Post 100 : Designer’s Notes

I am not a fan of designer’s notes. I think they are self-indulgent and usually bore the reader. If the work cannot stand on its own, chances are the designer’s intent isn’t getting across in the game play. No ounce of “notes” is going to fix poor design choices.

That said, I write them a lot. And I don’t like this aspect of myself. I wish I didn’t write them, but I do. I mock others who do it and find myself chattering away about my own nonsense because I think someone cares what I think.

Which, ultimately, they do not. If they are anything like me, they just want a fun game. Who cares where you were standing when you came up with Omelet Race 3000.

Mostly, I am not as good of a designer as I would like to be. I know how to break down a design, find flaws in it, break it into individual pieces, examine them, look for alternatives, and put it back together. And I can do this with most anything. So long as it’s someone else’s designs. But I approach so much of my own work intuitively, rather than structurally, that I can’t always shatter my own designs. Which is a horrible skill set to have. You know? If you want to be successful.

Of course, a lot of the times what I make doesn’t work the way I want it to. And I have to abandon an idea, or accept that it won’t be as good as I want it to be.

Again. Because I’m not as good as I wish I was.

The hope, sometimes, is that this self-awareness and this ever-present need to write designer notes will somehow intersect at a place where what I know should be in the game and what I put into the game match.

Why all this introspection, tonight?

Monica Bellucci said of working on Irreversible:

To me this film is like Clockwork Orange. It’s like Pi. It’s like Requiem for a Dream, Deliverance or Pasolini’s movies. All those movies that are so difficult to digest but there is something, there is meaning. You felt so disturbed when you watched those movies because those movies go deep inside you and then you have to see the monsters we have inside.

That’s a ballsy thing to say about any art form.

But it struck a chord with me. Or at least got me thinking.

How far can a writer/director/producer/artist go to find truth? Is a good game designer on the same path? Can art inform our design decisions? Can the divining rod of a design document mirror another art form so that instead of making a game about cowboys killing zombies, we can make a game about cowboys as a metaphor for a helpless era of human independence killing zombies that represent the mediocrity of an impeding age of industry and soullessness? Does that game all of a sudden become more brazen? Or just more obnoxious? Does it find new ground to stand on? Or does it ostracize the people who came before?

I don’t have any answers. But I’d like to think that I can continue to ask these kinds of questions and get somewhere deeper.

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3 thoughts on “Post 100 : Designer’s Notes

  1. I think that ultimately, the designer’s notes are for the designer and not for anyone else. Not necessarily a form of narcissism– but more self-reflection and a bit of that post-operative “shattering” of your own designs that you write about above. That is not to say that they are not valid for others to read. I personally love discovering the process and the personal meaning behind works– whether they be designs, paintings, films or novels. They don’t “save” the work by any means. I agree that the work has to communicate clearly on its own without the designer hanging over the viewer’s shoulder, but I savor the little peek into the creativity and the internal structure of the thing. I also believe that for anything to last a long time and resonate with a lot of people, it has to have something more to it than a surface veneer. The story of the minotaur and old Bugs Bunny cartoons have a lot more going on beneath the surface than a casual glance affords (that’s why Bugs Bunny cartoons are all edited now ha ha)

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