Can we use game design to better explain what designers do?

Is game design a better example for explaining user experience than productivity applications and the role of designers? With games, a designer is concerned with the details, performance and responsiveness but a shiny game with no soul is worthless. Game designers care about the game mechanics, the rules, the constructed reality, carefully balancing challenge with feasibility – and some of these attributes cannot be designed without feedback from players.

I was thinking about the Redeemer weapon in Unreal Tournament (one of the last games I played before resigning myself to the fact I could no longer use a mouse) and how everything about it would have to be tweaked and dialled in to the correct settings to make it valuable yet also defeatable. The size of the missile and visibility, its velocity, maneuverability, susceptibility to damage, whether homing missiles could lock onto it, whether the controlling player would be completely vulnerable and unaware of their surroundings while operating the missile, the blast radius, respawn time etc. The Redemeer surely would have been tweaked dozens if not hundreds of times before the designers were happy with it.

That’s all quite detailed designed; there are levels above and below that; what is the point of this game? Why might it be attractive to players? Will they stick with it for months or years? Will they lose interest and why? Will it become too hard over time for new players to break into the game against players with hundreds of hours of experience?

Some game designers might prefer to work down in the weeds designing the graphics and physics, others might be more interested in the strategy side that’s almost more marketing than programming. They’re all designers.

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