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Game Designer Habits Part 2

“My most important habit is writing down notes during play-testing.  I see way too many designers fail to bring paper & pen, and then forget some very valuable feedback.”

–Sarah Reed

“My most important habit is writing. I try to write every single day, mostly in a journal I keep. I’m trying to get back into writing a blog, but it’s hard to find the time! Anthony said his most important habit is procrastination, and he needs to solve that.”

-Nicole Kline

“Prior to doing just about anything each day, I create a prioritized to-do list on a piece of binder paper, arranging things by importance and urgency. Then I do everything I can to hack away at my day in that order. This prevents death-spirals into social media and other seductive entertainment that threatens to pull me off my projects.”

– Matt Leacock


“Get up early!”

– Reiner Knizia


“Jogging.  It’s so boring that it gets my mind wandering and I come up with some of my best ideas.  In fact, many monotonous activities help me to come up with new ideas or refine old ones.  Folding clothes.  Packing boxes.  Sitting at a dull meeting.  I just have to make sure to scribble the idea on paper before it disappears.”

– Ryan Laukat


“I think my most important habit is keeping things available, so when I have small snippets of time, I can do game design. I keep ideas in Google Docs, and photoshop files in DropBox, so whenever I’ve got a moment on my laptop, I can get a little work done. In the physical world, I keep game design books in the bathroom and next to the living room chair. I’m currently reading “Everyone Plays in the Library” and “Reality is Broken” in 2-3 page increments.

I’ve been writing the player profile articles this way. Sometimes only a sentence or a phrase at a time.”

– Chip Beauvais


“Be A Decent Human Being.  Seriously. Negotiate contracts in a way that both you and the other party will succeed, be nice to newbies in the industry, help others out if you can, be nice to the receptionist, donate games (new and used) to the less fortunate… overall realize that you are just one cog in a giant industry and if we all play nice, we’ll all be happier people.”

– Kim Vandenbroucke

“I regularly keep playlists and pin boards dedicated to my games/characters to ensure they always feel right when i further design them. I think this very important for Mahou Shoujo and helps me stay on target.”

– Mila Pokorny


(The next answer is by far the longest. Aerjen told me that he had written a lot and was trying to cut it down, but I told him that we don’t mind! It’s truly an amazing read. –A)

“My most important habit is tenacity. I know you could call this is a personal trait, but I believe it’s an attitude you can cultivate. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck talks about this at length as part of a mindset she calls the “Growth Mindset.”

A growth mindset is one in which a person believes that success is not just an innate ability (like people with a fixed mindset believe) instead success is about doggedness, hard work, learning and training. With this mindset you’ll be more open to learning from failure and more likely to take on more challenging projects. This is a way of life that ultimately leads to experiencing more happiness and success. Honestly, just a couple sentences is waaaaay to little text to explain this properly, so I want to encourage all of you to read up on this interesting theory. Bonus points if you also read up on MIT’s Education Arcade Scot Osterweil’s Four Freedom’s of Play and see how this fits neatly into Carol’s theoretical framework.

If I’m allowed to add a second habit, I’d like to add Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer’s mindfulness to the mix. By the way, I know that for many the term mindfulness evokes the idea of meditation, but her work focuses on mindfulness from a very different (i.e. socio cognitive) perspective. If you read up on her work (e.g. “The power of mindful learning”) you’ll see that there are many other ways to become more (or less) mindful.

Here’s a definition of mindfulness she gave to the Harvard Business Review in a 2014 interview:

“Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting—all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.

We all seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work. Actually, it causes you to lose control.”

Ellen further subdivides mindfulness into four domains: novelty-seeking, novelty production, engagement, and flexibility. These are all important aspects that IMO help make good game designers great. There’s actually an interesting Youtube episode from Gamesoup where he talks about ingenious solutions in video game design. Several of the great game developers tend to use bugs to make a game better instead of fixing them. For example the increasing difficulty in the original Space Invaders was an accident. Metal Gear Solid was supposed to be an action title, but due to processor limitations they made it into a stealth game.

Finally, I believe that by cultivating a growth mindset and being mindful, will not only become a better game designer, but that will find life more enjoyable overall!”

– Aerjen Tamminga


(I hope you enjoyed this roundup! Give it a quick share on Twitter if you don’t mind. Peace – A)

Reiner Knizia, Matt Leacock, Kim Vandenbroucke + more answer “What’s your most important habit?” (Tweet This!)


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