Game Design podcasts are a fun way to learn about game design while driving, taking the train, or exercising. Here are some game design podcasts I have really enjoyed (and have taught me a lot) over the past few years:
Another Castle was my first podcast, which I fondly remember listening to on the E and F trains in NYC. It has a wonderful “New York indie” vibe to it, with a each episode focusing on a single game designer and their work. Guests lean either indie or academic, but there is a nice variety of perspectives and the discussion is strong.
Highly Recommended – especially if you are an indie or love the indie universe.
A long-running podcast, The Game Design Round Table is hosted by video game designer Jon Shafter (lead designer for Civilization V) and board game designer Dirk Knemeyer.
Episodes span from discussions around the hosts’ current work, specific topic explorations (eg – “Experience and Replayability”), and interviews. I like that with each topic, Dirk and Jon bring different perspectives from the tabletop and digital worlds, respectively. With their combined experience, the hosts also serve as a strong authority on how to design quality strategy games.
I must admit that I stopped listening toThe Game Design Round Table after a few dozen episodes. The podcast can be meandering at times with tangents, additional hosts all talking at once, and not enough time on the actual specified topic. However it is strong overall, and I intend to return.
Recommended – especially if you are more digital-focused like me, because the lessons from Dirk/tabletop gaming will change the way you think about your work.
Designer Notes stands out because it has such clear focus. In each episode, host Soren Johnson (lead designer of Civilization IV) interviews a single designer, and dives deep into their life experience and journey through game development. There are a few overlapping guests with Another Castle or The Game Design Round Table, but Designer Notes generally goes more in-depth.
It can get very personal at times, such as Amy Hennig’s war stories on crunch, or Chris Avellone’s heartbreak leaving an IP he loved. But it always serves a larger theme of how the road to design is never straightforward.
Very Highly Recommended – especially if you, like most of us, are still figuring out your path in the creative world.
In Drive To Work, Mark Rosewater will riff on a topic, telling stories and giving lots of great examples, all during his roughly 40-min commute to the Wizards office.
I initially avoided Drive To Work, because it’s very intimidating with its 400+ episode count and its focus on Magic: The Gathering. I thought that I would be unable to enjoy it because I’ve only casually played MTG a few times in my life.
But it turns out that many of the episodes are in fact accessible to non-core MTG players. There’s a simple trick to finding them: avoid episodes named after sets or blocks. Set/block episodes involve the most discussion of specific mechanics and cards by name, and are thus the hardest for a casual player to follow.
The remaining episodes can be grouped into the following categories:
- General Game Design & Psychology (eg – “Randomness”, “Psychographics”)
- General Magic Card Types (eg – “Creatures”, “Artifacts”, “Lands”)
- General Magic Concepts (eg – “Bad Cards”, “Rarities”, and my favorite three episode trilogy – “The Trading Care Genre”, “The Color Pie”, and “The Mana System”)
- Development & Process (eg – “Codenames”, “Development”)
- History (usually named after the year, eg – “1995”)
The system isn’t perfect. Every now and then I will start an episode, then realize after a few minutes that it’s too hardcore or just not a topic that interests me. But most episodes are great, and some are enlightening.
It helps that Mark Rosewater is an fun and enthusiastic host, who delivers his content like a storyteller. And because of his experience – leading one of the most successful games of all time – his words carry extra weight.
Highly Recommended – especially if you are interested in systems design. It requires a basic understanding of MTG rules, but you can avoid episodes named after sets/blocks if you are a casual player.
I hope to find some more great game design podcasts. I tend to avoid those that don’t involve at least one experienced game designer, because they often cover very broad topics (like “what is a game”) with little depth.
I’d love to see podcasts that focus on or feature designers from:
- Other AAA genres (sports, action, adventure, narrative etc.)
- Mobile / F2P game design
If you have any suggestions, please comment below or reach out to me on Twitter!