Final CS247G Class Reflection: the importance of play

Before this class, I did not really consider myself a “gamer.” Without a dedicated console, I predominantly played games that were accessible on the iPhone, such as Pokemon Go, Cut the Rope, and Stardew Valley, with stints in the world of the Sims 3 and 4, Dungeons and Dragons, interactive fiction, such as porpentine’s “with those we love alive.” I thought that game designers were people who had to be immersed in the gaming community from a young age, and trained for a comparable amount of time in order to work for industry.

However, my initial perceptions were challenged within the first few weeks, particularly with the lectures’ core tenet that play is important and a critical part of being human. Daniel Cook’s visit and GDC talk on how to design games to build friendships further reinforced my paradigm shift in how games have the potential to reshape how players perceive themselves and others, and can be a potential force for good in improving friendships, knowledge, and skills. And also, games can and should be fun, offering a “magic circle” of open possibility that challenges players and helps them to apply themselves in a safe space, and potentially feel triumph and appreciation for art and the world around them. 

By going through two full game-making processes in project 1 and project 2, with ideation, prototyping, playtesting, refining, and finalizing, I have reached some personally significant realizations and affirmed what I want to do with my life: essentially, designing and developing for storytelling and/or social good. I have been trying to find new ways to reconcile my Computer Science (human-computer interaction) and English (creative writing) background, which I thought were fairly disparate until this year. Both the games I helped create, the tabletop RPG Hitched without a Hitch and the abstract art walking simulator ArtWIP, relied on a narrative to cohere the gameplay. Likewise, my past experience in prose offered a foundational framework for my critical play analysis, especially with the walking simulators that relied on the evocative space and story for their fun. Playtesting and testing assumptions and implementations in stages, is applicable in both the design and storytelling spaces, and that multiple drafts (and feedback) usually lead to a better product. Combined with Jenkins’ “Game Design as Narrative Architecture,” I have a better understanding of how author-led and player-led stories differ in design decisions, with the additional challenge of structuring the revelation and format of information. I hope to explore this particular intersection of CS and English further!

While I think I have improved significantly in terms of graphic design and drawing capabilities and distilling a game into a core set of arcs and loops, I admittedly still have a long way to develop the skills that I would find most useful for future projects, such as a greater familiarity with fast-paced mockup creating on Figma, and learning how to use Unity in earnest to create even simple starter games. I have also become surprisingly invested in sketchnoting, with how the practicality of rekindling that hand-eye coordination, and learning how to see and synthesize information with notes that help retention, is merged with the fun of doodling. I have probably created the best sea monster of my life for my Subnautica sketchnote (it’s a Leviathan I named Sally).

Lastly, I also now feel that designing for joy is a valid form of self-expression, and that while perhaps I am not fully ready to join the game design industry, I still want to keep creating games that elicit moments of wonder in my players (even if they are only my friends and family), and build on what I have learned through this class. The market of gamers labelled as “casual gamers” (who are often predominantly women, and also include me) are still gamers, and this is a segment that cannot and should not be ignored (in terms of inclusivity and the practical business side). So why shouldn’t I create the games and stories that I want to create?

Thank you very much to Christina, Kally, and Vincent for the amazing class this quarter — I’m grateful for everything that I’ve learned, and I’m looking forward to continuing to apply my knowledge in future design work!

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  1. I wish I could offer you a hug. You got everything I hoped to give in this class. I hope to see you again, as a CA, student or come and tell me stories of post-graduation!

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