Back in the day, before technology took over our lives completely, the most common and accessible mode of entertainment was pen and paper. As a young game designer, I found myself often designing and developing paper prototypes. It was easy to do, simply draw up a map, make up the rules and the game mechanic, and then call your friends over to play.
It’s a great medium to express your game outside of the digital space and it allows you to craft your world quickly and easily. The pen as it always has been, is mightier than the sword.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from making games with pen and paper.
When you make a pen and paper game, you are creating mechanics and rules
There’s no hard and fast rule to creating a game but here’s what I think about when I first start. First of all, how do you want the player to interact with the game? These are the mechanics and the player experiences. Next, what can a player do and what can they not do, those are the rules.
What do you learn by thinking this way? You’re training your creativity by trying to create mechanics and rules that create a fun and engaging world for players, or the gaming experience as we know it. It’s easy in this way to adjust and change the mechanics and modify it the more you or your friends play until it gets better and better.
Build an intricate and engaging world
Building the world in which your game exists is easy but to make it interesting and engaging is something else entirely. As you explore the world you’ve created ask why and how these things got where they are, create a believable world with its own rules and mechanics. Build a history and a story behind the world you’ve created. There now you’ve got some experience in world building and storytelling.
Aside from that, you are also designing levels
When you’re drawing out the map that your game takes place in you’re doing level design. A map is a level and that’s where your players will be executing the gameplay in, bound by the rules you’ve designed in the world you’ve created. Creating more levels and playing through them, is an essential function of a game designer. The more you create and the more you play, the better acquainted you’ll be with spotting the flaws.
Interact directly with the players
You are the game master, much like the days of Dungeons and Dragons; you narrate your story, the turns of events, the outcomes of their interactions or whatever that needs telling. The players are your future audiences and you’re able to interact with them in a way that you would never be able to do in a video game.
Control the flow, observe the atmosphere, and watch them play through your game mechanics, understand your rules and levels to see what is working and if your game is fun.
In this way you will get immediate feedback to be able to modify and change your game as needed. Learn what works, what doesn’t work, what’s fun, what’s boring, game balancing, and most of all what people that play games are looking for and enjoy.
Finally, the pen and paper is not a child’s toy but a game developer’s tool
The pen and paper is the fastest, simplest and the most cost-saving method for a project. It could be used to sketch out levels to be made, art sketches, and even create a simple prototype for the game. Thus, when it comes to game development, do not just set your sight on the digital devices like computers, the traditional methods are also involved and their roles are significant to make a game.
Whether you’ve just starting out making games or you’ve been making games for years it’s always good to hone your skills with pen and paper.