Commandments of game design: Frank Lantz, Drop7 creator



The third instalment in our series of developer commandments features Frank Lantz, co-founder of Drop7 creator Area/Code and now creative director at Zynga New York. He’s also director of the NYU Game Center and the head of its MFA programme. We published our own ten commandments last month, and you can keep track of all the collected rules by using the Commandments of game design search tag.


Thou shalt aim high

This is the golden age of games, and it’s just beginning. Games still have an enormous amount of untapped potential. There are an endless variety of undiscovered games out there waiting for you to invent them and some of those possible games are world-changing, history-making, epoch-defining masterpieces. Shoot for the stars.


Thou shalt fail fast

Get out of the idea phase and into the creation loop as quickly as possible. Don’t expect your first version to be fun. Expect it to be a train wreck. Turning your beautiful idea into a glorious train wreck is an important milestone. Celebrate it.


Thou shalt iterate

Game creation is a loop. A great game emerges out of the continual process of making & testing & refining & testing & refining & testing etc. Embrace the loop.


Thou shalt playtest

The heart of the iterative loop is playtesting. Good games surprise us. Don’t just run them in your head – run them on the table, in the room, in the code. And don’t just run them on yourself, run them on other people. Other people are called ‘players’ and they are the magical power that make your game work.


Thou shalt pay attention to the world

The best games are games that reflect the particular circumstances of their creation and respond to the unique properties of the present moment in which they are made. The game you are working on right now is an antenna that vibrates in response to this very moment; to you and your collaborators as individual humans; to the psychological and emotional currents that motivate you; to your taste; to all the games that have come before it; to the music playing in your headphones; to the news you read this morning and the book you will read in bed tonight; to the people you imagine playing it and the ones who actually will; to what you eat and drink; who you vote for; who you sleep with; the man who sells you coffee and the woman who sits across from you on the train. You don’t have to put these things in your game, they are already there. Pay attention to them.

For comparison, here are our original ten commandments from 2003.