Game Design

Just One More Game…

The elation of succeeding, the frustration of being stuck — these emotions can captivate players for hours and hours. This talk presents an organizing framework for game design, by asking “how does each element affect the player’s ability to play better and better?”

Four principles are developed, hand in hand with examples showing how they apply in a plethora of common situations. Finally, some emerging trends are examined that suggest practical steps.

We’ve all played games through the night, not stopping because “I’m finally getting the hang of it! I can do better! Just one more game…” Looking at this improving mastery sheds a surprising amount of light on game design. For example, creating easier difficulties by simply lowering unit stats can completely change the player’s strategy: if enemies are slower, players may run past them, not learning to fight at all. And adventure games offer no way to learn from partial answers: either you think to use the marker on the passport, or you don’t.

Game design is typically taught as a collection of principles, but this talk organizes it around its effects on skill learning. Four design principles are developed and explored with many examples. Specific design decisions are addressed, leading to practical advice.

This framework draws together emerging trends from recent work in both game design and practice.


I have a paper on these ideas, titled Just One More Game… I think a revised version of it would make a good book chapter, so if you know anyone who is putting together a book, please let me know…


I have a presentation I’ve been giving on these ideas, which has been surprisingly well received (see below). For the presentation I use a PowerPoint with lots of images but few words. However, you can download Just One More Game – Standalone which contains my notes on top of the images.

    • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Introductory Animation class on April 17, 2007.
    • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Experimental Game Design class on February 1, 2007.
    • Union College’s Computer Science Seminar Series on September 28, 2006.
Martin provides an engaging overview of the challenges and possibilities of game design from a unque perspective. His talk was well received by students in my gaming class as well as faculty with little prior experience with computer games. It stimulated interest and discussion of topics ranging from gaming to education. I fully intend to invite him back the next time I teach this course.
— Prof. Brendan Burns
Martin brings a refreshing spin on game design issues that our audience found engaging and thought provoking. He managed to effectively relate learning theory to game design in way that even experienced designers found interesting. The talk provided plenty of fodder for discussion well into the evening.
— Kent Quirk, Boston PostMortem Organizer
Martin C. Martin’s talk was informative and thought provoking, both for the students and the professors. He brings up many issues that game designers wrestle with on a daily basis, and serves as a launchpad for in-depth discussions. Good for the neophyte who is just starting in the field or the experienced designer who wants to talk about the questions that you have to answer before your game is complete.
— Dean O’Donnell, Associate Director of Interactive Media and Game Development, WPI

Other Quotations

It’s an interesting article, and I particularly like the concrete examples from games and the practical advice for game designers. There’s a Marshall McLuhan quote that you’ll probably appreciate: “Anyone who makes a distinction between entertainment and education doesn’t know the first thing about either.”
— Noah Falstein, a computer game industry veteran with over 26 years of experience creating top quality interactive entertainment and educational software.


Esc (pronounced “escape”) is a 3D first and third person perspective online nightclub for the PC. A new way for people to socialize online, it combines music, dance, chat, and will provide scripted and live performances, and detailed customization.

Chat while listening to the DJ spin, then watch the band perform. Head to the dance floor and bust out your moves, which gets you better clothes, tickets to the back room or power ups. Some power ups give you new abilities, others change your appearance, still others change the way the world looks. Create your own dance moves, or entire scripted performances complete with special effects. Or just take a few good friends to a secluded booth or overlook and talk the night away.


2 Responses to Game Design

  1. Pingback: Martin C. Martin » Talking at Boston Postmortem

  2. Pingback: Martin C. Martin » Game Design PowerPoint Now Online

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