I don’t feel like I really want to have to say this, but I am sad to say that I do. Games should be fun. If you start designing a game, but wouldn’t find it fun to play in your own opinion, don’t expect anyone else will either. Passion for a game will show. That doesn’t mean the final product will be great, but it is far easier to get caught up in the enthusiasm of a game than it is to try playing one that was clearly a drudge to design. Think hard about what sorts of play you enjoy. Not the goals, the play.
Is there a genre you really enjoy? Focus on that. Are there certain sorts of stories you really care about? Design based on that sort of story. Have there been any sorts of mechanics that really moved you as part of the game to feel more immersed? Study them and figure out why they worked so well. Observe yourself playing and pay attention to where you are feeling bored or really getting into the play. Jot notes about these things so that you can remember them later.
Try to understand why you love what you love. Saying I love science fiction doesn’t stop people from arguing over which Star Trek is best. There is a different feeling in each. There’s a different set of themes that run through them. You have to look deeper as a designer. Design with purpose. Know what really pulls at you and design something that will pull on those who feel the same way. This is something people so often seem to ignore. I can’t fathom why.
I know today has been short, but I’d like to think I don’t need to harp on it overmuch. Have fun as a designer just as much as you do as a player. Know yourself and you will have a guidebook to making a compelling game. Pick goals that align with this.
So where do you find the fun in the games you have played in the past?