Final Class Reflection

I took this class because I am a big fan of board games. My ideal night with friends would probably involve playing some card game or a social deception game. Ever since I was young, I’ve played all sorts of games so I wanted to take this opportunity in my last quarter at Stanford (tears) to learn more about what I’ve loved all along. Before this class, I used to think of games as simply a past-time or a way to break the ice with new people, but I failed to recognize the opportunities for artistic expression while playing a game or the excitement in discovery, even if for no other reason than discovery itself. That is still fun. I really didn’t think much about game design when playing games. I recall complaining about unbalanced games and thought to myself “wow the designers of this game really didn’t realize that [insert specific about game] completely ruins the game and makes it too easy or too hard.”

One of the biggest learning experiences for me was learning how to critically analyze a game I was playing, even if I had already played that game before (even for many years). It was extremely challenging for me at first to break down the intention of the game creator to decide which audience it was targeting or even to recognize the dynamics that were created in the game. I think once I understood the difference between a game mechanic and a game dynamic and internalized how one led onto the other, I was able to completely change my perspective on games. I haven’t been able to look at games the same way since. A couple days ago I played UNO with my friends (a game I’ve played since I was a kid) and found myself breaking down the different possible mechanics and how each of them made for a different game type.

Something I found very challenging, but also led to an immense amount of learning, was playtesting. It was very difficult for me to 1) present an incomplete game and have to be judged by people and 2) understand how to take what the testers say and don’t say as actionable items to modify and improve my games. Especially in the first game, there were points when I was perfectly happy with the game and saw myself playing it exactly as it was but when we play tested it, it fell completely flat on its face. I was baffled. It was clear that I had designer blindness and was coming at the game with the understanding of having made all the intentional choices for the game. After a while, I realized the best way to get out of my head was to continuously get new feedback from fresh minds. Luckily for me, I have a ton of friends who have been extremely helpful and willing to take a chance on any of my games. Secondly, I struggled at first to piece together the feedback we were given into actionable items. For example, we would get comments like “I did/didn’t like this or that so much” but I was not sure exactly what that meant. Did it mean we had to change the part of the game, scrap it or change our entire game concept? As time went on, I learned how to ask better questions to get the type of feedback we were looking for. Moreover, I learned about how the fidelity of the game can implicitly affect the feedback we get, which is an extremely useful tool I will carry with me to any new project I embark on.

Next time, or when continuing the work on my games, I will be a lot more conscious about making intentional decisions in the game design. I will make sure that I understand which mechanics I am invoking, how those will determine the mechanics and how both of these ties to the overall theme and emotions I am trying to evoke from the players. At the end of the day, when we play a game, we want to feel something, whether it is the rush from a FPS game or an escape room or the relaxation from playing a submission game. Nothing in a game should be accidental, every piece should build towards the bigger goal.

As a final note, something Christina said that stuck with me throughout the class is that, when creating a game, you don’t need to be original but rather you need to be unique. It goes to show that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to be successful, you just need to come up with something cool that your players have not exactly seen before that they would be excited to try out. That is enough for a game to be great.

About the author

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.