A few months back we showed you three quotes spoken by some of the most influential game designers of all time. From standing up for creativity and finding innovative solutions, to making games that forces players to think, there is plenty to take from their words of wisdom.
The following are a few more quotes that every game developer should ponder at least once in their lifetime (the earlier the better, of course). Even if reading these doesn’t turn you into the next Miyamoto, it can’t hurt listening to what designers who helped shape the industry have to say.
The game designer’s purpose
“I had no special training at all; I am completely self taught. I don’t fit the mold of a visual arts designer or a graphic designer. I just had a strong concept about what a game designer is. Someone who designs projects to make people happy. That’s a game designer’s purpose.”
Despite not being a household name like other more notable designers, Toru Iwatani is responsible for a little game called Pac-Man. Yes, that yellow character from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, as well as the Google’s April Fools’ jokes. Although Pac-Man isn’t as recognized as Mario or Master Chief, 30 years ago it was a whole different story.
The fact is, Pac-Man served as one of the first games to bridge a gap between the arcade geeks and general audience. Aside from thousands of arcade cabinets across the United States, you could also see the circular mascot on T-shirts, in pop songs, and more. This was all at a time when it seemed impossible for a video game to transcend into mainstream, especially when they were still deemed as a waste of time by many.
So why was Pac-Man such a huge hit? The short answer is: it made people happy.
Iwatani’s quote shows us that instead of letting titles or skills get to your head, focus on what’s important: making games that people will enjoy. As a game designer, your only purpose is to create experiences that will bring joy to people.
Remember this the next time you find yourself struggling with a new mechanic or gameplay idea you want to implement. Ask yourself: will this make my game more fun?
The feeling of accomplishment
“Easy to me does not equal fun. I want puzzles where people have to think about it, and when they solve the puzzle, there’s that feeling of accomplishment. That’s something that’s really valuable, that concrete feeling that when you accomplish something [in the game], it feels like you’ve done something worth doing. If the game is too easy, the accomplishments aren’t valuable.”
–Eiji Aonuma on Skyward Sword
Although Shigeru Miyamoto is known as the creator of The Legend of Zelda series, it’s Eiji Aonuma who has been at the helm of every title as either Director or Producer since 1998. This includes entries considered the best in the series, like Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and The Wind Waker.
The quote above was said during a Game Informer interview while discussing Skyward Sword, a game that despite being criticized for several game design decisions, was widely praised for its creative puzzles. Just as Aonuma says, these puzzles were made to make even the veteran Zelda players think outside the box and put in extra effort to complete. Most notable was the Sky Keep dungeon that required players to connect rooms in different ways, making the entire dungeon almost like a jigsaw puzzle itself.
There is a reason why most gamers are currently loving the revival of hard games in our industry: they want to be challenged. From big-budget titles like Dark Souls and Bloodborne, to indie games like 1001 Spikes and Super Meat Boy, there’s no denying that gamers today want an experience that is anything but easy.
Even if you don’t plan on designing a tough-as-nails game, remember that the best way to captivate your players is by forcing them to think, which in turn will give them a sense of accomplishment.
Getting out of your comfort zone
“We had done two games, System Shock 2 and BioShock, with a world that was dead, effectively, already and you were just sort of coming in after the fact…you were a silent protagonist and two games where there was nobody around you…And if we were to walk away from those very comfortable little binkies of ours, what would we do?”
–Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite
With three different games under his belt that have each won countless awards and amassed cult followings, Ken Levine is arguably one of the best game developers of our time. His game titles are praised for their excellent stories and fun gameplay, but even more so for providing experiences unlike any other.
Even with System Shock 2, gamers received an interesting hybrid gameplay and moody sound design unlike anything they have played before. Its spiritual successor BioShock did the same, while also providing one of the most memorable and impactful video game quotes of all time: “Would You Kindly?” His last title, BioShock Infinite, also received critical acclaim for its brilliant storytelling and gorgeous settings.
Like the quote reveals, the Irrational Games team decided to take on the challenge of introducing elements into BioShock Infinite they had never worked with before. Among these are bright outdoor environments, a talking protagonist, a supporting character with helpful AI abilities, and more. It’s no surprise that the game took so long to develop.
Perhaps knowing that even the best game designers try to get out of their comfort zone and create new things will help you do the same, especially if you want to give the world the next big hit.