Before this class, I didn’t really view or play games with an incredibly critical lens, and mostly just took games and their rules and experiences at face value. After taking this class, I have a newfound appreciation for the implicit and explicit messaging that goes into designing games, especially serious games. I didn’t think too deeply about why the game designers made choices about how to present information, why certain games were cooperative or competitive (in a variety of ways), and reflecting on what I felt or what I learned after playing a game.
Particularly helpful things that I did in this class were definitely the game making experiences. The class was very fast paced; making four games in 10 weeks was definitely a lot. However, I think that the differences in approaches that my teams had for the first assignment compared to the last one really demonstrated the amount that we had grown throughout the quarter. I remember for the first project, a lot of the decisions that we made for our initial pitch were almost random, and we struggled with pinning down the exact theme since our ideas and scope were really broad and ambitious. When I compare this to project 3 and project 4, where we rehashed this initial idea we had for project 1, we were much more prepared to cut out parts of our game for scoping reasons and really try to pinpoint the game mechanics to not be too overwhelming but instead focused enough to balance before playtesting and adding additional mechanics.
I think that project 2 really helped with developing this understanding of scoping, with the general theme of making a short story rather than a novel for our interactive fiction. When initially developing my idea for my interactive fiction, I struggled with cutting out ideas that I would think of while in the writing process, as well as cutting out parts I had planned to include but turned unfeasible as I kept fleshing out my world. Not including everything I initially planned to was tough, but this experience putting away ideas to the side (for later, I told myself) made project 3 and 4 so much more streamlined than when we initially were brainstorming for project 1. In particular, we simplified the catastrophe mechanic for the Tragedy of the Commons, and limited the types of characters that players could be. We pinpointed our focus on the message and learning objectives of the game to be more on resource management, rather than community style living, which was our initial pitch for project 1. Community style living, as we found, while an interesting theme was one that was very unwieldy and complicated with the amount of dynamics to be captured between players, types of players, and individual versus societal balances in gameplay. In order to craft a game with an intentional message, it was essential to magnify the scope of the game to one particular aspect that we were interested in, so that we could more feasibly manage the implications and learning outcomes of our game, which was one of the goals of this class.
In this class, one of my biggest takeaways was gaining this better understanding of the ways in which I can both build and analyze games through a messaging perspective. I think that when I play games going forward, I’ll be much more inclined to think about what exactly I’m learning during gameplay and afterwards during reflection, and how the choices that the designers made intentionally or accidentally/non-intentionally affected what I understood the learning outcomes to be.
When I go to make games in the future, I think one of the things that I’ll think most about is the messaging around my game. I will think about this during the game design process, from ideation to story crafting and worldbuilding to playtesting. One of the best pieces of feedback that I received from this class was regarding the messaging that we want players to take away from the game experience. Framing the game in terms of this overall message or feeling that we want players to have is critical when designing, from the overarching story and possibilities that the game can take, to the actual physical design of the game pieces themselves. Overall, this class was a really fun experience, especially for the team-based games. My goal for taking this class was to engage a different part of the problem solving part of my brain that I don’t usually get to work with in most of my other classes, and taking a class that was so project-based was definitely a challenge for me. I definitely think that I was able to express creative thought in this class as well, which was really fun and something I don’t get to do often in a classroom setting. Games were already a big part of my life before taking this class, but coming out of it now I think that I’ll be able to view games from a more holistic perspective and appreciate their design more critically!