Saturday, January 8, 2011

Translating Physical Prototyping into Digital Based Games

How do you teach or learn physical prototyping? I am at a point where I use physical prototyping extensively and feel very comfortable with my prototyping abilities, but feel frustrated by the inability to guide younger designers in their own prototyping.

The current method for learning how to prototype comes down to "learning by doing." And by no means is this a poor way to learn prototyping, but seems to me that only a few game designers ever seem to pick-up prototyping through this method and then use it to its full potential. After all, it can take quite some practice, especially for designers lacking experience with physical games (i.e. board games, card games, table-top games, etc.). There is good literature out there, like Game Design Workshop and a lot can be learned from physical game designers (The Game Inventor's Guidebook or G. Costikyan). And while these references offer excellent frameworks in which to understand game design, the method of looking at prototyping is still left at, "just do it, and through experience you will learn it... or not." 

Currently I have encounter several issues when trying to encourage the use of prototyping for digital games. If the game designer is not familiar with physical game (i.e. board games, card games, table-top games, etc.) often just beginning the activity is a challenge. The next issue is when the designer is familiar with physical games where the challenge is to remember that you are creating a prototype for a digital game and not creating a physical game which when implemented digitally becomes a direct translation. Not necessarily a bad thing, but is often not the designer's intention. The last issue happens when the prototype is used to communicate the design to the development team, it is often unclear how certain elements will be translated into the digital version. This can create a feeling within the development team that prototyping is some superfluous designer activity.

My solution for the time being is to create a list of prototype patterns and their translation into a digital version.

See my prototype patterns HERE (note: this is a work in progress).