My Favorite Game Design Blogs

Paul Sottosanti – Paul Sottosanti is my friend and a brilliant card/board/video game designer. My favorite article is his Tiny Adventures teardown, which has a lot of good talk about social gaming especially.

Sirlin – Sirlin is another board, card, and video game designer. Sirlin’s articles are super crunchy. My favorite article from this blog is Playing to Win in Badminton, a response to the 2012 Olympic Badminton debacle.

Andy Looney – Andy Looney is a very inventive and creative game designer. I especially like his personal Game Design Principles.

I’m always on the lookout for more, comment if you’ve got em.

My Time at MokaSocial

For twelve months, I was part of a startup with Koa Metter, a great designer and friend. I could write/yell/brag/bemoan reams about it, but I mostly I’m just fondly remembering sitting in coffee shops and writing apps with him. Apps don’t come easy, that’s for sure, and it’s lonely out there.

MokaSocial started as a product company, and our first few apps were promising – but not quiiiite delivering for two incomes. So we started contracting, which was even more fun, if a little more stressful. We got to build mobile apps for the New York Public Library, and the American Heart Association, and a ton of other awesome clients. Both parts were great, we learned a ton, made some cash, and got positions we love: Koa’s at HTC and I’m at Sporcle. All in all, the whole thing couldn’t have been better.

I sure did love being part of  a startup – Koa and I have a few loose ends to wrap up, and a fucking killer robot game to finish with our favorite Game Developer Emory Myers, but man, it was a hell of a ride. Something I’d wanted to do for years.

Seattle, Generative Nerd Mecca

Seattle’s a geek-permissive town in general, but lately I’ve learned more about the actual shape of that – we’re a city that exports quite a lot of new ideas and content, plenty of it very geeky.

  • So crazy many indie game companies flourish here
  • Huge names, too: WOTC, Nintendo, Privateer Press, Bungie are set up here
  • Several larps were birthed here back in the 1980s!
  • 1% of the year, my neighborhood is not much more than PAXville.
There are bigger cities for media (LA), finance (NYC), and yeah, even software (San Francisco), but I assert that Seattle is the geek culture capital of the world. Hoist your freak flag high.

Abrupt Goodbye

Collaborative story telling

Abrupt Goodbye is a collaborative chatting game released by an indie game studio. The whole thing is browser based and all of the content is user generated. I think that it’s possibly a first foray into a entirely new type of game.

The premise is supplied: A blind man is waiting for a train, a woman approaches him and talks.

Abrupt Goodbye is cool for a number of reasons:

– It is infinitely replayable – each completed game extends the content of the game a little bit, so the next game is longer and more varied.

– It’s totally asynchronous, but puts two ‘sides’ against each other. Each side is several players working together without communicating.

– The system is set up to be self-improving – as you choose your conversational options, you vote for the most interesting ones. So there’s a constant positive reform going on there.

You can crowdsource communication the wrong way, (as with some blog comments), or you can do something really great with it, like Abrupt Goodbye. Go play, it rules.


‘Hypercapitalism’ is so poorly defined that the first google search result isn’t a wikipedia page. That’s sad, so I’m going to put a solid word out there.

My new definition: The idea that the purpose of capitalism is to supply goods and services to the net benefit of society, and that business is a vehicle to apportion those goods fairly. (See also: corporate responsibility, conscious capitalism)

Dio Games, an indie software venture operating out of Romania, has a very novel game called Orbital Trader that has an excellent and intentional bent towards the hypercapitalistic. You see, in the present, one amasses great wealth by supplying goods and services. In the future, it’s really much more profitable to do that in a way that helps people. Commerce is no longer a chimera that beats people into the ground; nor does a ruling class decide how to wreck things for society. No, now the economy and all the players in it are scrambling to fill needs, invest in the greater good, and be proper stewards of the markets they’re in.

Give it a try, it’s a really cool game.

More on Developers and Games


The fantastic element that explains the appeal of games to many developers is neither the fire-breathing monsters nor the milky-skinned, semi-clad sirens; it is the experience of carrying out a task from start to finish without any change in the user requirements.

Also, I forgot one of the present’s best developer/game designers: Kory Heath. His website is lots of fun, go read it.

Game Design as Programming

What is it about game design that lures software developers? Both are geeks, to be sure, but there seems to be a special draw that somehow grabs hold of both.

Andrew and Kristin Looney are good case studies to start with. Before starting their own company inventing games, they worked as as computer scientists at NASA. The love of computer science is evident in their games, which are rife with simple mechanics that end in beautiful systems of input and output.

Richard Garfield, designer of Magic: The Gathering and other wildly popular thinking games, also began as a Bell Labs scientist. Magic’s inventive abstract system of interaction between cards was completely new at the time, but appeals to many – Garfield’s game is absurdly popular around the world.

Paul Sottosanti is a php developer-turned Magic-designer turned game-developer. His latest work, Tiny Adventures, builds cleverly on the new paradigm of social networking games.

There are a lot more examples of software devs-turned-board game developers, but take these clever people as examples to start with. Common geek-appeal aside, what is it that draws programmers? The game as a microcosm of reality with its own rules, structures, and beginning and end seem common to all four of our cases. Software is similar in its use of interconnected modular parts. The shared Ludism and limitless exploration potential of programming languages and games is equally likely.