How to Build a Game #26 Build Worlds to Create Games

There are authors of books that will create worlds beyond the subject matter in the books they write. These worlds create the mythos and back story to the characters. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Star Wars comes to mind as a few examples that have larger universes with books that give us specific stories to major timelines.

Why can’t games be the same? And rather than start with a game an build a universe from there, start with a universe and use it to create games?

Approaching game design in this manner really allows for designers to build a limitless world. One of the problems we run into when we frame out a game are the restrictions a particular theme, mechanic or experience has built into it. Those limitations don’t exist in world building. If you like to build expansions into your games, world building allows you to build not just expansions, but stand alone games that play off of the same theme and story line.

If you can build a world that works, you can create a perpetual idea machine that roots itself in the laws, themes, and characters of your world. As your skills with various game mechanics improves, you can create more and more interesting or deep games from the same world.

Another aspect I really like about this approach is, I can work on building our world when we have the time in between projects. Since world building is a never ending project, you can let your creativity run free and keep adding onto your world.

Just looking at the wide possibilities offered by this approach, I think all designers should really look into the idea of building a world they can use to spawn games that have roots in the same theme and characters. Take your time or make the world your focus and use that as your base for all your games. A tool this versatile can’t be ignored.

If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at

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If you have any comments or questions, leave a comment here or email Chris at

If you have made it this far, would you like to go a little farther? We have a regular Google hangout with other designers. We talk about the games we are working on and share helpful tips and ideas on how to make designing our game easier. We meetup every other Saturday. Either comment here or tweet me or email me and I will add you to the list and send you a link to the Google hangout.

3 thoughts on “How to Build a Game #26 Build Worlds to Create Games

  1. Pingback: News Bits: November 10, 2014 | iSlaytheDragon

  2. Hi Chris, I’m really enjoying reading this series. Can you give any advice about creating games around worlds which others have created? We know that many popular movies and books have spawned games. But what about books which are less well-known which (I believe) could spawn great games? Is there a recommended course of action for approaching an author? Or a certain time in the design process which is the ‘right’ time to talk to the creator of the world? Dean

    • Hi Dean, really glad to see you are liking the series. Unfortunately, the advice I have for you for creating games for other’s IP is to not do it. The main reason being that you would have to track down who has the rights. Normally authors don’t have the rights to their work so asking them, they might be able to point you in the right direction. If you are able to find out who has the rights and get a hold of them, chances are good they will say no. If for some reason you find an author with the rights, that is your best chance to make a game about their world because there are fewer people that need to make decisions regarding other projects using the IP in question. If you would still like to pursue this course, this would be my suggestion. Find out who has the rights and find out what kind of submission process they have. Make you game to the point where you have a tested prototype (At least some Alpha testing IMO), and contact them through their submission process explaining to them that you have a board game idea you would like to pitch them and treat them like a publisher, using a sell sheet and well developed pitch. I have no idea how book publishers would react to this sort of pitch but you should make you game knowing ahead of time that you will need to change the theme/characters in the event the rights holder says they don’t want to travel the board game route. I think this hits on all of your questions. Let me know if I shortchanged one of your questions. Chris

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