Game Design: Experience Outranks Meaning

In both Worldbuilding Power and the Lighthouse System I talk about literary theme and motif. It’s fun, for me at least, when things within the game mean something. As a gamemaster, I like adding those little touches. And as a player, there’s a little thrill that comes with making connections. It’s like finding Easter Eggs in a movie or TV show. Experience outranks meaning, though.

When you’re in the thick of things, though, that stuff doesn’t matter. What people focus on, what they remember, is the experience they had. When understanding what it all means adds to that experience, it’s fantastic. If it detracts from it, interrupting or halting the flow of the game, it’s just a buzz kill.

Experience Outranks Meaning

There are undoubtedly people reading this saying “No kidding! That pretentious artsy stuff is completely unnecessary!“. They’re right. Games themselves are unnecessary. Yet there’s nothing that says that our creative endeavors can’t be aspirational. Why does it have to appeal to the lowest common denominator? All I’m saying is, do so in a way so that it doesn’t trip over itself. Don’t be ham-handed about it. Instill your setting, your characters, and your story with layers of meaning that enhance the overall experience. But never forget that the experience takes precedence.

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