Before this Class:
Honestly, I was quite nervous about taking a game design class. Last year, for the CS 210 sequence, I had worked with the Oculus department at Facebook, and I was very cognizant that most games that I was familiar with were either 1) designed with men in mind, 2) had a primarily male audience, or 3) had been introduced to me by a male player. As someone with hobbies that usually lie outside of games (with the exception of sports), I wasn’t sure how applicable game design would be to my life, career, or general knowledge base, and I was doubtful that the few word games I play online were even relevant.
Doing and Learning
I think that the frameworks for critical play and sketchnotes actually both really stuck with me! I especially appreciated the introduction to effective sketchnoting after struggling to take “beautiful” or “memorable” notes in the past, and the different types of fun and narratives made it easier to me to conceptualize the differences in the games I played.
I also think that Laura Hall’s lecture in class helped me understand what makes escape rooms effective and enjoyable. As a first-time game designer, I continually defaulted to over-explaining clues and offering too many hints. It was very reassuring to hear an expert recommend hiding most narrative information and even give us specialized advice for our room.
Finally, I think the iterative approach we took when developing both games was actually highly applicable for my life! I learned to be much more experimental early in the design process instead of trying to generate a perfect, final product immediately. For example, our first iteration for P1 consisted of just hand-drawn cards and eventually led us to a very refined set of print-to-play cards.
I think that actively playing games and developing an intuition for what makes them enjoyable was the biggest challenge for me. At the start of the class, I was reluctant to play beyond one level, or had to spend time learning controls and as a result didn’t pay enough attention to game mechanics. I think that the readings actually helped me build a mental model for how to analyze games and gave me concepts I could eventually fall back on while playtesting.
Initially, I was the most worried about not being a useful playtester or valuable team member. I think I had to work a little harder at first to offer meaningful feedback in class, and to offer suggestions for future iterations that would actually address our feedback. For example, for P1, I had to recognize that teams were essential for making our game more playable, and in P2, I had to probably iterate on my notebook clue the most out of any other clue in our room to finally land on a version that made sense.
I think this class pushed me out of my comfort zone! It’s been a long time since I have been in a class with both active participant and breakouts throughout the class and more frequent assignments. While I was nervous at first, I think the speed and engagement in the class made it much easier for me learn and retain concepts.
I also became more comfortable with experiential learning. At first, I had a hard take finding value in the games and activities we played in class, but as I learned to 1) go with the flow and 2) actively try to reflect on how each game made me feel, the activities begun to feel more useful while designing my own games. Learning to deal with dead ends and ideas that didn’t go anywhere made me a more ambitious brainstormer and more adventurous during development.
I hope to start building virtual games. I learned a lot from the physical games we made (a card game and physical escape room), but I think there are some concepts from digital games that I learned but never had the chance to implement. For example, we never had to design digital characters with different posing, and we never had to think about programming difficulty in a virtual space. Looking at some of the games other teams created for P2 made me wish that our digital components for our escape room involved coding rather than repurposing digital platforms like Zoom and Slack.