Next week, I will begin design of the game along the three approaches I mentioned in my last post, and before then I need to develop my understanding of what kind of game I’m supposed to design. Not only in the sense of what kind of game it’s supposed to be – it’s already been decided that I’m creating a megagame – but more specifically what part of reality it’s supposed to reflect (and to what degree) and what playing the game will mean for those involved. In this case, access to what I will here refer to loosely as a ’design brief’ is extremely useful – not only will it facilitate making design decisions, but it will also reduce the number of times the game needs to be (more or less completely) redesigned after receiving feedback from my team. There is no formal design brief handed to me by the project, nor have we included the drawing up of one in the project structure – I find this situation to be less than ideal as I stand ready to begin the design process, and so will take this insight with me to my next project, which just happens to be the Changing the Game of Consumption megagame, which I also blog about (a link will be added once I’ve published my first post). In the meantime, I’ll draw up a design brief on my own based on what I’ve learned so far and ask my team for feedback.

This research project started in November 2021 and has thus been running for a little less than a year. During this time, the nine-person project team has undertaken a literature review and a gap analysis, as well as spent quite a few hours discussing what each of us see this game being about. Being a game designer in a group of scholars, my priority has been to listen in order to learn as much as I can about the topic (energy systems and their transition from unsustainable to sustainable) and keep an open mind so as not to dismiss any ideas that may prove useful later on. I’ve made a tonne of notes along the way, which I’ve now revisited in an effort to put together a design brief in the form of a list of things that should be in the game. I plan on using this list to assess the outcome of my work and help me stay on track during the design process, as well as show it to the members of my team in order to receive feedback and make course corrections in my work.

The items on the list below consist of things that the members of my team have expressly stated they believe should be included in the game and things that I think should be included based on discussions between various team members and my experience. This is simply the first version of theis list, and it may well be updated when my team read it and provide me with feedback:

  • The game should include mechanics for manipulating a simplified model of the Swedish energy system over time in order to receive results that affect both individual/groups of players and the game as a whole.
  • Players should be able to take on roles that they are not trained for outside of the game, thus providing them with an opportunity to explore the transition of the energy system from a different angle than they would in real life.
  • Players should experience the effects of both their own and all players’ collective actions and be forced to adapt strategies and actions to a continually developing situation.
  • The game should be constructed so as to inspire players to experiment with new ideas in a setting that is similar but not identical to the reality they face outside of the game.

Looking at it, I realise that the list is quite abstract and say very little about what mechanics to use or level of difficulty/requirements on preparation. Also, I’m guessing that quite a few of the people on my team feel that it leaves out important things that they want to see in the game or feel that they have contributed in our discussions. This is precisely why I made it – to get the discussion going and benefit by the power of the fantastic minds I work with. In my experience, being a game designer is less about being a rock star and more about serving as a secretary on a committee of highly skilled professionals: I ask them a question, then listen carefully to what they say and note all the ideas that come up, both the ideas they have and those that crop up in my mind as I listen to them.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the thoughts that my team have offered and try to say something of how I receive and integrate feedback in the design process.