How to be responsible

Jesse Schell runs the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and he is the author of The Art of Game Design that inspired the questions on this website. 

He has designed a ritual for his students on their last day. It is based on a ring engineers use to remind themselves of their responsibility to society. Few industries have such rituals, but if they don’t then they need them, and perhaps adopting the ones engineers have created would be a good start.

Jesse was kind enough to read for us the appropriate passage from his book, which we also reproduce at the end of this post.

The Ring

(Reprinted with permission from The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell)

Have you ever thought about your pinky? How it is strangely smaller than all the other fingers? It almost seems like an accident – like some kind of withered appendage. But it isn’t. It has a purpose that most of us are completely unaware of. Your pinky guides your hand. Every time you pick something up, or put something down on a surface, your pinky is there first, feeling things out like a little antenna, and safely guiding the hand into position.

In 1922, Rudyard Kipling was asked by the University of Toronto to create a ritual to help remind graduating engineers of their obligation to help society. At the conclusion of this solemn ritual, still practiced today, the engineer is given an iron ring, placed on the pinky finger of their dominant hand, as a lifelong reminder of this obligation.

One day, game designers may concoct their own ritual of obligation – but you don’t have time to wait for that. Your obligation begins today – this minute. If you truly believe that games can help people, then, here – take this ring. It is invisible, like mine – that way, you can’t lose it. If you are willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with being a game designer, then you should put it on, and wear it as a reminder to let these responsibilities guide your hand. Think about it carefully before you put the ring on, though, because it doesn’t come off. Oh – and if you look closely, you’ll see it bears this inscription:

Lens #98: The Lens of Responsibility

To live up to your obligations as a game designer, ask yourself this question:

  • Does my game help people? How?


Life Design needs a book of lenses, just like the one Game Design has.

by Brooke Allen.

Starting in 2005 as my eldest son was preparing to leave for college, I began asking the question, “What do you have to learn that isn’t taught in school?”

Soon it began to dawn on me that schools don’t teach the really important things. But if they can’t do it, how could it?

Then, in 2011 I read The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell. I soon realized that this book showed the way. He posses 100 questions you should ask yourself about the design of your game. He called these questions “lenses” because they let you focus on your design from various vantage points. It was then that I realized that we needed a similar set of questions to ask yourself when designing a life. What follows first appeared here.

Game Design as Life Design

by: Brooke Allen

Jesse Schell has taught game design for ten years at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center, founded by Dr. Randy Pausch and Dr. Donald Marinelli. He is a former chairman of the International Game Developer’s Association, and was the lead designer of Disney’s Toontown Online. He is the CEO of Schell Games, the largest game studio in Pennsylvania.

Jesse wrote The Art of Game Design and in it he says “Game design is the act of deciding what a game should be.” The book presents 100 “lenses” which are collections of questions to ask yourself during the design process.

As I read the book, I was reminded of something my artist/businessman father told me, “Everything is about everything.” Even though I am not a game designer, everything in the book seems to apply to some aspect of my life.

Here are a few examples:

From: The Secret of the Gifted (page 6)

You might have noticed that skilled game designers seem to have a special gift for the work. It comes easily and naturally to them, and though you love games, you wonder if you are gifted enough to succeed as a designer. Well, there is a little secret about gifts. There are two kinds. First there is the innate gift of a given skill. This is the minor gift. If you have the gift, a skill such as game design, mathematics, or playing the piano comes naturally to you. You can do it easily, almost without thinking. But you don’t necessarily enjoy doing it. There are millions of people with minor gifts of all kinds, who, though skilled, never do anything great with their gifted skill, and this is because they lack the major gift.

The major gift is Continue reading “Life Design needs a book of lenses, just like the one Game Design has.”