For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by systems. I spent hours as a kid building elaborate domino structures — and many nights as a teenager plugging stereo systems together and running sound at open mics for my musician friends. In college & grad school, I majored in psychology & neuroscience — more systems to explore! — and learned how to code compliers and write software to run biological experiments.

In my post-graduate career, I’ve been lucky enough to work with some brilliant, groundbreaking game designers who taught me the ins and outs of how to build gaming systems from the ground up. Today, I’m showcasing two of my colleagues and mentors — both early MMO designers who’ve published fantastic books: Raph Koster (author, A Theory of Fun) and Mike Sellers (author, Advanced Game Design: a systems approach). Today’s episode of Game Thinking TV: Designing with Systems

To whet your appetite, check out this clip where Raph breaks it down:

I’ll use a rule of thumb here: think in threes. If you have more than three objects, more than three numbers, and more than three verbs, you might be thinking at the wrong level of granularity.

It doesn’t mean that there might not be more numbers or objects, or whatever in the system; it means you’re trying to boil the ocean.

The highest level of a car only has 3 things: I go from point A to point B, how far along am I, how fast am I going. Three things. You go deep into a car, and now I have fuel, and oil, and all these things interacting. Any given sub-component, you can probably look at and get it in that realm of three.

Intrigued? watch the full episode — and subscribe to Game Thinking TV for more design goodness). Happy viewing, my fellow systems nerds :-)

Game designer, startup coach, author, entrepreneur