有个游戏开发哲学似乎屡次出现，那就是“设计是法律准则”的想法。回到1996年，当John Romero刚刚在达拉斯创建Ion Storm时，将设计作为法律准则或许是当时正需要的想法，因为这能够帮助我们应付行业中的动态变迁。
随着团队的规模逐渐成长，大量的AAA游戏引擎工具将数十年前多才的开发者细化，“设计师”这个角色变得越来越难以定义。Church的《Formal Abstract Design Tools》以及Hunicke、Leblanc和Zubek在The MDA Framework上发表的文章等关于设计形式主义的内容将设计师定义为那些并不具体使用某种工具或引擎进行工作，但更依赖抽象化过程的人。
Opinion: Design as law
There is a philosophy of game development that seems to resurface from time to time which asserts the idea that ‘design is law’. Back in 1996 when John Romero first founded Ion Storm in Dallas, design-as-law may have been an idea that needed its time in the spotlight to help us grapple with dramatic shifts taking place in the industry.
As team sizes grew and the weight of triple-A game engine tools sucked the generalist developers of previous decades into potential wells of increasing specialisation, the role of ‘designer’ became harder and harder to define. In parallel, the foundational works of design formalism such as Church’s essay Formal Abstract Design Tools, and Hunicke, Leblanc and Zubek’s paper on The MDA Framework helped define the designer as someone whose work was not tied to a specific tool or engine, but which relied on an abstract process.
Unfortunately, the slow (and in many contexts necessary) decoupling of designers from code or from implementation tools has led to an increasingly frequent misinterpretation, misuse and abuse of the idea that ‘design is law’ that at best reveals a wrong-headed development philosophy and at worst undermines our understanding of what games are, and what they can be. I don’t really feel a need to speak about whether design was, or ought to have been, law at Ion Storm Dallas in 1996, but it’s clear that in 2011 design is not, nor should it be, the guiding light of game development.
Before debunking it, though, let’s first ask ourselves what the statement ‘design is law’ means, because it can mean a couple of different things.
First, it can be interpreted to mean that designers or design departments are the ‘custodians of vision’ on a game project – that they are the final arbiters of what gets in the game, and how it should work, look and/or feel.
Second, it can be interpreted to mean that design itself is the end objective of game development; that what we are creating is first and foremost ‘a design’, and all of the work that goes into making a game should be in service of the beauty and artfulness of the design itself.
Neither of these things are true, at least not in the context of the part of the game industry that I work in, where games are a collaborative effort put together by teams of people and intended to be played by players looking to entertain themselves or enrich their lives.
The first interpretation is dangerous because it too often leads to design protectionism and to ‘creative siloing’ – especially in larger and/or less experienced development teams. While it is often true that the person specifically tasked with being custodian of the overall creative vision of the project is a designer or comes from a strong design background, it is divisive to imply that that elevates their decisions to the level of ‘law’.
The notion that ‘design is law’ in this sense arises from insecurity on the part of designers who are afraid that if they are not the ones whose ideas are making it into the game, then there is no justification for their jobs. The problem with this thinking is that design is not about ‘generating ideas good enough to make it into the game’. Most ideas are bad, and the job of designers is neither to separate good ideas from poor ones, nor to control whose ideas make it into the game. The job of designers is to master the art and craft of iterating forward on relevant and potentially good ideas to the point at which they can be properly evaluated for inclusion in the creative whole. In this sense, design is not law, but rather, design is the courts whose job is to evaluate conformity with a set of principles.
The second interpretation is dangerous because it is self-indulgent. Design in the arts (in general – but perhaps particularly so in the case of game design) is unique in that it is a user-centric art. Painting or sculpture in service of its own artfulness is a stylistic concern. Post-modern era literature is often knowingly self-aware and self-indulgent. Music that is overwrought can be classified stylistically as Baroque. Conversely, the chef who values the artfulness and expressiveness of the act of cooking over the taste of the final meal is not considered to be making artistic statements – he’s considered to be a bad cook. It doesn’t matter how beautiful and elegant his work is in the kitchen if what ends up on the plate tastes awful.
It’s the same with design. Design that values the design itself over its object – in our case the player – is poor design. In this sense, if design is the courts, then the player is the jury. And to extend the metaphor to its logical conclusion, I think the idea we need to embrace is that play is law. (Source: Edge)