Articles by: Scott

Make Bad Games

March 3, 2017 at 6:29 pm

My rant at the 2011 GDC Social Game Developers Rant Session received the 2012 Duct Tape Award for best rant. The acceptance rant I gave when receiving that award then itself won the Duct Tape Award the following year. This is my acceptance rant for my acceptance rant for my rant, originally presented in March of 2013. So, this was me 2 years ago on this panel. I gave a rant about social games. It went well! And, this was me last year, accepting the coveted duct tape award (I was feeling a little… full of myself). I gave this […]


Value Propositions in Free-to-Play Games

November 24, 2016 at 8:04 am

We often take for granted the player’s ability to intuitively understand transactional moments in free-to-play games. For a player, these transactional moments occur whenever they are evaluating the exchange between their time, real money, and access to gameplay or content. This is important for building and tuning both monetization through microtransactions, as well as through ad revenue. If the player is asked to spend money for something they can earn in the game, they will evaluate whether the amount asked for is fair, given the amount of time it would take to otherwise acquire that content. They will also evaluate […]


Designing Scramble Live

September 26, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Scramble Live for iPhone and iPod touch was the first digital game I helped kick off at Zynga, and the first I shipped in my career. Although the game was an adaptation of Scramble on Facebook, it was redesigned and rebuilt to be a separate, higher-quality product while still allowing connectivity and cross-play between the two versions. Working on the game also meant tackling an exciting challenge: adapting the keyboard gameplay of a browser-based game for the burgeoning multitouch apps market. As the only designer on a very small team, my goal was to make Scramble Live delightful to play; […]


How to Have a Good Meeting

August 4, 2015 at 10:15 pm

I’ve been in a lot of bad meetings over my years in the game industry. You can tell a meeting’s bad when it seems unnecessary, runs long, and people leave feeling cynical and exhausted. Meetings like that are the reason people hate meetings. As a game designer, I began to come up with rules for good meetings, thinking of the meeting itself as a game that can be played well. After all, game design is about imposing structure on boundless play, and structureless meetings are often the ones that go off the rails the quickest. A successful meeting is well-run and […]


Why I don’t want rockstars, ninjas, or wizards

January 3, 2012 at 4:19 pm

I don’t want a rockstar. Rockstars are arrogant messes who steal the spotlight, trash hotel rooms, and leave the rest of the band to apologize and clean up. I don’t want a ninja. Ninjas are dishonorable and would sooner stab their enemies in the back than face them in battle. I don’t want a wizard. Wizards are fictional; they’re an impossible promise. I want a game designer. Game designers know when to talk and when to act. Game designers look at difficult situations and smile. Game designers thrive within constraints, and love making things. And game designers recognize they can’t […]


Social Games in the IGF

October 25, 2011 at 10:23 am

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been loudly encouraging independent game developers to begin playing with Facebook and social games. Out of 568 entries for the 2012 Independent Games Festival, a handful are playable on or with Facebook. And while this might seem paltry, I think it’s an important first step, and I’d like to bring attention to these few games. (If I’m missing any, please let me know and I’ll amend the list). Age of Defenders, CUKETA, s.r.o.; Multi-Platform (including Facebook) Fighting Cube, GAMEWORKS, CO., LTD; Facebook Hero Generations, Heart Shaped Games; Facebook Nightmare Cove, Evil Plot Games; Facebook […]


Who Color is for.

April 30, 2011 at 8:46 pm

This is the image that appears when you use Color, illustrating what I can only assume is the ideal user behavior from the perspective of the developers. It’s captioned “Take photos together.” But this isn’t an illustration of people taking photos together. It’s an illustration of a bunch of snobbish white people more preoccupied with taking photos and posting them to “elastic social networks” than actually being “together” — than being present in the moment and enjoying the company of those around them. They all look like assholes to me. Is that who this app’s for?


What cards do.

January 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm

One of my goals for 2011 is to make significant progress towards publishing my first non-digital game. So as this year moves forward, I’ll be putting more and more thought into designing Billy Pilgrim, my tentatively-titled card game about love and unintentional time travel. What feels like a hundred years ago, I talked about playing cards — ubiquitous decks of 52 which comprise the toolset of countless games. I’ve known from the beginning that Billy Pilgrim was meant to be a card game. As vehicles of widespread gameplay, cards are undeniably important. But I think it’s easy for us, as […]


What I believe.

December 30, 2010 at 1:25 am

2010 turned out to be a difficult year for me. Over a period of 14 months, I had a lot of what I believed thrown into question — about privacy, about my career, about my passion for games. I spent countless mornings wondering what I should’ve done differently. It’s over now, but for a long time I couldn’t see what that end was going to be, or when it was going to happen. It became very important for me to solidify my understanding of what I was trying to do in the game industry. I needed a reason to stick […]


A simple request.

September 15, 2010 at 9:06 am

Dear Apple: kthxbai.