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Beware of the artist syndrome

Page: DesignArticle.Article-ArtistSyndrome - Last Modified : Sat, 01 Jun 13 - 1746 Visits

Author : Eric Pietrocupo

At first, I thought is was only one of my friend that had this syndrome, but I have realised that in fact artist or graphic designers who try to design games have this syndrome. And this is related to the way that those people work in graphic design.

I said it many times, board game design is an iterative process. Which mean that you must design over and over again, refining your game at each step until it reaches perfection. It's a bit like sanding a floor where you start with a large grain sand paper and work to finer grain sand paper.

But artist and graphic designer think they can finish their game almost on the first shot. Apparently, it is common in their work to find the fastest and most efficient way to get the results they want. Which in the end, has almost to iteration process. This is very bad, because they think they have a good game right from the start. So it's like if they were starting to sand their floors with fine grain sand paper already. The problem is that any major bump will always be visible.


I previously talked about protorushing, this is not the same kind of rushing. In protorushing, you want to make a quick prototype as soon as possible to get feedback on the mechanics and start working on the problems. When I proto rush, I do not expect the game to be working and finished.

Most of the problem with artist is that they will make beautiful artwork and design in the early prototype because they think that little changes are going to be required by the game. But that is the complete opposite, in early design, your game will move in all directions.

Just to prove that I am not inventing anything, I'll cite a passage from "Game Design Workshop" about prototyping:

In early drafts of your physical prototype, we recommend that you pay no attention to the quality of the artwork. Stick figure drawings are the norm. The goal is to rough out system components so that you can see how the game operates on a mechanical level. Spending time on the artwork only slows down the process. Also if you invest too much time crafting the look and feel of the prototype, you might become attached to your work and be reluctant to make changes. Because the protyping process is all about iteration and change, this becomes counterproductive.

Fullerton, Tracy.- Game design Workshop: A playcentric approach to creating innovative games.- 2nd Edition.- Elsevier, Morgan Kaufmann, c2008.- p. 176.

I cannot summarise it better. I would also add that sometimes, it it a good think to pass some time between each iteration on other things. This will make your subconscious work on the problems of your game and eventually, new ideas are going to come in making it easier to make your game progress. This is why I always suggest working on multiple games at once (Average 3-5) to jump from a game to another.

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