - but there aren't many games like that (I don't count MMOs because everyone respawns, hence no elimination).

Preview 12:47

Protecting Your Intellectual Property?

This is a "diary" - written thirty years after the original publication about development of my tabletop game Dragon Rage (1982), and its reissue (2011). This is likely to be of much greater interest to tabletop designers than video designers.

See attached resource file.

Designer Diary: Dragon Rage tabletop game

This audio file (11+ minutes, 28 MB WAV) attached as a resource is a joined version of 44 individual audio notes I recorded with my PDA while traveling 500+ miles home from a game convention. The notes are for a game about the Wars of the Roses, with an intention to retain the chaos and negotiation of the classic boardgame Kingmaker. I had already written notes about this project some months before, and talked with some people about it, so these are not the origin notes.

Example of additional voice notes for tabletop War of the Roses game

This audio file (6+ minutes, less than 6MB WAV) attached as a resource is a joined version of 28 individual audio notes I recorded with my PDA while driving home from a game convention. These notes are the origin of the game. The game is "War in the Abyss" (at first I called it War in Hell but you can hear me changing my mind). a boardgame about a struggle to gain dominion over a plane inhabited by demons.

Example of initial voice notes for tabletop War in the Abyss game

Initial voice notes, recorded with a PDA while driving home from a game testing session, for a small fleet battle game vaguely related to D&D Spelljammer. Attached as a resource.

Example of initial notes for fleet battle game resembling Spelljammer battles

Self-assessment: Getting Started
10 questions

A check on how you're doing with the main assignment.

Where are you with your game design? (1)
The Process of Design
23 Lectures 02:04:34

We'll use Stratego for an exercise. What is it? It's history is instructive.

You'll also see in later screencasts how a game can derive from another, yet be quite different. This is particularly instructive for video games, that almost always derive from another but sometimes, unfortunately, are merely clones (direct copies) of their "parents".

Stratego Exercise Introduction

While most game designers have been doing it since childhood, much of the job is technique. Classes and books can help you improve technique and avoid the "school of hard knocks", experience helps improve yourself, but you do need some talent.
Talent versus Technique

Game designers tend to fall into one of three categories, the artisan, engineer, or mimic. Please don't be a mimic, who are essentially mercenaries. Many beginners think of themselves as artisans, but that's not what publishers are interested in, they need engineers.

Preview 05:43

Game schools used to emphasize game design documents, which are long descriptions to tell programmers, artists, etc. how to make the software. But now we're moving away from them for various reasons. Tabletoppers don't use them at all, they just make the prototype and write the rules.

Game Design Documents and Problems

Mind-mapping example using free program Freemind (search for it). It's not a program that I find useful, but some designers like mind-mapping as an alternative to long text expositions.

Mind-mapping example

Many game documents are marketing documents for games that do not yet exist (video games). They are written to help convince a publisher or investor to put up the money to enable the game to be created.

Game Concepts, Treatments, and other Marketing Documents

Example of a high concept document for a video game (unpublished).
See attached resource.

Sample Video Game High Concept: Fury of the Northmen

An example of a video game high concept - derived from a tabletop game.

See attached resource.

Sample Video Game High Concept: Dragons Rage

A game can be an abstract construct, not representing any particular reality, or it can be a model of reality; and when the accuracy of the model becomes more important than the gameplay, it's usually a "simulation".

Models, Abstractions, Simulations

This is my framework to help beginning game designers move their ideas from the conceptual stage to the concrete.

If I were going to add a tenth, it would be "Interface".

For an example of how one student of this class has used this framework, see https://jeffro.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/mathscades-and-the-nine-structures-of-game-design/

The Nine Structures of any Game

Questions about the game you're devising that supplement the Nine Structures. Sooner or later you'll answer them, if only by default.

Some Essential Questions

Change Chess in each of the Nine Structures, then play it to see what really happens.

If you don't know chess, or want more practice, try doing this for Monopoly or Risk or checkers.

Preview 09:36

Systems analysis, often used in automation, can illuminate the design process using diagrams.

The diagram is provided as supplementary material as well as in the slides.

Systems Analysis of the Design Process

Some less detailed ideas about how the game design process works.

Other views of the process

Many people think there's an ideal way to construct stories, though they cannot agree on what that ideal is. Here are some possibilities. But games are mostly about overcoming obstacles, not about stories, and when there's a big story in a game, a studio hires a writer to write it, not a game designer.

Phases, three acts, or five, or nine, or Hero's journey

Research is more important in historical games than otherwise, but in general don't go overboard on research because games (even "simulations") are inherently far from reality. In particular, don't let "doing the research" get in the way of making the game, don't let it be an excuse to procrastinate.

A game is never really "done", you just come to a point when you cannot, or are not willing, to put more time in it, possibly because of a deadline, possibly because of the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns. You cannot be a perfectionist if you want to work as a game designer.
No Room for Perfectionism - a Game is Never Really "Done"

How much of Game Design is Creativity? In a word, perhaps 10%. A discussion of creativity and how it works with game design.

How important is creativity to game design?

Don't make a mystery out of conceiving a new game. It's a matter of deciding what you're going to do for the Nine Structures, writing things down, playing the game in your mind, and then making a prototype. Do it, don't talk about it.
Conceiving a new game

Many aspiring designers, and some who have been at it a long time, think of themselves as writers rather than game designers. This is a discussion of how the two differ. (And my advice - become a game designer first, even if you can be a fiction writer for games later.)

Preview 07:39

I don't use the word "theme" any more, because it has so many meanings (often very different) that I don't know whether my listener or reader will understand me.  Here's the low-down, and suggested alternatives.

The Many Meanings of the Word "Theme"

When a game doesn't work right, don't add something to it to try to fix it.  That's a big mistake. Try instead to simplify it.

Part 1

One Common *Wrong* Way to Make a Game, Part 1

When a game doesn't work right, don't add something to it to try to fix it.  That's a big mistake. Try instead to simplify it.

Part 12

One Common *Wrong* Way to Make a Game, Part 2

Self-assessment: the design process
9 questions
Other Considerations
10 Lectures 01:04:22
Increasingly, especially on the video side, games are using avatars, something that represents the player explicitly. This is not surprising given the movement toward story-telling in games.
A long-term trend in games: Avatars

Many programmers are going to cringe at the use of "AI" for
something that exhibits NO intelligence, even the much-more-complex
programming possible on PCs. "Computer (or Programmed) Opponent" is
much clearer.

For that matter, if the computer opponent in a video game is too
good, players assume it's cheating. So the C.O. is usually programmed
to give the player a hard game and lose, not to be the best player it
can be.

Tabletop games have to rely on a deck of cards to supply a
semblance of opposition. Practicallly speaking, cards cannot begin to
approach the nuances of modern computer programming. So programmed
tabletop opposition tends to be an extension of random opposition.

The following is a look at a unconventional set of goals for "AI",
and insight into "state space" (number of possible positions in a game)
and solvable games.


This is from my "Strategic Wargame Design" course.

The Programmed (Computer) Opponent (AI)

This is a discussion of the various computerized platforms running video games.
And now we've added Virtual Reality.


Successful free-to-play games find ways to persuade players to
spend money as they play. Here there be minefields, dangers that can
ruin your game. I discuss this as best I can, considering I strongly
dislike unfair games (and most F2P sell functional assets, making them

A point I didn't mention in the screencast: items purchased can
be time-limited (temporary) or permanent. In other words, you can buy
more energy, but when you use it up it's gone (consumable), or you can
buy a magic sword that you can use over and over.

Some advocate what used to be called "freemium", a free game (with
at least five hours in this case), then a more extensive game costing
money up front, and no in-game sales. http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-11-17-mobile-shifting-away-from-consumables-fisher

Monetization of F2P Games

A discussion of the obstacles in mobile game development. Sorry, the sound is not the best.

Making an online multiplalyer mobile game is a bad idea. Your game is
most unlikely to sell enough to keep your server(s) active, and when
servers look empty, players abandon the game. See http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-05-02-indies-dont-make-multiplayer-games-dan-marshall

For a depressing view of typical results in the mobile world, read gamasutra.com/blogs/ChadEtzel/20140729/222135/My_iOS_IndieGame_Numbers.php. Bottom line: three games published by a solo dev, revenue less than $500, and he spent more than that in advertising.

Mobile Games

I don't understand, emotionally, why people are attracted to social deduction games.  So I tried to figure it out intellectually at least, with the help of twitter.

Social Deduction Games

"Gamification" (really, applying video-game-like scoring to non-game
situations) is a big fad, but has attracted many get-rich-quick types
who seem disconnected from real gamers, and especially from game

Gamification (Really, Scorification)

Rogue-like games, which feature exploration, permadeath, very simple 2D

graphics, and procedurally-generated "dungeons", are making a comeback.
Here's why.

Why Roguelike games are making a comeback

A “game session” is when you play the game, alone (single-player) or with friends/colleagues /acquaintances (most likely, it’s pretty active and possibly interactive). Many games only have game sessions. Some also have what I’m calling “extra-game” activity, when you’re doing things within the rules but frequently alone, not in game session.
(We’ll talk about this in Part 2)
And all games can be susceptible to “metagaming”.

Game sessions . . . extra-game . . . meta-game, Part 1

A “game session” is when you play the game, alone (single-player) or with friends/colleagues /acquaintances (most likely, it’s pretty active and possibly interactive). Many games only have game sessions. Some also have what I’m calling “extra-game” activity, when you’re doing things within the rules but frequently alone, not in game session.

And all games can be susceptible to “metagaming”.

Game sessions . . . extra-game . . . meta-game, Part 2
Conclusion and Bonus Material
13 Lectures 35:58
Beta testing is open for the computer version of my unpublished tabletop game Doomstar.  www.doomstargame.com/beta I discuss how this has come about, and what the game is like.

From your point of view, if you've never participated in a video game beta test it might be interesting to try.  (June 2016)

Doomstar: Conversion of a tabletop game to video

Conclusion and What's Next

"Bonus Lecture" - about Lew's courses and games

I've added the attached discussion of probability and the immense unlikelihood that you'll get rich making games, for the possible benefit of those who just cannot believe what I've said in "I'm going to get rich" NOT.

You're much, much more likely to become a wealthy pro athlete, or win a big lottery pot, than you are to make a million from a game as a game designer.

"A tax on people who are bad at math"

Why write a book in the 21st century, an era when people rarely read non-fiction books? And why a game design book? Here's why…
Preview 08:24

Some game designers have the notion that they are trying to control the players, that game design is mind control. NO!

I want to give players significant choices in a game, not lead them by the hand to where I want them to go.

Another way to express the “control” idea is to say you want to make the game “addictive”
No, no, no! Addiction is BAD. People don’t want to be addicted. It indicates a loss of control by the person who is addicted. Why would a decent person want to get anyone addicted?

Part 1 of 2.

Confusions of game design: Game design is NOT mind control, part 1

Some game designers have the notion that they are trying to control the players, that game design is mind control. NO!

I want to give players significant choices in a game, not lead them by the hand to where I want them to go.

Another way to express the “control” idea is to say you want to make the game “addictive”
No, no, no! Addiction is BAD. People don’t want to be addicted. It indicates a loss of control by the person who is addicted. Why would a decent person want to get anyone addicted?

Part 2 of 2.

Confusions of game design: Game design is NOT mind control, part 2

What makes my game design book unusual or unique.

Preview 04:40

Results of a game designer survey I distributed in late 2012 and 2013.  See

for a discussion and text (as opposed to spreadsheet) listing of the results.

Results from a game designer survey from late 2012

Recorded at Origins Game Fair in 2007. Begins abruptly as I remembered to put on my inexpensive MP3 player to record.
Origins Game Fair 2007 Process of Designing a Game

Origins Game Fair 2011: Starting a Game Design

Origins Game Fair talk about how to complete a game design.

Origins Game Fair 2011: Completing a Game Design

If for some reason you want a video intro about the teacher, here's what I originally used in 2012.  This is the same video attached as a resource in "lecture" #3.

An older teacher introduction (video)
About the Instructor
Lewis Pulsipher
4.0 Average rating
146 Reviews
10,374 Students
11 Courses
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, and the video game "Lew Pulsipher's Doomstar" on Steam in September 2016.

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