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How to Design a Game

Games provide opportunities to educate and entertain, to provide diversions while sharpening thinking skills, and to foster creative thinking. Creating a game, whether for your children, a classroom, or for sale requires an understanding of what makes a good game and discovering the resources available to help you make that game.

Decide What You Want to Accomplish With Your Game

Games are supposed to be entertaining, but most successful and enduring games have a concept or purpose to them beyond simple entertainment. Many games teach and develop physical or mental skills.

Strategy games such as chess, checkers, and mancala can be used to teach critical thinking skills, and in the case of mancala, counting skills as well.

The board game RoboRally, where players play robots navigating their way through moving mazes, teaches logical thinking and programming skills through how players play their movement cards. The card⁄miniatures game Wings of War teaches similar skills, using cards to represent aerial maneuvers for two players to enact a dogfight.

The mobile game Tiny Wings is designed so that players bird avatars drift in the air until players touch the screen, at which time the birds plummet. With practice, players learn to control the descent of their birds to build speed, momentum, and score, while developing their timing and motor skills.

Robot Turtles teaches programming fundamentals to kids ages 4 and up. The game lets kids write programs with playing cards.

Have a Well-Defined Goal

A game's goal, object, or way to win should be something that can be easily explained to the players or to anyone else. It should also be precise enough that players can readily recognize when they have won the game.

The goal should also be satisfying to the players. Goals such as eliminating a squad of attackers in a video game, being the first to reach a target score in a board or card game, or ending up with the most money on a television game show can all be satisfying.

Having a well-defined way to win doesn't preclude allowing other ways to win. While the primary way to win the game Unspeakable Words is to be the first player to reach 100 or more points, it is also possible to win by being the only player to still have at least one sanity token in his or her possession.

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