Lesson 4 of 15
In Progress

20 Design Lessons from 20 Years of Magic

Matthew Colon May 11, 2022

Let’s get into some game design!  Many have come before us to make games.  For those that have a career spanning decades, what lessons have they learned which can inform our design decisions? 

Key Principle

Mark Rosewater, head designer of Magic the Gathering for 20 years, has learned a lot about game design from things he’s done that worked, and ones that didn’t.  Learn these key lessons and apply them to your current and future projects.

Key Verse

Proverbs 27:17
Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.


Discussion Questions

  1. Which one or two lessons speak to you the most?
  2. Right now, in your current game work this month, what one or two lessons are most applicable?
  3. What lesson(s) don’t seem important?
  4. After watching and thinking on the video, what do you think you need to go back on in your game and refine/revise/remove?
  5. With the following games, identify one or more lessons that you see implemented:
    1. Stardew Valley
    2. Minecraft
    3. World of Warcraft
    4. Fortnite
    5. Candy Crush


  • Lesson #1: Fighting against human nature is a losing battle
  • Lesson #2: Aesthetics matter
  • Lesson #3: Resonance is important
  • Lesson #4: Make use of piggybacking
  • Lesson #5: Don’t confuse “interesting” with “fun”
  • Lesson #6: Understand what emotion your game is trying to evoke
  • Lesson #7: Allow the players the ability to make the game personal
  • Lesson #8: The details are where the players fall in love with your game
  • Lesson #9: Allow your players to have a sense of ownership
  • Lesson #10: Leave room for the player to explore
  • Lesson #11: If everyone likes your game, but no one loves it, it will fail
  • Lesson #12: Don’t design to prove you can do something
  • Lesson #13: Make the fun part also the correct strategy to win
  • Lesson #14: Don’t be afraid to be blunt
  • Lesson #15: Design the component for its intended audience
  • Lesson #16: Be more afraid of boring your players than challenging them
  • Lesson #17: You don’t have change much to change everything
  • Lesson #18: Restrictions breed creativity
  • Lesson #19: Your audience is good at recognizing problems and bad at solving them
  • Lesson #20: All the lessons connect