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The First Annual Game Design Think Tank
Project Horseshoe 2006


by The Fat Man, George A. Sanger


It was like a light coming on. Thank you, thank you, thank you, all you people who helped this to happen. Thank you.

It was a risk, but the reward was better than we could have dreamed. Everybody who took a chance with their time and money and attention did such a magnificent job and/or had such wonderful luck that what resulted can only be described with superlatives. That’s good superlatives. Our speakers were amazing, covering three very different approaches to how we might transcend some of the boundaries and obstacles that we face as an industry. Work in the workgroups was well-directed and strong. And, of course, there was no lack of enthusiasm in the celebration part of the conference.


Play Dough Identified the high financial risk of development as a big cause of many of our problems as an industry. They identified some business strategies that other industries use extensively to solve this—techniques that we don’t do at all. Most significantly, they showed how a stage gate process could ultimately lead to risk reduction, which would in turn allow some of the tougher knots of industry problems to loosen and untie.

The Legitimate Bastards examined the question of why we are so interested in gaining “legitimacy,” so often aspiring to the “status” of other media. They looked at some things that we might do or not do in order to achieve or not achieve said “legitimacy.” Not only was the phenomenon discussed at a surface level, action items were proposed that were aimed at elevating our work to a point at which it can better deserve respect.

Playback to the Future: This group threw out some of our very fundamental precepts about games in a remarkable game design exercise. They proposed some approaches to game design, and “pitched” us on some very fun and interesting high concepts of “game ideas from the future.” Some of these disruptively creative ideas are real mind-blowers.

The OPRAH group tackled “the online question.” They identified as key problem areas; social systems, service, design practices, technology, and business practices. In general, the problems were traced to institutionalized hubris and ignorance. Some action items were proposed to help, and most importantly they established a WIKI directed at solving the problems. ( )

I have been blown away by this experience. The abilities of these people, their skills and reasoning powers and imagination and focus, all combined…have rekindled my faith in the industry as one of the worlds’ most beautiful places to hang out. My deepest respect, love, and thanks to the attendees of the first Project Horseshoe.


George A. Sanger
The Fat Man

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select a section:
1. Introduction  2. Speakers  3. Executive Summary  
4. Online People's Revolutionary Army of Horseshoe
5. Building Innovative Games That Sell
6. The Legitimacy of Games
7. The Creation of Radically New Game Experiences
8. Schedule & Sponsors