Working on Multiple Games

image of games I am currently working on

Now obviously, a lot of great games have been made by designers who have only worked on a single game at a time, but below represents a few good reasons why you should have more than one thing going at once. I am currently actively testing 4 games (meaning I run at least 1 playtest a month for them). A typical month sees me running about 15 playtests.

A short list of the advantages of working on multiple games:

 

Learn!

You learn a lot just from going through the design and testing process on a game. So why not learn those lessons faster by working on more than one thing? Exposure to how to test and analyze design problems for games of different mechanics, genres, lengths, etc are all useful game design skills. This is one of the reasons playing other designer’s prototypes is such a valuable experience as new designer. You’ll learn as much about what not to do, as things to improve your own design, so working on more than one project will help you “fail faster’.

Switch focus.

If you are getting hung up or stuck on a design issue, working on multiple games lets you take a break and switch focus. Let’s say you get a bunch of feedback about the player powers in a game, but you can’t figure out the design solution right away. You can sit on that feedback and spend a little design time on it each week while focusing on another project instead.

Test more frequently.

If you are stuck doing revisions, or haven’t had enough time to make a new prototype from revisions you’ve already designed, you can still show up to game nights / playtest sessions with your other game(s). Since this happens pretty frequently (you’ll have lag time in making new versions), it means you’ll be able to test more consistently. And that also is helping you build your own name in the design community, as well as keeping the wheels turning on your learning process and thinking about game design.

Test more consistently.

You can test different games with different audiences, and don’t miss getting any tests done because the player count, interest, or timing wasn’t right to test one of your games. That way, you are never missing out on audience. If you’re tabling at a convention, it helps to have games of multiple themes and lengths, so ideally you can have something that appeals to most people walk by.

You won’t be overly attached.

If you have more than one game, you won’t be as attached to your baby, and you’ll be able to make more objective decisions about cutting things out of it (or even scrapping a whole game). It’s easier for you to make the decisions, and its easier for playtesters to provide critiques.

Some parts of this article built out my replies in a thread over on BGDF, and some from a conversation with Jeremy Commandeur at a recent prototype night

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2 thoughts on “Working on Multiple Games

  1. Nice post, John. One of my benefits of working on multiple games is that I don’t get to playtest as often as I would like, so rather than twiddling my thumbs in between, I work on something else. There is always some game that needs some new ideas integrated, or could benefit from some solo testing, and there are always more ideas burning in my head that need to be explored.

  2. I certainly agree that there are advantages to working on multiple games, but there a are disadvantages as well: Lack of focus, postponing pushing through the “hard parts”, getting overwhelmed.

    The biggest bottleneck for most designers is testing; working on multiple games mostly means you’ll have a “pileup” of test work that needs to be done.

    So: Work on multiple games with caution!

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