Design and Games

Jess McMullin is looking into games as tools to facilitate design thinking:

I’m not talking about learning from traditional games like Go or Quake, or socially aware games that are built to persuade for a variety of good causes, but specifically games that are created to facilitate design thinking…

I got my start in design because of games. Computer games, specifically. As a kid, I was entranced by this magical plaything with its monochromatic, chunky graphics, beeps and buzzes. This was in the late ‘70s / early ‘80s when designing games for computers was all about constraints: with 16KB total system RAM, every design decision needed to be carefully considered. Would it add to the overall value of the experience? Was it worth the memory space it would consume?

In retrospect, it’s amazing that such entertaining (even addicting) games could be produced in less space than is taken up by most jpg files. This was an important lesson: all design decisions are tradeoffs, and you must always aim for the maximum effect at the minimum cost. Games have made me a minimalist in my approach to design problems.

Of course, being eight years old I didn’t think of it in such sophisticated terms. This changed when I came across a book that changed my life: Chris Crawford’s The Art of Computer Game Design. (I’ve written about it before. The book, long out of print, is available online.) TAoCGD was my first exposure to organized design thinking, from the most basic principles on up. It was also my first exposure to taxonomies, a concept that has become central to my professional life.

Thank you Chris Crawford for your amazing book!