Game design – where to start?

In 2021, the Orwell Youth Prize opened up a new genre of entry: game design.

This year, we’re excited to develop this category further, welcoming your game design entries on the 2024  theme of ‘Home’.

We’re still firmly rooted in our belief in the power of great political writing, but we’re keen to allow you to express your ideas about politics and society in new forms and we think game design is a really interesting way to do that.

Perhaps you have the seed of an idea, but you’re not sure whether to build it into a short story, poem or even a game concept?

The purpose of this page is to outline why you might choose to enter the prize with a game design, and what you’ll need to think about to make your entry as strong as possible.

One of our 2023 winners, Heike Ghandi, has also made this Printable – OYP Game Design Template and OYP Game Design Examples, to provide you with a starting point to shape your game design idea. You can use this template if it helps you, or write up your game design concept a different way – whatever works best for you!

Why game design? 

We believe that gaming is fertile ground for thinking about politics and society. Last year, we spoke in more detail about this with game designer Imre Jele, who designed ‘Orwell’s Animal Farm Game’. He explains how game design links to Orwell and politics today – and especially, how Orwell’s Animal Farm and video game design are connected through ideas around power and control.

Here are some of the games Imre mentions, which might provide some useful inspiration for your own game on the theme of ‘Home’.

 

  • Tropico puts the player in charge of an island, and ultimately building a country from scratch.
  • Democracy asks in its introduction ‘Have you ever wanted to be president? Or prime minister?’ and puts players in charge of a country to make policies, laws and other actions, while trying to get re-elected.
  • Orwell: Ignorance is Strength explores misinformation and disinformation – ‘Step into the shoes of a government official in a top-secret department of the Orwell surveillance program. Given the power to both uncover and fabricate “the truth”, how far will you go in the service of your country?’

The best games create a world which is compelling for players to exist in, as a character or avatar. Games like The Sims allow players to simulate the day to day lives of characters, and much of the game is based around the home. Can you create a game design which explores the idea of home in an interesting or unexpected way? Perhaps a character has to try and find a home, or find their way back home? Or they have to make decisions which will impact on their home – be it their house, flat, town, country, or the world? Can you make the world of your game come to life as a home for the characters who exist in it? You could also explore the idea of games which can become a sort of virtual home for the players as well.

Why not try designing a game concept for this year’s Prize, to explore ideas about home?

How do I design my game?

To help you get started planning your game, we’ve come up with this easy Game-Design-Template for you to start filling in ideas. You can use this to shape your final entry, or just to start planning – either way, the questions and prompts it includes will be useful for you to consider:

  • A name for your game
  • An overview or description of your game (one or two sentences)
  • A sense of what your game looks like (written description of the world – three or four sentences)
  • Clarity around the rules, goals, challenges and rewards within the game (three or four sentences)
  • Who the characters/players in the game are – heroes and villains (three or four sentences)
  • Starting position – how does the game commence? (two or three sentences)
  • In-game events/tasks/conflicts/achievements/decisions/pathways (four or five sentences)
  • Potential finishing outcomes/scenarios (two or three sentences)
  • A description around who the audience would be/how they would feel when playing (two or three sentences)
  • A clear sense of how your game responds to the theme

The ‘game concept’ genre will follow others in relation to word count (1,000 for entries from years 7-11 and 1,500 for entries from years 12-13).

How do I submit my game design entry?

Once you’re happy with your game design, you can simply upload it as a PDF document via our online form.

You are also very welcome to collaborate on your game design entry in a pair or small group. Nominate one person to submit their details in the entry form itself, and then simply email admin@theorwellyouthprize.co.uk with the details of any collaborators.

Should you have any further questions on submission, please email admin@theorwellyouthprize.co.uk

What’s different about game design?

The possibilities of storytelling and the centrality of active player experience in game design gives priority to certain types of questions:

Player Experience: Think about the type of experience you would like the player of your game to have as they make their way through your world:

  • Will it teach them something about the type of society you’d like to see?
  • Will it offer a new perspective and if so, what will that be?
  • How will you make your point? Through positive actions or consequences?
  • How would you like the player to feel at the beginning, during and at the end of the game?
  • Will your game reflect the past, present or future, will it be inspired by our world or create a new one?

The consequences of decision making: Game design gives you the opportunity to portray multiple narratives. The decisions players make inform different types of outcomes and experiences. How can you use this creatively to bring your idea alive?

  • Where are players aiming to get to and what (if something does) gets in their way?
  • Are some outcomes good and some bad? How do you reflect this?

Feedback & Judging

As with all Orwell Youth Prize entries, if you submit before the feedback deadline, you will receive personalised feedback on your work. If you submit a game design concept your work will be reviewed by a selection of volunteers with experience in this field.

Further advice

We are very grateful for the support of BAFTA Young Game Designers award in helping to support the Youth Prize opening up to accept game design. The BAFTA Young Game Designers website (http://ygd.bafta.org/)  has further advice on how to develop a game concept, and examples of their winning pieces. Remember though, our prize is driven by ideas around politics and social justice, so make sure you align your thinking to the theme and to our focus.

With special thanks to Tom Bradstreet, Adele Richards and Brandon Cole at Into Games, Imre Jele, Bossa Studios, Sam D’Elia, BAFTA and Nick Dixon, Falmouth University