How to write a one pager

One of the biggest issues I see everyday with aspiring game designers is they often haven’t thought through what their game actually is. Sure, they have a general idea of what mechanics are in the game and a theme, but that’s about as deep as it goes. The first question I ask is if they have written a one pager. The answer is almost always “No”. The reason I am often given for not doing this is that they felt they didn’t have time waste writing a document when they could be building the game itself.

It doesn’t help that there are a lot of developers out there who have been quite vocal in the “uselessness” of documentation. I will agree that building a 300 page game design document before building ANYTHING is probably not the best use of a designers time, but to forego all documentation is foolish. Design by definition is a “plan”, which means documenting what is to be created. To me, the one pager is the most useful document there is as it forces the designer to clearly breakdown what it is they are trying to attempt. If you can’t explain what you want to do in a single page of writing, how are you ever going to build it?

After becoming frustrated with having to explain how to write an effective one page document for the millionth time, I decided I needed to provide an example. With that in mind, I wrote a one pager on writing one pagers which I am sharing with the world now. Oh, and for people who have seen this in the past, I have just updated it to make it even better. Enjoy!

The One-Pager

Essence Statement

You have only one chance to grab the attention of your audience. This section needs to be captivating and exciting while briefly describing what the concept is all about. Keeping it to a few sentences and light on details will encourage the reader to continue. End it with a bang or your document is in peril!

Game Overview

The One-Pager is generally used in when pitching a game/mission/level to the development team. There are three major sections to this document: The Essence Statement, The Game Overview, and Key Features. Based on the content of this document, a decision is often made as to whether to advance the concept or not.

The Essence Statement should be the very first section of the document and needs to grab the attention of the reader right away. The Game Overview is where you break the concept into smaller details, focusing on the core game mechanics. This section should consist of two or three paragraphs that clearly articulate the goal and vision of the game/mission/level. Story can be touched upon, but should only be referred to when talking about specific gameplay elements. The biggest mistake you could do is to use this section to only talk about your story. The Key Features are best placed at the end to remind the reader of the what they need to remember about this pitch.

To achieve the best results in writing this document, you should start with the final section first as the Key Features are the heart and soul of your game. Build around that to develop the Game Overview, and finally, sell your concept with the Essence Statement. Learning to write in a logical manner, such as this, will help you design better and reduce aggravation and rewrites.

The one pager

Key Features

  • Boot to the Head: The Key Features are the three or four major gameplay mechanics that your entire game/mission/level focuses on. Without these your concept cannot exist!
  • Cake, Not Icing: Story, art style, and music are almost never listed here. They are generally used to enhance the game mechanics and are expected to be good.
  • Taglines: In two or three words, attempt to sell the key features in a way to entice the reader. It helps build excitement!
  • One Page Only: If you cannot reduce your whole concept down to one page, your idea has not been properly thought through. Reduce it to its core!

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