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Don't design games for YouTube - Bossa

Co-founder of Surgeon Simulator studio says virality is a side effect of novel design, not a goal in itself

Bossa Studios has benefitted tremendously from YouTube. The studio's gruesomely humorous Surgeon Simulator was a "poster child for Youtubers' engagement," Bossa co-founder Henrique Olifiers told Gamasutra, but he worries that developers might take the wrong lesson from the game's success.

"[I]t stands to reason that developers could design for the purpose of performing well with content creators on these platforms," Olifiers said. "But this is a red herring. Games are (and have always been) about players, gameplay, core mechanics -- all the things we have to get right to create a good playable experience."

Bossa's next game, I Am Bread, is also shaping up to be popular with YouTubers. Last month's reveal trailer has over a million views, and the game's premise--in which players guide a slice of bread awkwardly around a home that doubles as a physics sandbox--could lend itself to the same sort of viral success as Surgeon Simulator. However, Olifiers stresses that suitability for YouTube success was never the studio's goal.

"We did not design Surgeon Simulator or I Am Bread thinking 'we have to come up with something YouTubers will love and spread,'" Olifiers said. "The very nature of how we conceive our games through game jams would make such approach impossible; we just don't have the time to take this into account during the 48 hours we devote to come up with playable concepts."

Instead, Olifiers sees YouTube success as a sort of side effect of novel design. If a game eschews the expected and entrenched formulas of game design, it will naturally show better on social sharing services because people are attracted to something different from the norm.

"In my humble opinion," Olifiers said, "if one pursues YouTube success as a game design goal, one is starting from the wrong premise, just like most social games of yore were created to become viral by making use of shallow social media channels, sacrificing gameplay and fun factor in the process. We all know how that story ended."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.