RULES OF THE GAME
• Game Developers Conference 2017
More on discovering and using rules-of-thumb in game design — especially BIG rules.
Download GDC 17 slides →  
OBSERVATIONS FROM EXPERIENCE
• Story & Games Conference Vienna 2011
Some lessons I've learned telling interactive stories. Game narratives share features with traditional media, but modified and valued differently.
Watch the video here →   Observations From Experience @ YouTube
CAREER CAUTIONS
• Game Developer Magazine 2009 Career Guide
If you're hoping for a career in game design, look at this short article as a sympathetic warning — game development is a tough business!
View the PDF here →   Career Tips From The Pros – DESIGN
WRITING WITHOUT WORDS
• Game Developers Conference 2007
Writing begins with the same rough notions that drive game design. The problem is, designers, not writers, are usually the ones who sharpen and refine game elements, and important story demands are often overlooked until it's too late.  This talk, part of an all-day tutorial, examines useful ways to harmonize game design and storytelling — an idea we're learning to call narrative design.
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RULES WORTH BREAKING
• Game Developers Conference 2006
This is the latest report from The 400 Project.  When it began, I speculated that there might be as many as 400 informal rules for game design, most of them unexpressed.  Noah & I (mostly Noah) have now accumulated more than 100 of these things, and it looks like there might be 4000 more lurking out there.  Some of them govern huge tracts of design territory, some only apply to tiny domains.  They clash and contradict each other.  And yet, like the many rules developed to guide creative souls in other fields, they all contain germs of wisdom.
Download GDC 06 slides →       Check out The 400 Project → 
THE LANGUAGE OF GAMES
• Austin Game Writers Conference 2005
In their long history, movies have evolved a complex collection of rules that govern presentation.  This is a solid body of knowledge, commonly called "the language of film," that matured more than 75 years ago.  The history of electronic games spans more than 30 years now, and in that time developers have evolved a language of writing and design that has endured through numerous technological advances.  This language (or rule set, or feature list) didn't arise through theory or logic, but through the experience of trial and error, gradually incorporating ideas that work and discarding those that don't.  In this way, the history of games resembles the history of movies.
Download Austin GWC 05 slides →  
WIRING NARRATIVE INTO GAMES
• Game Developers Conference 2005
Narrative is shouldering its way into every genre of electronic game, and the effect is often clumsy and embarrassing.  Storytelling can only succeed in games when the story elements become integrated into game mechanics.  How to turn drama into play is the topic of this talk.
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COGNITIVE DISSONANCE &  IMMERSION IN GAMES
• Game Developers Conference 2004
Immersion (effectively, the "suspension of disbelief") is a goal of game design.  The problem is, like much of life and all the other arts, video games are riddled with conflicting features that hinder immersion.  Sometimes these conflicts can be eliminated, sometimes they can be attenuated, and sometimes nothing but careful management of player consciousness will do the job.   In all these situations, designes can make consequential choices to improve the sense of immersion and player response to our titles.  This talk recommends some effective strategies for making the right choices.
Download GDC 04 slides →  
MORE OF THE FOUR HUNDRED
• Game Developers Conference 2002
In 2001 at GDC I proposed the idea that game design can make good use of informal rules of thumb and discussed a few to illustrate.  Now Noah Falstein has joined the search by launching The 400 Project,  and we're back with some new rules to perplex and enlighten.
Download GDC 02 slides →  
FOUR OF THE FOUR HUNDRED
• Game Developers Conference 2001
Game design is an uncertain and murky endeavor.  In this it resembles art, architecture, writing, moviemaking, engineering, medicine, and the law.  All of these fields do their best to reason through their problems, but all have found it necessary to develop practical rules of thumb as well.  Hmm — could game developers benefit from a similar approach?  This talk has no doubts and takes the position that lots of rules are already out there, waiting to be discovered.  How many might there be?  Maybe 400 or so, of which vast total I discuss only four.
Download GDC 01 slides →