Turning Game Experiences Into Game Design

As a religious functionary, manufacturing experiences is one of the things I’m supposed to be good at. That’s sort of what’s behind sacraments, for example, or any kind of ritual really. They are guided processes intended to evoke a particular quality of experience in the participants.

That’s also what game design is, though don’t worry, I’m not going to get into some kind of wankery about how gaming is ritual (though I guess it sometimes is, in small parts).

I’ve been thinking and struggling a lot looking at how to better design games so that they evoke predictalbe experiences in the players. The specific concern here is my write-up of Heroes of Karia Vitalus. The game was a heavily-modded version of BESM – so modded, in fact, that all of the cool things about the system had nothing to do with BESM. It occurred to us that 1. our experience playing Karia was amazing and 2. it amounted to its own game system by the end of the storyline.

Rather than just releasing a hack of BESM, I wanted to come up with a system for Karia that was its own animal, cutting out the vestiges of BESM that were still in the system and replacing them with some other set of ubiquitous dice mechanices or whatever.

The problem I’m running into is that I shy away from what feels like ‘over-designing’ the game, since I’m the kind of guy who likes to mod. On the other hand, the experience we had was amazing and what is fueling this attempt is my desire to propagate this experience to others.

What are some good examples of games that produce similar experiences in everyone who plays them? Mortal Coil comes to mind, in my opinion, as does Dogs in the Vineyard. Anything else? Ever found a game you thought was over-designed? Way under-designed?

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