What’s wrong with game designers?!

IMG_3002For the past few weeks I have super intense testing sessions. Super intense ass kicking in a fact. I play with the best players I know to balance new faction for Imperial Settlers. That means they beat me over and over. They get results I will never made. Then they look at me like I am this lousy boy who does his best but he just don’t have enough talent. Poor boy, they think. Every time they destroy me and look at me with this look, I want to punch their face and say something like: “I design this game in the first place you smartass!”

But I don’t punch them. I say nothing. I just ask for another game. And I get beaten again.


It’s really hard to explain. I talked with many fellow designers and most of them say the same – we can’t play our own designs. We get beaten over and over.

Why is that? Why we, people who know the game the best, people who know every single card, every single connection, synergy, why we are unable to use them and win? What’s wrong with us?

Anyone knows? Anyone?

10 thoughts on “What’s wrong with game designers?!

  1. Manuel Correia says:

    Well, in my case the players gang up on me because I designed the game. They feel I would know every strategy or at least the best one.

    I have only won the first game I made once, in about 4 years.

  2. T.R. Knight says:

    You may know the game best but your thought process is focused on so many other things other than strategy including the mechanics, the visuals, the gameplay, the theme, player interaction, game balance, etc. The people you are playing with are focused on playing the game and its various strategies while you are focused upon the game design and improving it. I experience a similar concept as an editor and proofreader. I read an rpg or game manual in great detail looking at minutia so I “know” the game well but that doesn’t mean I can run or play it as well as other people who read for overarching themes, feel, mechanics and strategies. It comes down to where your mind is focused upon the game you are playing, not the detail of your knowledge.

  3. Ed says:

    It is because you are not playing to win. You are playing because you love the game. This is not a bad thing.

  4. maggibot says:

    similarly ( for me)– i do not win a game if teaching it to people.

    I think that for me, and possibly you, if we’re focused on other folks’ game state/strategy/cards/tableau, we cannot be entirely focused on our own. this means more info to you as the designer and waaaaaaaay less likely to win the game.

  5. Dennis Hoyle says:

    I am the same way usually. I think I just get distracted by paying attention to how other players are receiving the game. Are they laughing? having trouble getting the rules? Even after a game is completely finished and I can’t make any more changes, I still pay more close attention to these things than my own play.

  6. For me, I’m usually taking in so many other things (whether my latest tweaks are working, reading the players’ body language, trying to figure out if anyone’s not engaged), that I just can’t keep a full strategy together!

  7. Gilbert Walker says:

    ^^What they said ^^

    Also, I have noticed in myself the tendency to try different strategies, rather than trying the one I know is a solid option. Thus, in trying to determine the breadth of the design, the designer often plays sub-optimally.

  8. scafandr says:

    The designer of Nightfall said that players attack them often because they know that author of the game is the most great player of game that he designed. That’s why he can not beat them

  9. Tom Vandeweyer says:

    I don’t even start a game thinking that I have a chance to win. Although during our last playtesting session I got caught up in the game halfway and ended on the 2nd place, with a difference of only 1 point. Then I realized I hadn’t been paying much attention to the game mechanics in that 2nd part of the game. But then again, the fact that this had happened was a good sign to me, because it proved in some way that this game is really fun and has a good thrill.

  10. I believe we designers when playing are distracted by too many other thoughts and we can’t simply focus on the most effective strategy. Or at least that’s what I tell to myself to console me for constant beatings at my own games (I actually am a better player at other designers games).
    Btw, a lot of compliments for Imperial Settlers that is an outstanding game I love so much… I was actually working at a similar concept so now I had to try to change it… damn! 🙂

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