Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Over-Active Game Design

Photo by Bari D
It's not surprising that everybody wants to be a game designer. What's bad is that everyone thinks they can be a good game designer.

Probably the most telling aspect of bad game design is "over-active" game design: the desire to "improve" games by adding complexity.

The media response to tonight's All Star Game is a perfect example of over-active game design. Some suggestions I've heard on T.V. and radio:

  1. Anyone who pitched on Sunday should be banned from the All-Star Game.
  2. The All-Star rosters should be even bigger (as if 32 players per team weren't enough).
  3. Starting pitchers should be required to stay in for 4 innings.
  4. Pitchers should be allowed to go back in the game, even if they were already used.
  5. All pitchers on the Mets and Yankees (since they are probably already in New York) should have been available to pitch.
  6. In extra innings, award a run for every hit.
All of these ideas are dumb: examples of fans thinking they can "fix" a game system by adding more rules.

Of course, the worst ever example of bad game design at the All Star Game was when Bud Selig stood up and declared a "tie" in 2002. He actually changed the rules of the game -- in the middle of the game!

Can you imagine the NFL Commissioner changing the rules for overtime of the Super Bowl?
"I just decided that for this overtime, you only need 5 yards for a first down. I know it's weird, but I'd like the game to end sooner."
It's absurd. But it's not as bad as what Selig did in 2002. Not only did he change the rules in the middle of the game, but he called a premature stop to an exciting extra-inning game. It was horrible game design and horrible showmanship, rolled together into one burrito of suck.

By now, you probably want to know what I think we should do about the problem of extra-inning All Star Games.

The answer: nothing.

When you run out of pitchers, let the position players pitch. It happens several times each year, in games that actually count. Which of the following would be more interesting to watch as a fan?

1) David Wright takes the mound in the bottom of the 16th. He gets the first two batters out but then gives up a walk-off homer to J.D. Drew.

2) Bud Selig waddles onto the field and declares a tie.

It's a no-brainer. Keep it simple. And stop trying to add rules where they aren't needed.

1 comment:

reader said...

To be fair, the Bud Selig All-Star Game tie would be much more analogous to changing the rules of the NFL Pro Bowl rather than the Super Bowl.