Game Design Requires Aesthetic Choices

One thing I see sometimes on the game design subreddit, is questions of the form “Is ____ considered good / bad game design?”

So I guess I have two pet peeves with that. One, it does a passive voice attempt to ignore exactly who is doing the considering. Two, it isolates one element from the game as a whole.

Analogy with colours

For analogy, I’m going to imagine painters, asking if something is a good colour. “I’m making a painting. Should I use blue?” It doesn’t make sense to answer that without seeing the rest of the painting.

You can’t very well choose the colours for a painting by going through each colour and getting and up / down vote in isolation. You have to consider the context you’re using the colour.


But also you can’t really say there’s a single objective evaluation whether a design is good or bad. At least not if you want to consider game design as an art form rather than an optimization problem. To be an art form there needs to be room for interpretation and different aesthetic choices.

This is where I’m bothered by the passive voice, “is it considered …” Considered by whom?

Colour theory

To return to the colour analogy, consider colour theory. For all the attempts to systematically understand colours, there isn’t really in colour theory that says, these colours are good, these colours are bad, or even these colours in combination are good or bad. It might say you have a complementary colour scheme, or analogous, or triadic. But when it comes down to it, you’re going to make an aesthetic choice for whether that’s something you want to use.

Bisexual lighting vs. teal and orange

Back in the day, when people noticed all the movie posters were teal and orange, some people would slide into the comments to let us all know that actually, teal and orange is good because they’re complementary colours.

But, like I said, deciding you want to use complementary colours is an aesthetic choice. A more recent trend has been the bisexual lighting with pink, purple and blue, which are analogous rather than complementary.

Colour theory can tell us a lot about how colours work together, but you still have to make an aesthetic decision about whether that’s the way you want them to work together.

Game feel is an aesthetic

I see people when discussing game feel, often try to short-cut directly to, “this is good game feel, this is bad game feel.”

Game feel has the word “feel” in it. I guess some people want to interpret that as “feels good” or “feels bad” but I interpret it more like: “this feels rough while this feels smooth.” This feels heavy, this feels light. This feels hard, this feels soft.

Those are choices where the right answer depends on context, and it also depends on your aesthetic preferences.

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