Luke has done a lot of incredible work as a game designer, working on indie games like Miskatonic School for Girls all the way up to massive games like Bakugan. He’s worked for a lot of awesome companies (Games Workshop, AEG, SpinMaster, Wizards of the Coast) in a variety of different positions and knows the industry from top to bottom. In today’s episode, we talk a lot about how the game design mindset applies to not just the game industry but also to business and life—Enjoy!

“What? You can change a rule because you want to?”

Luke’s origin story starts with Dungeons & Dragons. When his DM decided to change a rule in the game, he was forever changed by the idea that someone could take ownership of a gaming experience. He goes on to describe a class he took while he was working toward becoming a game designer that included an incredible exercise where you must dissect what makes you difficult to work with so that you can learn to work with others better. There are a lot of fantastic lessons here. 

“People get confused when I say marketing and game design are essentially the same thing.”

Luke and I discuss his past in marketing and how it relates to making games. One of the points he makes is knowing the core mechanic of the game, knowing who it appeals to, and knowing how to discuss it with those people. Knowing the core customer of your product will help you with the designs, because you’re not building the game for them; you’re just building it with them in mind by considering what flavor and features that audience enjoys. 

“Thinking like a game designer gives you an edge in a lot of situations if you realize there’s a game analogy.”

Luke is a fantastic game design teacher and spends some time discussing the lessons he taught at Harrisburg University and how they applied to games and the real world. He describes looking at the real world and seeing where systems are unfair then using your game design skills to consider fixes to that system. We also talk about how these game design principles can be applied to a company or team of employees.

“Every weekend I conducted 1400 interviews of my customers.”

Luke talks about working on Bakugan, a gigantic game made by SpinMaster. Here we learn how massive games are designed for children all over the world. He describes his benchmarks and limitations for what the game would need to be for it to be fun for kids all over the world. He discusses all the fun you can have as a designer when crafting events, tournaments, and demos for these massive games. Years later, I ended up redesigning the game and taking over the project, and we have lots of fun talking about all the opportunities and challenges that come from working on a huge property like Bakugan.