Apr 23

Game Design Bloggery (She said, then he said, then I said…)

 Initially, Tami aka Cuppycake didn’t quite start the fire with this:

We all know that professional video game designers who blog are a freaking dime a dozen on the internet. Often times, game design bloggers are the most prevalent in the industry among fans. They often have a lot of respect in social circles and game development conferences and are the ones you think of when you think of “famous designers”. It seems like a decent amount of people who design games for a living want to blog and share that knowledge with others.

My question is: Do they know what they’re talking about? Are they even good designers?

Which she later clarified to actually mean this:

What I wanted to say was - design bloggers….you’re all full of shit, and relevant people in the industry making kick ass content aren’t reading a word of what you say (and if they are, they’re laughing).

I wanted to add a couple more thoughts to my own reply on Lum’s blog, but the edit timer’s up, so I’ll do it here.

And before blogging existed, from the point of view of the people who needed to do hardcore implementation, instead of the target being “bloggers” it was “people who had enough free time to go to conventions and give speeches about what good work looks like, instead of actually doing good work.”

There is a certain symbiosis that occurs, though - All the greatest implementation in the world isn’t going to be useful without a good vision, and the best vision in the world is useless when it doesn’t have a viable implementation.

There’s good and bad in people of both types. You just need far more good implementers than you need good visionaries to succeed.

On top of that, it’s far more difficult to tell a high quality bloviator (someone who has good, *implementable* ideas) from a low quality one (someone who has amazing ideas that are completely impractical) than it is to make the same comparison with those doing the implementation.

The quality of a given *implementation* is evident to all but the most casual observer, and compounding the problem, the implementers frequently end up taking the blame for the low quality bloviators.

Since the only part that’s visible is the implementation, the implementation is what all but the most experienced observers will be able to discern as being the problem.

Rarely do you hear about a product: “That game was bad; Those poor guys making it were given (an incomprehensible vision | an unsolvable problem | unrealistic timelines).”

What you hear about are the end-user and reviewer-visible symptoms.   “That game was bad, (it crashed a lot | it didn’t feel like it was finished | it was totally unpolished),” which are more frequently problems of vision, scope, and implementability than they are of actual implementation skill.

This is why the people who do the implementation tend to be bitter about the (now) bloggers and, in past generation, the conventioneers.

Getting back to the original question -

Does being an interesting design blogger mean that you know anything about practical game design?   


Being a design blogger, like any other means of recreational communication, (since no one that I am aware of is being paid to blog about game design - Whether design is the day job they also happen to have or not, it’s recreation, period.) means that they can can communicate on aspects of game design in a sufficiently entertaining manner, which is a very poor proxy for determining whether or not a given person is a good designer.

The converse is likewise not true.

Being a good blogger does not make one a bad practical designer.

The one designer I’ve worked closely with out of the currently active blogger set, this guy, who does happen to be a rockstar with narrative, structure, consistency, and about 10 other nouns I could name.

Are the other active designer-bloggers any good?  No idea.  I’m sure some are fantastic.  I’m sure others aren’t.

The only thing that being a blogger gives you is visibility, and people are more likely to have an affinity for, and attribute positive aspects to, names they are familiar with, whether said names are deserving of positive aspects or not.  (Note: This includes me.)

That’s it. Period.

Utility to a product and activity on the blogs are two totally separate entities.

The only thing you can be 100% positive of is that during the time when a person is writing a blog entry, they are not actively implementing anything on a project.

That’s a useful proxy for just about nothing, other than how they spent 20 minutes that day.

Hope that helps clear things up.

8 Comments so far »


    Winwin said

    April 24 2009 @ 12:53 am

    Classic example to tale as you will…


    All. I’m. Sayin’.


    Winwin said

    April 24 2009 @ 12:54 am

    And tale = take. My iPhone mocks me once again.


    Almeric said

    April 24 2009 @ 2:03 pm

    Not that I’m speaking of myself (lord knows I don’t write enough, though at least I can say I’ve updated more recently than Winter! *neener*), but what about Design Bloggers who AREN’T professionals? Do they ever blip onto the radar of pros like yourself, and do they ever offer insight that’s useful given their lack of practical experience?


    Upside Down Cake: Contrived Controversy in the MMO Blogosphere | Wolfshead Online said

    April 24 2009 @ 10:10 pm

    […] we’re all playing the game now I’ll take her bait and take a stab at answering the […]


    Mike Darga said

    April 25 2009 @ 1:19 am

    I think the purpose of my blog is very different than any of the examples you gave.

    Generally any good designer has ideas which they jot down or discuss with friends, or thoughts that they need to kick around for awhile and see what comes of them. My blog has existed in public form for half a year or so, but it’s existed for almost a decade in notebooks and on scraps of paper or txt files.

    The only reason to start posting thoughts online is because other people can see them there, but there are multiple reasons why you’d want people to see your thoughts. Here are mine:

    * Clarity. Even when my blog had no readers, knowing that the posts were public was a good incentive to think things through and really spell them out in a clear way, rather than jotting down notes as I had been for so long.

    * Accountability. Stating goals in a public space helps cement them, and admitting mistakes in a public space helps lock in those lessons.

    * Resumes aren’t actually informative at all. I’d want any potential employers to take a look over my blog and make sure my philosophy and design style actually meshes with that of their company. In a way I want my blog to stop me from getting jobs.

    * Then there’s the publicity thing. I do want my blog to help me get jobs. If someone reads my blog and realizes that they have a similar outlook as I do, and decides to offer me a place on their team, that’s swell.

    I definitely think my blog will help my career, but honestly I think it will help for the first three reasons rather than the latter two. What writing the blog has done to my brain is definitely more valuable than whatever may come of people reading it.




    Why a design blog? « Dancing Elephants said

    April 27 2009 @ 4:05 am

    […] set out to do, make a splash to help build her personal brand within the game industry. Wolfshead, Scott Hartsman, Lum the Mad and others took the bait and it makes for an interesting […]


    Jait said

    June 1 2009 @ 2:14 pm

    Nice to see you blogging again. I should check the page more often for updates. =) Hope all is well in Hartsmantown.


    Babs said

    June 29 2009 @ 10:30 pm

    Humans have such a need to theorize, and creative types are prone to needing an audience. Most of the blogs I’ve read say strange things like, “this is how you need to design a game (written by someone who isn’t actively designing anything)”, and “this is how you design a game properly (by someone whose last title is mired in mediocrity).” They’re about as useful as the fan blogs where an entire game is dissected to its atomic core and rebuilt with visions of sugar plums dancing in the bloggers’ heads.

    Of course, I’m from the music industry and it’s not like THAT profession has the same minefield of self-professed (and possessed!) in-the-know bloggers. Newp.


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