Whether you’re an aspiring game designer or game developer or just a fan of games, game design is an interesting topic. The best game design podcasts pull back the curtain on the thinking behind some of the most popular, most playable games of all time. Learning from the professionals what makes game ticks can be an open door to a new world of understanding.
The best game design podcasts provide insight beyond the scope of even the hosts’ work and delve into game theory from all over the world. Like good film criticism, this can change the way we see games. With many podcasts out there, these are a few of our favorites.
#1 Drive to Work
Drive to Work might sound more fit as one of the best travel podcasts, but it might actually be THE best game design podcast. Drive to Work is the ramblings of Mark Rosewater, a name you should absolutely know. He might just be one of the most important voices in game design.
The Hosts: If you don’t know Mark Rosewater, here’s all you need to know: he’s the lead designer of Magic: the Gathering. And he has been for 20 years. Still just as excitable today as he was when he took the job, Mark is beloved by his community.
The Guests: Guests on the show are whoever Mark drives to work with. Because the podcast happens on his commute, that’s his only choice. These guests span from coworkers to Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic. Mark’s daughter is the most frequent guest.
Why You Have to Listen: Mark Rosewater has one of the most difficult, prized jobs in game design. And he’s had it for a long time. When a person with that sort of ability explains their thinking, it’s clear to see why you should listen. Mark’s charm is just the cherry on top.
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Rating: All Ages
Ludology is not just the name of this podcast – it’s the name for the study of games. This podcast lives up to the gravitas of its title. Delving into the “why” of games, Ludology looks at game design from all angles. Whether it’s the business of licensing or the intricacies of a design choice, Ludology covers it.
The Hosts: Ludology is currently hosted by two cohosts. The first is Gil Hova, who publishes games and tools for games under the company name Formal Ferret Games. Emma is a writer and game designer, most notably the creator of Heartcatchers. The two share great chemistry and a love of games.
The Guests: Guests from all over the game design world join the Ludology podcast. This most frequently means designers and developers come in, but they branch out even further. Beyond artists and writers, you might also find names from the business side of game design.
Why You Have to Listen: Ludology isn’t always the most exciting listen on this list, but it’s one of the most educational. Listening to Ludology is like an auditory game design degree. If you want to pick up game design as a hobby or as a career path, Ludology has something for you.
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Rating: All Ages
#3 Board Game Design Lab
If Ludology is a great resource for learning the theories behind game design, Board Game Design Lab is the best place on the internet to learn the application. Covering the “how” side of the game design industry, there’s a lot to unpack here. If you’re a hobbyist or just interested in learning, this isn’t for you. If you want to design games for a living, press play now.
The Hosts: Hosting duties for The Board Game Design Lab are handled by game designer Gabe, who goes only by his first name. Gabe is a serial game designer from Atlanta, most recently having Kickstarted Dungeon Ball. Gabe has also written a series of books on game design and leads mission trips with youth in Atlanta.
The Guests: Board Game Design Lab pulls guests from all over the gaming world. There is no specific focus on game designers or even on people who actively work in the gaming industry. Anyone who can provide value to game designers might show up.
Why You Have to Listen: Board Game Design Lab is the premier resource for game designers on the internet. Beyond the podcast, books, forums, and aggregate links are great places to go. Within the podcast, you’ll fall in love not only with Gabe’s good nature but also his ability to find guests who provide the advice and insight you need.
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Rating: All Ages
#4 The Clockwork Game Design Podcast
Much like David Sirlin, Keith Burgun is a name that goes around frequently in game design circles. His researched and developed opinions regularly create some of the best content surrounding game design on the internet. The Clockwork Game Design Podcast is no different than any of his other ventures.
The Hosts: Keith Burgun is a game designer, author, YouTuber, and general thought leader in game design. His most notable design is 100 Rogues, but he’s got several games under his belt. Burgun has taught game design at several schools and continues to do so online. He’s authored two books on the subject.
The Guests: Keith regularly invites friends to discuss high-level game design theories. Occasionally, the show will focus on singular games. Usually, the podcast will not discuss a guest’s game, instead focusing on their thoughts and ideas in general.
Why You Have to Listen: If you’re interested in high-level thinking about game design, you’ll love this podcast. Clockwork focuses less on the more actionable aspects. Instead, it will help you to grasp concepts like Emergent Complexity. This podcast contains college course level content.
Listen to The Clockwork Game Design Podcast
Rating: All Ages
#5 The Game Design Round Table
Inside the Actor’s Studio was a fantastic game show. If you agree with that statement, you’ll love The Game Design Round Table. With a more professional, sophisticated air than other podcasts, TGDRT presents itself as a conversation between true leaders. And the podcast very much lives up to it.
The Hosts: The Game Design Round Table splits cohosting duties between two hosts, each from one side of the world. Digital game designer David Heron focuses on a little more technical work. Tabletop game designer Dirk Kneymeyer greatly prefers dice, and would likely enjoy some of the top 10 Dungeons & Dragons podcasts.
The Guests: The guests on The Game Design Round Table are other game designers, but with a little bit more vetting. Guests usually are other thought leaders in the space, with TGDRT often leading into Game Design Convention talks.
Why You Have to Listen: If you want to hear what goes on behind closed doors in game design talk, TGDRT offers you that ability. The podcast is a very enjoyable listen, but also educational. You’ll learn a lot, but you might want to bring active ears and a little experience.
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#6 Designer Notes
Design Notes sounds the way it… well, sounds. Listening to Design Notes is like listening to a game designer break down their notes. Designers are profiled in a way that exposes why they made the choices they did both as people and as designers. A well-known host really sells this as one of the best game design podcasts there are.
The Hosts: That host is Soren Johnson, whose name might not immediately jump off the page. However, he’s lead the design of a few pretty important games. Those would be Dragon Age Legends, Spore, and Civilization III and IV. An impressive resume to be sure.
The Guests: The guests on Designer Notes are designers who Soren is interested in. And for someone to interest Soren, they have to be doing something fascinating. That might not always be obvious, but it will be.
Why You Have to Listen: Two-hour episodes might seem to be too long, but once you listen it won’t feel long enough. Soren does an excellent job of bringing out the brilliance of his guests. You’ll go from never having thought about a game to thinking it’s the most brilliant game there is.
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#7 Dev Game Club
If gaming is your favorite thing to do while listening to podcasts, Dev Game Club might be the podcast for you. Instead of focusing on designers, Dev Game Club examines some of the hosts’ favorite games. They break down the circumstances surrounding games and critique the design.
The Hosts: Dev Game Club is hosted by two friends, Brett and Tim. What makes them qualified to break down game design? Years of working together at LucasArts, creating the Starfighter and Republic Commando Star Wars series. The two are deeply passionate about games, and it shows in all of their work.
The Format: Dev Game Club begins by giving the background behind why a game was chosen. Usually, one of the hosts will have a strong interest in it. Then they discuss the background of the game itself and follow it by talking about the game’s design for as long as they can keep the conversation going.
Why You Have to Listen: Games are the subject of this podcast, and games we all love. Animal Crossing to World of Warcraft. And you’re welcome to play along. You might just learn something in between.
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The Podquisition is… a lot. And calling it one of the best game design podcasts – let alone a game design podcast – is a bit of a stretch. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t include some pure entertainment. This is certainly entertaining. What else you might consider is up to you entirely.
The Hosts: The main host on the show is Jim Sterling, a games journalist and internet personality best known for being himself. And himself is a loud and raunchy, but ultimately very intelligent, person. His cohosts Laura and Conrad are also journalists who happen to meet him on that level.
The Guests: Podquisition brings on guests infrequently. When they do, it’s usually Jim’s friends and fellow journalists.
Why You Have to Listen: Podquisition is a chaotic, nearly impossible to keep along with, listen. Because of that, it’s hilarious. Despite that hilarity, Podquisition also offers some intelligent insight. All hosts have been around gaming for a while and provide critique and context for game design.
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Sirlin.Net was a short-lived podcast, but it’s one worth listening to. David Sirlin provides a holistic view of game design over the 18 episodes of this podcast, covering high-level theory. Many episodes apply this theory to specific games, providing more actionable insight.
The Hosts: If you haven’t heard of David Sirlin, don’t fret – you were missing out, but you know his name now. A graphic designer, business owner, and game designer, David Sirlin first gained notoriety through his love for fighting games. Since he’s gone on to design games like Puzzle Strike and Codex. Sirlin is an active voice in the game design community.
The Guests: Alongside Sirlin, each episode of Sirlin.Net features a game designer from Sirlin’s sphere. It’s unclear whether they’re all friends, but it is clear they all have something to say.
Why You Have to Listen: If you’re curious about what went into your favorite game, Sirlin.Net can provide you with some insight. While it focuses on competitive multiplayer games, Sirlin.Net deep dives into many aspects of those games. Sirlin is a good host and knowledgeable, happily providing and explaining his well-thought-out predictions.
Listen to Sirlin.Net
Rating: All Ages
Game design is a great hobby and a tough career choice. The best game design podcasts can help you advance both. And the best of the best are interesting even to complete bystanders.
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