March 23, 2009

Creation Station: Designing Your Own Video Game

Posted by at 7:10 am in Games | Permalink

Game_on_animatedAttention all gamers! We’re bringing you a series of blog entries to guide you through the process of inventing your own video game — and then you can enter your brilliant creation in a cool contest (the winning idea will be turned into a real game!). Today’s focus: how to actually design your game. And who better to walk you through that process than two teens who have done it themselves? Read on for a step-by-step guide from Alyssa Hansen and Kaycee Johnsen (both 15 years old)!

Think about it . . . We would never have known about Mario or Jigglypuff or Pac-man if someone hadn’t created them. Designing those popular characters and their games may have been a challenge, but we’re sure it was fun at the same time. Guess what? It doesn’t take a professional to design an amazing game! In fact, anyone can design a game if they put their mind to it!

We gave you ideas for getting started in our last blog entry — now it’s time to get specific about designing all kinds of games, including video games! The first thing is to think about who is going to play your game. Inventors call the people they are designing for the “target audience.” Will older or younger kids play your game? Is it something a family would play together? Or is it a solo adventure? Are there different types of people who would want to play your game? Although it may seem like a lot to think about, each of these questions will help you get a better idea of how to create and design your game. We promise!

The next step is to decide what kind of game you want to create. Is it going to be a racing game, an adventure game, or a story-based game? (For a cheat sheet on different types of games, check out Friday’s post from the Game On! team.) Guess what, that’s the easy part! Now you have to get specific! How many levels are there? Who are the main characters? Will it be an easy or hard game? Will it be multiplayer — and if so, will they work together or compete against one another? Most importantly, what is the main goal of your game? You need to know what it means to “win” the game so that you are always leading players toward that target.

Got all that down? Great! Here’s the fun part — get out your pencils, markers, and paper and start drawing! Make some drawings of the characters. Will they be girls and boys? Are they aliens? Whatever you think of, just jot it down on some paper. Then sketch each level on a separate piece of paper (assuming there are levels). Think about whether there are certain things in each level that the player has to do to get to the next level, or if there are specific things allowed on each level. Does your character have a certain amount of lives? Also make sure you create a set of rules for the player to follow. Make the rules as clear as possible by drawing charts and using examples.
Not into drawing? Then create an outline of how players will advance through your game and what needs to be accomplished at each step.

Not into drawing? Then create an outline of how players will advance through your game and what needs to be accomplished at each step.

Put your drawings or outlines into one giant map and see if it makes sense to you. Think about how players will move through your game. Have a good friend look over your map to see if they understand it.

If writing or drawing everything down on paper isn’t quite doing the job of reflecting your game, try making it in 3D. Try putting everything into a board game first. That will help to get your ideas across more clearly, and it will help you test out your ideas for how to play the game.

After you figure that out, share your ideas with all your friends, and most importantly, the people you designed the game for — your “target audience.” Ask them what you could do to improve the video game and make it more fun. You’d be surprised to see how much their input helps. After all, you want to make a game that people will enjoy and have fun playing! Remember, you are the boss. You don’t have to take all the advice you are given. Use the advice that makes the most sense to you for improving your game.

— Alyssa Hansen & Kaycee Johnsen, Kid/Teen Inventors


Alyssa Hansen and Kaycee Johnsen, both 15, began inventing when they were just 10 years old. They, along with their siblings and friends, have created Boogie2Boogie, a new kind of wave-riding toy and the Underwater X-treme, a challenging pool toy that solves the problem of everybody peeking when playing Marco Polo. Both inventions won the
National TOYchallenge and are currently being marketed by By Kids For Kids. Alyssa and Kaycee have been writing a regular column for creative kids in since 2006 and have co-written a book and activity kit that teaches kids how to invent. 

  1. des

    hey i dink ur games are so awesome!!!! okay well im going to go play some more bye!!!!

  2. Ruth

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  3. Rebecca

    You can enter more than one game. You submit the concepts online at – and Electronic Arts may choose to develop the winning game for free download!

  4. June

    very cool, but where can you submit them? Online, in person, mail, or all of the above? Do you have to write or type the details, or do you have to build it from scratch?

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