Getting Better at Making Games

The Universal Truth

While there is no universal truth of what a good game is (or how a game should be made), there are some ways of getting better at making games that you want to make.

This article is not about the properties of an objectively good game. Even if those existed, they would be hard to define, I suppose.

Instead I want to share with you my experience with getting better at making games you want to make.

So here are the three tips I have for anyone trying to get better at making games. They should work just as well for beginners as for intermediates and advanced game-makers:

1. Play Games

“How can I get better at making games”, you’re asking? Well, at least part of it is easy: Play the games other people make.

But don’t just play them, pay attention to what you like or dislike about them and why. If you attentively play enough games, this can give you a good overview of what works well and what doesn’t. Find out what makes a game fun or enjoyable to play for you personally. There’s a good chance that (at least some) other people will agree.

If you don’t know where to start, you can (warning, self-promotion!) check out my latest games here and here.

Getting better at making games like Coffee Clicker

2. Regular Practice

One way of getting better at making games is regular practice

Here comes the most obvious part: Practice. It’s the universal answer to any question beginning with: “How can I get better at –?” But it’s also true, which is why it can’t be left out in this list.

The point of this is to get to know your tools, be it the development environment of your choice or software for graphics and audio creation and editing. Only practice can help you learn to be more diverse and efficient in your work.

3. Finish Games

Regular practice is one thing, but the learning experience from finishing a project is really the most important part, at least in my opinion. You could also take this point as “don’t just practice coding of and art creation for a game, but also starting and finishing projects”.

It’s not just about the process of making a game, it’s also about the start and end points of this process.

Making games like my latest finished project: Avoidance

The Ludum Dare Game Making Competition

The Ludum Dare is a 48-hour game making competition and it combines all three of the tips above. On a relatively regular basis it forces you (at least, if you force yourself to participate) to find an idea and get stuff done in just one weekend. It provides a theme and a deadline, which urges you to start making a small game and then to actually complete it.

PS: There’s a Ludum Dare starting this weekend, so hurry up and get your coffee ready!

I know I’ve learned much more about making games while participating in the Ludum Dare, than I have while working on a “bigger game” for months without ever coming close to a complete game.

In a way, if someone asks, “How to get better at making games?”, “participate in the Ludum Dare” is a valid answer to the question.

If you’d like to read further into this, I have written my Ludum Dare story of how to make a game in 48 hours a while ago.

Getting Better at Anything

The tips I told you in regard to making better games are applicable to pretty much anything. Say you want to get better at making films: Then you should watch films, film regularly, but also finish your film projects, no matter how short they might be.