David Sirlin

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David Sirlin
Occupation Writer/Game Designer
Alma mater Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Genre Video games
Game design
Hometown Sacramento, California
Nationality United States
Games Super Street Fighter II Turbo

David Sirlin is an American game designer and fighting game player. He balanced the video games Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. He designed the physical and online card games Yomi, Flash Duel and Puzzle Strike. His self-granted nickname is Low Strong,[1] but he is known primarily by his surname.

Early in his career, Sirlin was an assistant game designer at 3D0,[2] but now works primarily for his own company, Sirlin Games. Sirlin has been described as a "renowned game theory author" by Forbes magazine,[3] and as an "arcade guru" and "internet-renowned Street Fighter tournament player" by Ars Technica.[4][5]


Sirlin maintains a blog where he writes primarily on the subject of game design. A frequent contributor to Gamasutra, he is relatively infamous for his sometimes unpopular opinions towards the way companies choose to enforce rules in their games,[6] as well as for his articles on Playing to Win.[7] Sirlin's website, Sirlin.net, was profiled in Katie Salen's Rules of Play (2004), which commended the site for its "surprising amount of thoughtful commentary and analysis".[8]

In addition to this, he has published a book called Playing to Win: Becoming The Champion, a book that explores the concept of competitive gaming and the mindset of actively playing to win, also drawing examples of the different kinds of gamers that exist by selectively choosing and analyzing both chess and Street Fighter players.[9] Physical copies of this book were initially available from Lulu.com before the book was released for free to the general public on his website. The book was cited by scholar David Myers in his paper "Self and selfishness in online social play".[10]

Sirlin has become critical of many mainstream competitive games for what he perceives to be manipulative business practices and other 'anti-competitive' elements. He has particularly condemned collectible card games such as Magic: The Gathering for hiding strategically-critical components behind the random distribution of booster packs and popular Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game League of Legends for its "forced grinding," calling it "fraudulent" and disrespectful to players.[11][12]

Game design[edit]

While employed at Backbone Entertainment, Sirlin was lead designer behind Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, a remake of Super Street Fighter II Turbo. He designed the online card game Kongai for Kongregate. He was also in deliberation with Capcom in an attempt to acquire permission to use the Street Fighter characters for his current project, Yomi, but was not granted it, leading the game design to instead use his own personal IP.

During development of Super Street Fighter II HD Remix, many interviews[13] as well as a number of blog posts on Capcom Unity[14][15] chronicle Sirlin's involvement in both the game's development as well the major design choices and changes made to the game itself.

In 2009 Sirlin was one of the speakers at the Game Developers Conference, the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers.[16] His 1-hour lecture was about balancing multiplayer competitive games.[17]

More recently Sirlin has been involved in the design and production of his own line of card games.[18] These games all take place in his Fantasy Strike universe. Two of these games (Yomi and Flash Duel) attempt to recreate some of the game concepts found in the fighting games he is familiar with. The third game, Puzzle Strike, attempts to recreate the Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo experience.

Online versions of Yomi and Puzzle Strike are available, as well as Flash Duel, Free-to-play at the Fantasy Strike website.

Personal life[edit]

Sirlin grew up in Sacramento, California and graduated from Rio Americano High School.[19] He is the son of Ted (1923-2009) and Thela Sirlin. His father was a photographer and owner of Sirlin Photography Studios for over 40 years. David Sirlin currently lives in Emeryville, California. He has obtained degrees in mathematics and business from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and MIT Sloan School of Management.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Game Design, Psychology, Flow, and Mastery - Playing to Win Book - The Obsessed" - David Sirlin (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  2. ^ HatchetJob interview, 72m50s. (Interview). Retrieved 2012-02-07. 
  3. ^ "Kongregate Secures $3 Million Investment From Bezos Expeditions". Forbes. May 1, 2008. 
  4. ^ Caron, Frank (April 17, 2008). "SFII HD Remix change log documented". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  5. ^ Caron, Frank (November 12, 2007). "Arcade guru helps Capcom tweak Super Street Fighter". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  6. ^ "World of Warcraft Teaches the Wrong Things" - David Sirlin (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  7. ^ "Playing to Win". 
  8. ^ Salen, Katie (2004). Rules of Play. Cambridge: MIT Press. p. 603. ISBN 0-262-24045-9. 
  9. ^ a b Mongello, Dennis (02/09/2007). "Video game superstar publishes book to win". The Triangle. Retrieved 2008-11-20.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ Myers, David. Self and selfishness in online social play (PDF). Digital Games Research Association. 
  11. ^ Sirlin, David. "The Psychology of Learning". Retrieved 2014-02-11. 
  12. ^ Sirlin, David. "Heroes of the Storm". Retrieved 2/11/14.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  13. ^ "Q&A: Backbone's Sirlin Talks Remixing Street Fighter II" - Brandon Sheffield (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  14. ^ "Behind-the-Scenes: Rebalancing Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (part 1)" - David Sirlin (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  15. ^ "Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix FAQ" - Seth Killian (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  16. ^ "Game Developers Conference 2009 Speakers" - GDC website (2009). Retrieved on 2009-03-31.
  17. ^ "Handout from my GDC Lecture" - David Sirlin (2009). Retrieved on 2009-03-31.
  18. ^ Sirlin Games Website
  19. ^ "Late photographer Ted Sirlin's son finally gets nsme recognition of his own". Sacbee. October 26, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 

External links[edit]