TGDRT #49: How to Teach Games

Episode #49 is live!

Jon, Dirk and David delve into the most effective ways of teaching both tabletop and digital games. What role do out-of-game video tutorials have to play? Can quick, throw-away demo games work? When is it okay NOT to teach features? And what is the perfect (possibly unattainable) approach for digital games?

Everyone is different and that means there will never be a silver bullet for ensuring players enjoy a game or can even figure out how to play it. But in this episode we covered a lot of good ground and noted some techniques that I really think can work.

One of those is an approach I’m taking in At the Gates: contextual help. The basic idea is that you have an AI running behind the scenes that knows when to provide advice. This is better than a tutorial because it’s well, actually fun. You’re playing the game as its meant to be played, rather than learning how to move the camera around.

The challenge is that this is a whole lot of work, and most developers don’t have either the time or the desire to invest what it takes. Dirk made a really good point during this episode, noting that bad instructions are usually worse than no instructions. A scary thought to be sure, but it helps reinforce the fact that this isn’t something you can just throw together at the last second.

– Jon

1 thought on “TGDRT #49: How to Teach Games

  1. Gabe of Penny-Arcade had a post discussing the teaching system built into the Krosmaster Arena instructions: “… one of the smartest instruction manuals I’ve ever seen. It’s a game that is designed to teach you how to play as you play and the book does a marvelous job of this.” I haven’t tried the game myself, so I can’t judge. His full post is at:

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