ETC Lessons: Themed Entertainment Principals

Rummaging through old course notes I took during grad school at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, I came across this simple list of “themed entertainment principals.” Whether its a video game, or virtual world you’re building, these three design principals are ones to follow:

  1. Know your story. From the dramatic arc you create, to the details of character backgrounds. Know the people, place, and events of the narrative you’re using. If you’re designing a Web site for instance or online interactive experience, thorough, well-researched design personas are key.
  2. Tell your story using every means possible. Every element of your design should work to support your story. Anything that detracts from enriching the narrative, or helping the audience engage with the experience, will hurt your design. The clearest case I’ve dealt with of this, is when i worked on Guitar Hero. Every element of GH1 helped to support the full “rock star” experience. From the typography in the metagame screens, to the way we placed the notes in the game to feel like you were played a real guitar.
  3. Know your audience. The “know thy audience” principal is such a obvious one, but so often sidelined because of business requirements, or silly non-sequiturial design decisions. Usability is fundamental — and ease-of-use comes only when design teams have a clear pictures of their users and their goals.

So, while they might seem obvious, they’re easier said that done. But… good principals to keep in mind nonetheless.