Bruno Faidutti is the Kevin Bacon of the board game world. Don’t believe me? There’s actually a somewhat scientific analysis of his impact on the gaming world. In addition to designing many of his own games, he is a collaboration machine, working with Alan Moon, Bruno Cathala, Serge Larget, Antoine Bauza, Ludovic Maublanc, and many more. He’s also a professor of history and sociology (as well as a unicorn hunter, apparently) and he holds court at www.Faidutti.com, where you can find the Ideal Game Library, filled with his wonderful reviews. He is, quite simply, a machine, and I’m grateful to have his thoughts on design below.
Why I Design Games
I design games because I like to play games, and I want to have the kind of games I would like to play. Most of the games I’ve designed are games I still would like to play on occasion, even when I often don’t have the time for it.
I design games because I like to create, to design, and games happen to be the only complex thing I’m able to design. I gave a try at short stories and the result was utterly mediocre. I gave a try at poetry; it was ridiculous. I gave a try at serious historical research, and though I managed to do it, I think the work was too demanding for me. I would have loved to paint or sculpt or play music, but I’m definitely not good at any of them. So, let’s go for games, since it seems I have the right frame of mind for it. I probably design games as a frustrated novel writer who never could - and never will - find the energy to write a real novel. I think the methods and tricks for designing a card or board game are very similar to those used by novel writers, the main difference being that we game designers skip the hardest part, the actual writing. Anyway, that’s how I see my games, though I can admit that other kind of games, mainly abstract games, can come from different and more rational preoccupations.
I also design games because, quite simply, I like games. I like to play them, but I can also enjoy simply reading the rules and trying to understand how they were devised how they can develop and how I would have made them. For me, it’s like reading a kind of abstract novel. This is an idea that ought to be considered and developed, how a game, even a strongly thematic one, is built as a kind of abstract novel, in which the “plot” involves mechanisms rather than characters.
The other reason why I like to play and design games is probably that I’m a very anxious person, and both gaming and designing are very good, if superficial, ways to deal with anguish. Both give you totally arbitrary goals to achieve, and designing games even feels like working in a Chinese box outside the real world. Your arbitrary goal is to design something that doesn’t deal with real world, but only with a kind of extremely limited and simplified substitute.
Of course, all this changes when it becomes a job, even if a very part time one, and when you try to make some money with it. It feels less arbitrary, and if the pleasure might be heightened in a way, it’s also diminished in another – but I still like to work on games!
~ Bruno Faidutti
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