I just saw this on boingboing:
“Raph Koster, who has many critical insights on game design, has a great new essay on his blog called “Making games more cheaply,” which closes with this statement that applies to practically every form of digital media extant, and may just be the secret to success in the 21st century:
Embrace prototyping. Make your game playable and fun before you have any art. Stop writing big design docs.
Big design docs are useless. There, I said it. Trying to build a game off of one is like trying to recreate a movie from the director’s commentary track. They are largely castles in the air. The only time that big design docs serve a real purpose is when they are describing static content.
Embracing prototyping is a huge mental barrier for people. But it is what gets you to that long-lived self-refreshing systemic game design. You can prototype almost any game with some dice and some index cards. And plenty of ideas that sound good on paper turn out to suck when tried out for real.
Prototypes properly done are cheap. Prototyping is whistling five melodies and seeing which one you remember the next day.
to which I replied:
Prototyping is the same principle that we here in Kauai are applying to our lives as permaculturists. We prototype living systems, using cheap, found, and scrounged materials, mostly from our local dump, and then upgrade to more polished versions after we’ve figured out exactly what we want from the system.
For instance, I have built nearly ten different prototypes of chicken tractor for tractoring my chickens around the yard. All of these were built out of mostly recycled materials, and all looked radically different. When I finally saw a design that I thought was smart and functional enough to merit a trip to town, I went and bought supplies and made myself a robust copy. A system for taking showers went through similar stages, with the shower appearing here and there over time, with different plusses and minuses for each. Finally a propane shower, gravity fed from a water tank above, with a recycled pallet floor, and bamboo walls, tarp door emerged.
You know you can stop prototyping when the need to prototype a system ends. i.e. when the shower stays put, think about upgrading the prototype to semi- finished product status.
Prototyping ones entire life is an incredibly cheap and energy efficient way to recreate the world around you, remaking it into one of immense possibility. The primary question one has to ask is: Who am I? Which is the same question as: What do I want? Once those questions are answered, you can begin gathering materials and prototyping new systems.
Who you are and what you want will dictate what your prototypes are trying to achieve. You must have land or space to prototype on, and the tools and knowledge to assemble your prototypes.