Design a Game I

In this activity we are going to create a GDD - Game Design Document. This document will provide the details necessary to create a game.

Turn In: A word processing document that includes each of the section headers below filled in with details of a game that you want to create. Each section will provide information and examples on what to put into section.

Before you can build your own game, you need to decide how that game will work. If you are asked to build a game for someone else, you need to know how they want the game to look and work. If working at a game development company, a GDD helps keep everyone working together on the game being built.

This activity focuses on getting started with designing a game. The more you do this activity, the better you will get at doing it. If you search the Internet for game design document or something similar to that, you will find a lot of different ways that people do it. If you work for a game development company, they most likely have their way of doing that which you will follow.

Below are some suggestions and examples on how to create your game design document. You can adjust the requirements a little if needed but at the end, you should have all of the needed information to allow someone reading it to know how your game will work and even build some of your game from that document.

While there are a lot of different tools, software programs, and web site that could be used to create a game design document, we are going to keep it simple and use a word processing application.

Tip: If you get stuck with one section, move to the next section. If still stuck do something else for a few minutes or talk with others then come back and try again. Type in something, even if you don't like it, then erase it and try again.

So, get a good mental picture of the game you want to create. Talk with your family, friends, teachers, or people that you think understand gaming well. Open up your word processing document (save often while working) and get started.

Note: Design is very important. The clearer the direction on how the game should work, the faster and more accurate the actual construction of the game will be.

Game Name

What is the name of your game? Be creative, not too long, and choose something that when people see or hear it, they know what the game is about. Also, do a little research to make sure no one else has used your name. Sometimes coming up with a name can be difficult so try lots of things until you find the name that fits your game well.

Examples of some bad game names: MyGame, This Is Fun, A Really Long Name That Does Not Tell Me Anything About The Game

Examples of good game names ... think about some of the games you have played and decide which of those are good names and why you think they are good names.

Game Description

In one or two paragraphs, describe your game. Later in the document, we will provide more specific detail so in this section focus on the big picture. You can include the category of game, the primary type of action in the game, the names of the main characters in the game, and any other information that helps those reading your GDD to understand what your game is about.

Whether on the box the game comes in or an on-line summary of the game, many games have a description that tells the person who is deciding to purchase or play the game what the game is about ... that type of description is what we are looking for here.


What is the person playing the game going to control? In most games there is one or more players (or characters) that are controlled by those playing the game.

Either describe what the character(s) will look like or do a quick sketch and include it in your document (i.e. either in a graphics program or hand-sketch it and take a picture of it).

What powers, abilities, movements, or other characteristics do the character(s) have?

Describe anything else about the character(s) that those reading the GDD needs to know in order to be able to create the character(s) and code the actions the character(s) will make.

NPC - Non-Player Characters

Most games have characters that the person playing the game does not control. In this section we are going to describe those NPC and also describe what they do in the game. For instance, you may have clouds in your game that hover in the top half of the game screen randomly and every 30 seconds rain for between 3 to 15 seconds.

Definition: Object -- Something in your game that does something.

Like the player(s), you should provide details about what the object looks like (either in words or a quick sketch) and what the object does. Naming the object, whether the actual name in the game or a name used to reference the object during development, is helpful when people are reading the GDD and then asking questions or discussing the object during the development of the game.


Describe the background and any other visuals in your game besides the player and NPC. You may have a simple tiled pattern for your game or you may have different parts of the background such as underground, ground level, and sky.

In this section describe the visual look of your game in enough detail that a graphic artist could create the necessary look based on your description.

You may want to add in one or more images/sketches of the game background for illustration. In a design document, do not spend a lot of time making what will be the final graphics ... quick sketches are sufficient.


Describe any audio needed in your game. This could be music when the game starts, sound effects when certain things happen, or people speaking.

Include the details of where the audio will be used in the game and some description of what the audio will sound like. The details should be sufficient for the sound engineer to start finding and/or creating the needed audio for the game.

Here are a few examples ...

1. Background calliope type of music with tuba oom-pahs playing underneath the calliope.

2. Exaggerated gulp sound

3. Deep, metalic sounding voice that says phrases

Game Points, Wins, and End

This section will describe how points are given, how levels are won, and what things result in the game being over.

For example, the player earns 5 points for each cheese chunk that he "eats" and loses a point when he hits a mushroom. Each level is won when the player consumes at least 10 blocks of cheese. The game is over when the player hits 5 mushrooms.


Describe in sentences parts of the game that has not already been described in the other sections.

Learn More On Your Own: Do several more GDDs (game design documents) for completely different types of games. Have someone else look them over and tell you what parts are clear and sound like a fun game and what parts still need some work. The more GDDs you do, the better you will get at it and the easier it will be for you to do.

Copyright © 2021 Eric Schumm. Permission granted to freely use this in your classroom.