How to Design a Game for a Specific Audience: A Game for Readers & Writers
Here’s a common situation for a game developer: you have an audience that you want your game to appeal to. The simple (and wrong) way to make a game for readers is to make tons of reading in a game.
As a writer, while I love games, books will always be a strong love of mine, so I don’t feel a need for games to occupy the exact same space as books. If I wanted to read, I would have picked up a book. If I’m thinking of a game, I want an interactive experience that is engaging enough to keep me from using my computer to browse the web instead. This is true of designing a game for anyone who loves a certain activity: games shouldn’t attempt to replace it exactly, because that potential player could just perform the activity. But then, why do simulator games exist?
Games are very good at taking activities and making them predictable and rewarding. Anecdotally, people who cook might enjoy cooking games because those games are design to capture the feeling of cooking without some of the potential negative consequences: having to scrub a burnt pot, deciding whether to dispose of an unappetizing meal. The ruleset also can make the game activity appeal to people who do not like the real-life activity: Guitar Hero is not only played by guitarists; it does not literally teach anyone to play the guitar; but it might lead a portion of its non-guitarist players to want to try playing guitar. A game for someone who loves reading or writing should evoke they joy of reading and writing, without attempting to be a pure imitation.
In this game, then, I will allow people to experience the joy of combining words to create elegant, pleasing effects. The joy of reading and writing is the delight of experiencing combinations of words that produce novel, aesthetically pleasing, or emotionally/intellectually stimulating effects. Often, these effects give readers a tool to use as insight into the reader’s own life or an aspect of the greater world. I will distill down the complexity of this everyday-life activity and some of the uncertainty and difficulty.
Other notes are to keep the premise and coding level very simple to focus on the novelty of idea. There will possibly be another developer who would add music to the game. Integrating this element might change some of the direction of the game. This might be the new incarnation of the top-down ARPG that doesn’t use death mechanics that I was considering how to develop back when I first began my game design journey.
As I begin digging into the game two weeks from now, I will elaborate on the ways I turn the love of reading and writing into a game.