Before the class, I was familiar with video games and board games, but I never took the chance to internalize messages within these games. Games were often thought as a fun way to escape reality so thinking about messages were never really a priority. I also previously took CS247G which introduced me to the basics of game design like formal elements, but it has been 2 year since and was primarily focused on digital games for me.
In the class, I constantly iterated and created games from scratch. I actually thought this class was a lot more stressful/busy than CS 247G since there were multiple projects. Overall, I learned that it was importanting to keep iterating ideas by yourself as well as others. But by iterating I mean actually usually objects you already have around or paper to make a really shitty prototype. I noticed in a lot of our projects I was often caught up imagining whether or not the rules were balance when it was much more efficiant to just play it ourselves. We as players will be able to give feedback and pinpoint exactly what the painpoints are and how we envoke certain emotions.
In P1, we made a yokai (Japanese ghost) card game intended for folks to use their imagination to make stories up and convice others that their yokai was the best fit for the prompt. I learned that anything could be wrapped in a game but the most important thing is how you deliver that content. We originally were thinking of doing a memorization card game but quickly realized through play testing that it could get old quickly, and the learning experience was not as great. We almost want to trick the players into learning or rather give them a reason to learn. In our case, by learning about each yokai better you would be able to craft better pitches or stories for the prompt. Learning was a result of playing the game naturally.
In P2, I made an interactive fiction that follows a software developer in a large cooperation who learns about the horrible things that the company does and has to decide what to do with that information. Within the fiction, there are several puzzles that the player can do to help unlock secrued files. Out of all the projects, this one was the most stressful since I wouldn’t consider myself a writer and I struggled with containing the size of the story. The biggest surprise was that althought I wanted to keep adding decision points in the story, there weren’t many places where I felt like picking a different decision would make a big impact on the overall story which is why my largest decision was my ending. I learned that at the end of the day, a story was just a message as well but packaged nicely so that players are drawn in. Every interaction that is included should be intentional and ultimately push that message forward.
In P3, we made a competitive-collaborative game focused on resource management. In this one we were initially stuggling with our game being too complicated since it had too many mechanics. The biggest takeway I had from this project was that good games often simplified their mechanics but still kept a lot of possible interactions with these simple actions. In addition, we should draw inspiration from real life as everything around us can be though of a system with mechanics that work well together. We can then take that and simplify it into a game. For us, we wanted to focus on comunnity living and resource management which manefisted itself as a competitve game since you want your own communities to survive, but it manifested as a collaborative game as well since communities would also have to work together to overcome challenges.
Overall I would say my biggest learnings were:
- iterate fast and quickly; don’t keep everything in your head/brainstorm stage but rather prototype and get feedback
- good games don’t have to be complicated but what’s important interactions are avaliable and what kind of emotions do they evoke
- draw inspiration from themes in real life since they too have mechanics that work already
When I go make games in the future, I will focus a lot of my time on playtesting. Instead of wondering what if we added a rule like this or a piece here, it would be more productive to see it action with other players. I also would like to draw from real life more. I previously approached game making as how could we maximize fun but I realized it would be easier to focus on a theme or a message I want to convey. If I can make others feel a certain way or learn something new than the game could be considered a success.