Up Course Introduction Strategy vs. Tactics Syllabus Your Current Grade Extra Credit Ideas Course Project Info 1: Adv. Philosophy 2: Victory, Unit, World 3: Military Matters 4: Seq. & Economic 5: Level, Rule, Test 6: Tech & Special 7: Random, Dip., & AI 8: Character & Focus 9: Human Elements 10: Reality Checks 11: Project Due

Course Analogy: Strategy vs. Tactics 

Military minds often think in terms of strategy and tactics.

Strategy is immutable; it is a Big Picture look at a problem that focuses upon the entire forest and not individual trees. Military concepts such as objective, offensive, simplicity, unity of command, mass, economy of force, maneuver, surprise, and security represent the timeless principles of strategy. Why do you think Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has been a best seller for thousands of years and translated into every imaginable language? Because it teaches strategy and the lessons of strategy are timeless. They are bound to our very nature as humans.

Tactics vary with circumstances and, especially, technology. If I were to teach you how to be a soldier during the American Revolution, you would learn how to form and maneuver in lines, perform the 27 steps in loading and firing a musket, and how to ride and tend to a horse. Naturally, yesterday’s tactics won’t win today’s wars – but yesterday’s strategies still win today’s wars… and will win them tomorrow and into the future.

So, tactics present a Small Picture perspective where individual trees are in focus but the Big Picture of the forest is not. Just as your eyes have to look up from this page to refocus on the larger room you’re reading it in, so strategy and tactics require a different focus.

Why Study the Principles of Game Design?

This course is about the strategy of game design; in other words, the principles that generally apply to every game design regardless of tactical trends in game technology, the current marketing "me too-ism" sweeping the hobby, recent gaming fads, or where "the safe money" is invested in games these days. Its objective is to focus on the Big Picture issues of game design and present their eternal lessons; hopefully, hundreds of years from now, the lessons on game design offered in this course will still be just as valid as they are today because they, too, are bound to our very nature as humans.

The other books and courses that I’ve been able to find on the subject of game design all seem to be more tactical in nature. A thousand years from now, no one is going to care about a specific programming language, algorithm, or graphics package that is ‘hot’ today. That’s because tactics constantly change; strategy doesn’t. And while you certainly want to learn about the current trends and tactics in game design, a solid grounding in its strategic principles remains essential.

That's why I teach the timeless, immutable lessons for making great games, for any media, in any genre, and set in any epoch. After you’ve learned and applied the lessons in this class, you will have the larger perspective required for putting all those other books and courses into a sharper focus and make better use of the lessons that they offer. Armed with all of the knowledge this course contains, and seasoned with some practical hands-on experience, you will have the tools to begin making great games.

Alan Emrich

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