The designer "line"

June 15, 2009

I'm not sure when it happens or even why. I just know that as a board game designer I stopped talking about the theme of a game and changed to talking first about the mechanics. I remember talking about auction games and then answering the types of games I like not based on their theme but on the mechanics.

This goes back to an earlier topic about hand waving, the theme becomes secondary to game at some point in the discussion. I think that most people when they talk about a game to a friend only talk about the theme to get them excited to play.

As a designer, to get other people excited I might say, "Its a fantasy game" or "Its a sci-fi game", just to set the tone. But when it comes right down to it, my focus is on the mechanic.

My latest board game is Dados, my latest video game is an iPhone game based on a game from This is how I would describe them:

Dados is a lite bidding strategy game that uses dice as its main random element with tile placement also adding to the randomness.
and the video game

(Title is still under wraps) is 3-alike matching game using objects that use ragdoll physics.
But if I was a player I would describe them much differently. Dados is a family dice game. And the other game, well, its an addiciting game of matching falling objects. See, I think I've lost the ability to be "just" a player. I no longer talk about games as pure fun, I always think of them from a designers eye.

Am I lost now? Do accountants add up the cost of everything in their basket before they go through the line at the grocery store?