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Since there have been games, there have been game designers. Their names may have been lost to history, but at some point the first clay dice were thrown, and the first smooth stones were placed in the pits of a newly carved mancala board. These early inventors may not have thought of themselves as game designers-perhaps they were just amusing themselves and their friends by coming up with competitions using the everyday objects around them-but many of their games have been played for thousands of years. And although this history stretches back as far as the beginnings of human culture, when we think of games today, we tend to speak of the digital games that have so recently captured our imaginations.
These digital games have the capacity to take us to amazing new worlds with fantastic characters and fully realized interactive environments. Games are designed by teams of professional game developers, working long hours at specialized tasks. The technological and business aspects of these digital games are mind-boggling. And yet, the appeal of digital games for players has its roots in the same basic impulses and desires as the games that have come before them. We play games to learn new skills, to feel a sense of achievement, to socialize, to determine pecking order, and sometimes just to pass the time. Ask yourself, why do you play games? Understanding your own answer, and the answers of other players, is the first step to becoming a game designer.
We bring up this long history of games as a prelude to a book primarily about designing digital games because we feel that it's important for today's designers to 'reclaim' that history as inspiration and for examples of what makes great gameplay. It's important to remember that what has made games such a long-lasting form of human entertainment is not intrinsic to any technology or medium, but to the experience of the players.
The focus of this book will be on understanding and designing for that experience, no matter what platform you are working with. In the first chapter of this section, we'll look at the special role played by the game designer throughout the process: the designer's relationship to the team, the skills and vision a designer must possess, and the method by which a designer brings players into the process. Then, we will look at the essential structure of games-the formal, dramatic, and dynamic elements that a designer must work with to create that all-important player experience. These are the fundamental building blocks of game design and provide an understanding of what it takes to create great games.
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