For the longest time, like many others, I had a very negative attitude towards the word “game.” It stems back from my childhood, when games in my household were connotated with hedonism and laziness rather than creativity and problem solving. While I loved games as a child, I was strongly discouraged from playing them, and thus spent the majority of my time with games at my friends’ house or by myself in a secluded corner of the house. I devoted thousands of hours of my life to only a few mainstream titles, and didn’t have many opportunities to find a larger variety of titles to explore. Thus, coming into this class, I had a strong, defined vision for what I thought a game should be.
A lot of the works we studied in class put these prior beliefs of mine to challenge. Instead of seeing games as unnecessary and self-indulgent, I began to see the positive effects that they could bring. This revelation was partly due to being exposed to a larger variety of games, especially smaller indie games, in class rather than the classic big name titles that have recently dominated the industry. A lot of the games we studied in class were story based, and thus could convey more dialogue and concept than a repeatable free-to-play game.
Additionally, our thorough critical plays and analyses of smaller game titles in particular made me realize that a lot more thought is put into games than I had originally anticipated. Aside from game ideation and implementation, even smaller parts of the game, such as onboarding and music, have a pronounced impact on a game’s mood and performance. In hindsight, these things seem obvious, but I had never noticed these elements when I played games; I wrongly assumed that a game’s mechanics were strictly responsible for a game’s performance. Thus, in my games for the rest of the quarter, I made sure to pay special attention to the supporting game elements, from the artistic direction, to onboarding and organization.
During our game creation projects, I loved being able to prototype and playtest our individual ideas. However, I really quickly realized how difficult it was to match my vision with the game and how others perceived it. It’s one thing to understand a concept, but implementation proved to be a much bigger challenge for me. At times, it felt frustrating putting a lot of effort into an idea only to have it come across in a confusing way, and having to scrap something you had high hopes for.
Still, I grew to become accustomed to this idea of constant revision, and letting go of my personal investments to create a better game. My team members helped me a lot with this transition by brainstorming with me and exposing me to different perspectives. In our group, we shared the elements of games we enjoyed with one another, which gave me a better understanding of the many different ways players can have fun. I made a commitment early on in the quarter to keeping an open mind and building upon others’ ideas, which opened up wonderful learning opportunities for me.
Additionally, I made new friendships over the course of both projects. While I signed up for the class with some friends, I opted to team up with some strangers for project 1, which ended up being my best decision for this class! After creating our board game, we decided to expand our group to create our escape room, which we invested a lot of time into and ended up creating something we were really proud of. Over the course of the quarter, we went on shopping trips together for decorations and ideas. To better visualize our escape room and focus on important background elements, we even completed an escape room in San Mateo (Red Door Escape Room!), which was some of the most fun I had this quarter.
Celebrating after our final escape room playtest!
After this class, I plan on continuing to make original games. Over the pandemic, I had toyed around with Unity with a friend of mine to create a small pet project. It wasn’t much, and in hindsight, there are a lot of design decisions that we made that were suboptimal, but at the end of the day, it was a valuable learning experience for both of us. With what we learned in class, and from our wide range of critical plays, I now have a much better idea of the type of game I want to create, and the immense amount of work that comes with it, and I want to dedicate a significant portion of my senior year to building a product I can be proud of. This class has also given me the opportunity to make new friends and gain valuable experience in playtesting and getting feedback from others, which I will undoubtedly take advantage of for my future projects. So here’s to creating, breaking, and learning!