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 2022 theme of ‘Coming Up For Air: Writing the Climate Crisis’!

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,  what you’ll need to think about to make your entry as strong as possible, and how to start building your game design concept using free, accessible software.

Why game design? 

We believe that gaming is fertile ground for thinking about politics and society. Last December, we spoke in more detail about this with game designer Imre Jele.

As we all know, combating the climate crisis and ensuring the safe future of our planet involves making some difficult decisions. Many of the best games are also based around challenging decision making, where each choice you make has an impact on what your options are going forward.

Why not try designing a game concept for this year’s Prize, which could give people new ways of thinking about the climate crisis…

How do I design my game?

To help keep things simple, games industry professionals have recommended this useful software as the best way to submit your game design entries.

Twine is a free, accessible and easy to use software which allows you to build an interactive, choice-based narrative – perfect for game design! Whether you’re a teacher looking to branch out into game design with your class, or an individual entrant ready for a new challenge, Twine is an easy way to start building your game design narrative.

As with all our categories, the important thing to remember is to make sure your game design fits with this year’s theme of ‘Coming Up For Air: Writing the Climate Crisis.’

Here are some basic steps to help you start using Twine:

  • You can download Twine for Windows, macOS or Linux, or simply use it online in your web browser.
  • Your work is saved only in your browser – which means you don’t need to make an account for Twine, but if you clear saved data in your browser, you’ll lose your work! Don’t forget to click the ‘archive’ button often as you develop your work, to download your work so far as an HTML.
  • Click +Story to start a new story.
  • Start by giving it a name – you can always change this later.
  • Start building your game, creating different passages and linking them together.

For more information, check out the Twine ‘cookbook’ here: How do I get started? – Twine Cookbook (twinery.org)

We recommend Twine as an easy way to build your game. However, if you would prefer to submit a written description of your game rather than building it in Twine, that’s fine too.

If you decide to submit a written description of the game, we’d recommend including:

  • An overview or description of your game
  • A sense of what your game looks like (written description of the world)
  • Clarity around the rules, goals, challenges and rewards within the game
  • A description around who the audience would be/how they would feel when playing
  • 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 junior entries and 1,500 for senior entries).

How do I submit my game design entry?

Once you’re happy with the game design you’ve created in Twine, simply click ‘Publish to File’ which will publish your work as an HTML file. You can then simply copy and paste the URL of the HTML file into the entry form, ready for the judges to download and explore the world of your game!

If you decide to submit a written description of your game instead, you can simply upload it 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 explicitly 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, whose will that be? and what beliefs will that reflect?
  • 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 informs 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 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. We are also delighted to have Dan Bernardo, Founder of Playtra Games as one of our judges!

 

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 Imre Jele, Bossa Studios, Sam D’Elia BAFTA and Nick Dixon, Falmouth University