Game design: life experiences


I work as a physical trainer, so I try to keep up with the latest exercise science. A study came out about naval special forces climbers. They're surprisingly big compared to civilian climbers. I discussed this with my trainer friend and he pointed out:

"Military climbers aren't going up the hardest routes. They're trying to find the easiest."

That's a very important insight. In sports we try to make things as hard as possible, in the military and warfare we try to make them as easy as possible. We both have ex-military backgrounds, which will be where our approach came from.

This is an important insight for me, it explains why people like me and my friend are so out of the mainstream fitness industry - they're trying to make things harder, we're trying to make them easier. In mainstream fitness you get better so you can do harder things; with us, you get better so you can do ordinary things more easily.

The sports climber wants to get stronger etc so they can do more difficult routes, then sit down at the top in triumph. The military climber wants to get stronger etc so they can do the same route more quickly and easily - because they need to leave something in the tank so that after they summit they can march 20km and fight.

This leads to a very different training approach. But it also leads to a different gaming approach. Some people look for epic battles - I look for epic ambushes. I try to scout and prepare so that the enemy is totally surprised and totally overwhelmed, all die or surrender in the first round.

This also informs my game design, from house rules to full game systems. I want to encourage scouting, planning and teamwork - rather than super-powered great heroes charging in. And so my AD&D1e house rules have things like the shield wall giving +1 to AC for each shielded person next to you, and the Conflict rules as discussed on this blog have many rules for assistance, for scouting and the use of terrain to help create surprise and improve initiative, and so on. 

My game design philosophy, like my training philosophy, is influenced by my own life experiences, as well of course as my gaming experiences.

It's well to think how your own life and gaming experiences inform your philosophy of game design. When you're more aware of it, you can examine it closely and compare it better to others, and either go further along that way, or bring some other stuff in, as you see fit.

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