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Use the GDC 2021 Session Viewer to browse and sort the ever-growing list of sessions by day, time, pass type, topic, and format. All registered attendees will be able to build their personal schedule directly within the event platform, once live early July 2021. All times are listed in Pacific Time.

Board Game Design Summit: Don't Hate the Player: Designing Board Games for Divergent Play Experiences

Emma Larkins  (Game Designer, Independent)

Date: Monday, July 19

Time: 3:20pm - 3:50pm

Pass Type: All Access Pass, Summits Pass

Topic: Board Game Design

Format: Session

Vault Recording: Video

What is the "right" way to enjoy board or card games? Many board game designers enter the industry with preconceived notions about fun, games, and play, based on their gaming pasts. Some revel in the conflict and drama of social deduction games, for example, while others prefer the solitary planning of low-interaction Euros. These preferences come with powerful biases that shape board game design tendencies, often subconsciously.

The truth is, there is no wrong way to enjoy games. Preferences and biases are unavoidable; however, designers who develop an appreciation of the diverse forms that game enjoyment can take are better able to create innovative and deeply satisfying play experiences. This talk from board game designer & podcaster Emma Larkins utilizes practical and philosophical categorization of play experiences to allow designers to find paths for uniquely delightful play.


Discover a rich abundance of possible play experiences, and find out how to integrate these experiences into new game designs. Go beyond the familiar to explore overlooked and underserved styles of gameplay and provide players with the tools to partake in exciting new worlds of play.

Intended Audience

New and experienced board game designers; people interested in a careful categorization of play types.