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How to properly describe a video game: a helpful lesson from GDC

Chris Plante co-founded Polygon in 2012 and is now editor-in-chief. He co-hosts The Besties, is a board member of the Frida Cinema, and created NYU’s first games journalism course.

Tom Francis wants to help indie devs introduce their games to the world.

"How to explain your game to an asshole," said Tom Francis, clicking on the opening slide of his rant. The asshole, he joked, is himself.

Francis designed his powerpoint, part of the Game Developers Conference Indie Game Soapbox, one of the conference's most popular sessions, to help fellow developers explain their creations to a busy and sometimes cynical public. As a games writer with eight years of experience, and a developer with a game, Gunpoint, in this year's Independent Games Festival, his advice carries more weight than the average forum post.

"You can't assume the reader is a reasonable, intelligent human being," Francis says with a smile. He divided the device into mistakes gamers and designers typically make and tips that will make a game accessible to practically anyone.

The mistakes often made by indie game developers:
1. Not explaining the actual game.
2. Explaining the artistic intent.
3. Explaining the plot.
4. Saying your game is awesome. Or as Francis puts it, "No one has ever heard a developer say, 'Our game is innovative,' and thought, wow, that game is innovative."

Tips to help indie game developers introduce their work to the rest of the world.
1. Say what type of game it is.
2. Tell us the coolest unique thing about it before you finish the first sentence.
3. Provide context, which is to say, explain who are the characters and what is the world.
4. Describe a moment the player can experience.

The truth is most readers aren't assholes, Francis told the audience, adding "You just should respect their time." Ideally, a deigned will communicate efficiently enough, that anyone who might like their game will take the opportunity to learn about it.