David Sirlin

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David Sirlin
OccupationWriter/Game Designer
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
GenreVideo games
Game design
HometownSacramento, California
NationalityUnited States
GamesSuper Street Fighter II Turbo

David Sirlin is an American game designer and fighting game player.

He featured in and narrated [1][2] much of Bang the Machine, a 2002 documentary by Tamara Katepoo about a Street Fighter "exhibition tournament in Japan showing the difference between American and Japanese gaming cultures" that starred other notable competitive fighting game players who were part of "Team USA." [3][4]

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,[5] but he is known primarily by his surname.

Early in his career, Sirlin was an assistant game designer at 3DO,[6] but now works primarily for his own company, Sirlin Games. Sirlin has been described as a "renowned game theory author" by Forbes magazine,[7] and as an "arcade guru" and "internet-renowned Street Fighter tournament player" by Ars Technica.[8][9]


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,[10] as well as for his articles on Playing to Win.[11] 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".[12]

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.[13] 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".[14]

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.[15][16]


Gaming centre[edit]

In 2003 Sirlin tried to create a physical social space for gamers in the Bay Area of California, inspired by Japanese arcades and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, and his approach to creating coffee houses that created a "third place" for people to socialise, away from home and work.

The project did not continue as Sirlin was not able to get a lease, apparently because people who rent commercial property did not want to rent space to a business based on an "assembly space" model that would take up parking spaces.[17]


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 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[18] as well as a number of blog posts on Capcom Unity[19][20] chronicle Sirlin's involvement in both the game's development as well the major design choices and changes made to the game itself.


Sirlin designed the online card game Kongai for the gaming website, Kongregate.

Sirlin Games[edit]

More recently Sirlin has been involved in the design and production of his own games—particularly, a range of tabletop games, most taking place in and featuring characters from the Fantasy Strike fictional universe he created.[21] 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. Another game, Pandante, is similar to Texas holdem poker, and Chess 2 is a redesigned, asymmetric version of Chess.

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

The Magic: The Gathering card "Master of Predicaments" contains the flavor text "Designed by David Sirlin".[22]

In January 2015 Sirlin created a podcast on his Patreon page discussing the possibility of creating a simple, accessible fighting game,[23] and in June 2015, Sirlin announced that he would begin creating a fighting game set in and featuring characters from his Fantasy Strike universe.[24] The resulting Fantasy Strike was released in Early Access on Steam in September 2017.

Speaking engagements[edit]

Hastings Law School[edit]

In October 2008, Sirlin did a talk at University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. His talk was to first year law students, who were apparently being overly competitive with one another, which was impacting on their development. Sirlin's talk addressed the topics of competition in law school and analysed a case involving the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution rights of Phoebe Thorne.[25]

Game Developers Conference talks[edit]

In 2009, Sirlin was one of the speakers at the Game Developers Conference, the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers.[26][27] His one-hour lecture was about balancing multiplayer competitive games.[28] In 2017, Sirlin gave a design talk discussing Puzzle Strike specifically.[29]

Montreal International Game Summit[edit]

In 2009, Sirlin spoke at the Montreal International Game Summit about the subject of omitting unnecessary clicks from games.[30] The talk was entitled Every Click Counts.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Sirlin grew up in Sacramento, California and graduated from Rio Americano High School.[32] 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.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sirlin, David. "Street Fighter HD Remix Design Overview". Sirlin.net. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  2. ^ "Behind-the-Scenes: Rebalancing Super Street Fight". Capcom Unity. 5 November 2007. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  3. ^ "Bang the Machine (2002)". IMDB. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  4. ^ Sirlin, David. Playing to Win. p. back cover.
  5. ^ "Game Design, Psychology, Flow, and Mastery - Playing to Win Book - The Obsessed" - David Sirlin (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  6. ^ "HatchetJob interview, 72m50s" (Interview). Retrieved 2012-02-07.
  7. ^ "Kongregate Secures $3 Million Investment From Bezos Expeditions". Forbes. May 1, 2008.
  8. ^ Caron, Frank (April 17, 2008). "SFII HD Remix change log documented". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
  9. ^ Caron, Frank (November 12, 2007). "Arcade guru helps Capcom tweak Super Street Fighter". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
  10. ^ "World of Warcraft Teaches the Wrong Things" - David Sirlin (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  11. ^ "Playing to Win".
  12. ^ Salen, Katie (2004). Rules of Play. Cambridge: MIT Press. p. 603. ISBN 0-262-24045-9.
  13. ^ a b Mongello, Dennis (February 9, 2007). "Video game superstar publishes book to win". The Triangle. Archived from the original on May 11, 2009. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
  14. ^ Myers, David. Self and selfishness in online social play (PDF). Digital Games Research Association.
  15. ^ Sirlin, David. "The Psychology of Learning". Archived from the original on 2014-02-14. Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  16. ^ Sirlin, David. "Heroes of the Storm". Retrieved 2014-02-11.
  17. ^ Paul Younger (July 23, 2009). "Sirlin On SSFIITHDR Interview". PCInvasion. Retrieved 2015-07-18. I tried [create a social gathering place for gamers] six years ago, and in trying to do it, I learned why there are so few gathering places. The reason I never did start that gaming centre was simply that I could not get a lease anywhere in the entire Bay Area of California. You’d think that might be because of some stigma surrounding games but really, it was unusual to even get to the point where that stigma even mattered. It seems that people who rent commercial property care about these things: [...] But the kiss of death is something called “assembly space.” That is the type of space where people are expected to go to your business and, gasp, stay there for a while. That means taking up extra parking spaces, getting a permit with the city so the police know to devote extra resources there… No-one wants to deal with assembly space.
  18. ^ "Q&A: Backbone's Sirlin Talks Remixing Street Fighter II" - Brandon Sheffield (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  19. ^ "Behind-the-Scenes: Rebalancing Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix (part 1)" - David Sirlin (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  20. ^ "Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix FAQ" - Seth Killian (2008). Retrieved on 2008-11-20.
  21. ^ "Sirlin Games Website".
  22. ^ "Master of Predicaments (Magic 2015 Core Set) - Gatherer - Magic: The Gathering".
  23. ^ "Raw Game Design podcast, Episode 6: Fantasy Strike Simple Fighting Game". January 18, 2015.
  24. ^ "Become a Patron on Patreon?". June 13, 2015. Speaking of fighting games, let's make one. I talked about an idea for a simple fighting game in this podcast and now I'll start making it.
  25. ^ Professor Sirlin and the Fourth Amendment, November 20, 2008, David Sirlin
    "On October 21st, 2008, I gave a lecture at Hastings Law School in San Francisco to first year law students. My lecture was first about the concept of competition in law school and second about analyzing a hypothetical case that the students would have to write about for class. You might think that me not being an actual lawyer was some kind of drawback in leading a discussion about the law, but the professor who asked me to speak didn't think so."
  26. ^ Sirlin, David (2009). "Balancing Multiplayer Competitive Games". GDC Vault. Game Developers Conference. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  27. ^ "Game Developers Conference 2009 Speakers" - GDC website (2009). Retrieved on 2009-03-31.
  28. ^ "Handout from my GDC Lecture" - David Sirlin (2009). Retrieved on 2009-03-31.
  29. ^ Sirlin, David (2017). "Board Game Design Day: 'Puzzle Strike': A Design Diary". GDC Vault. Game Developers Conference. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
  30. ^ David Sirlin: Keep Interface Design Simple, Concise, Efficient, November 17, 2009, Chris Remo
  31. ^ MIGS: Every Click Counts, NOVEMBER 20, 2009, David Sirlin
  32. ^ "Late photographer Ted Sirlin's son finally gets nsme recognition of his own". Sacbee. October 26, 2013. Retrieved June 22, 2015.

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