How to Write Design Documents for Gamestar Mechanic Contests

A competition in Gamestar Mechanic may ask you to write a design document, which gives an overview of the concept, vision, and meaning of your game. The document has no required format or length (so you don’t have to write an essay). Just be sure to get all your points across in an organized way.

You can use any text editor to make this document. The most versatile text editors are Notepad (for PCs) and TextEdit (for Mac computers), which can be opened on almost any operating system. Some competitions may not accept Microsoft Word documents, for example, so be sure to verify which types of files are accepted. (Notepad and TextEdit are always safe options.)

A common method of creating a design document is to list a number of sections, each containing a short paragraph or two. The document looks something like this:

Game Title

Section 1 Title

Explanation

Section 2 Title

Explanation

Final Section Title

Explanation or conclusion

Here are some ideas for sections you may want to include in your design document:

  • Abstract/Overview: Add a summary of your game at the beginning of the document. Determine the critical information that the judges need to know about the concept of your game, and limit it to one or two descriptive sentences that clearly communicate your vision to the judges. You can expand on this vision in a different section.

  • Vision (The Big Idea): Explain the core concepts of your game. Spell out everything you want your game to be, by describing the kind of experience — and lasting effect — that you want to give to players.

  • Essential Mechanics: After describing the values of your game as a whole, start detailing the individual elements of your game. Describe some of the mechanics you’ve implemented that are essential to the game. If you’re making a simple run-and-jump game, think about the templates that you used to build challenges for the player.

    If you’re modeling a system, for example, you can name important components of that system and how you’ve implemented them in your game. Or write a bulleted or numbered list of actions in this section.

  • Model and Connections: This section is useful if your game is based on a system or topic or another, similar game, or if you want to connect your game to deeper ideas. Take some time to describe the process of putting your game together, and the subjects your game is connected to.

Sometimes, you have to include a link to your game in the design document. Use the Link button to do this.

Never copy the URL of the player page, which requires the viewer to be logged in for access. If you provide the wrong link, the judges can’t consider your game, and you may not even be informed about it. Make your hard work count — do not use any link of this form for a contest:

gamestarmechanic.com/game/player/....;

Make design documents for all your games, even if the contest doesn’t require them. Writing out your ideas as though you were teaching them can open new avenues of thought and give you new ideas for your game.