While reading Chapter 1 of Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, I was pleasantly surprised with how she described the role of a game designer. Being a textbook, I was expecting a technical description of the various duties a game designer carries out. Instead, I found it focused not so much on what a game designer does, but on how they should do it. Fullerton advises aspiring game designers take a playcentric approach. This approach puts emphasis on playtesting, which should begin early in the development process so feedback can be taken into consideration before the project gets too far along. (Fullerton) Overall, I agree with Fullerton’s recommendation of using a playcentric approach and the emphasis she puts on holistic teamwork. However, the chapter is not without flaws.
One critique I have of Chapter 1 is it does not go into the specifics of what it takes to execute a playcentric approach. For example, who should be the playtesters? My initial thought was playtesters should be members of the demographic that are most likely to buy the game. Identifying that demographic, however, is not clear cut. Many gamers play multiple genres, and the gaming community is increasingly diverse. Singling out only one group would be logistically difficult and possibly hinder large scale commercial success. An argument could even be made for using playtesters who prefer other games or were picked randomly, as this could help tap into new markets. Who the playtesters are will have some influence on their feedback. Consider what would happen if someone who had never played an FPS was a playtester for a new Call of Duty title, or someone who has never used a console playtested an Xbox exclusive. With the significant role playtester feedback has in a playcentric approach, the selection of playtesters is important.
Chapter 1’s advice to future game designers is good, but it could have gone into more detail. That said, I am hopeful in later chapters Fullerton will expand on what has been presented.
This post is based on Chapter 1 of Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton.
Fullerton, Tracy. “Chapter 1: The Role of the Game Designer.” Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 4th ed., Taylor & Francis Group LLC, 2019. PDF.