I knew that I had a negative bias towards game design coming into this class- I had a perspective that play was for children, and that there was not much inherent value in games. It was a perspective I’d been trying to shift for a while, but this class has shown me so much behind the curtains on how much we depend on games and play, and how critical it is to not just children, but to us as adults. I loved learning about how fundamental play was and the inherent theory behind games- how ultimately, games are all about picking up patterns and learning and iterating in a safe environment. It is also a social experience for some, and I loved learning how to think very critically about how to foster this kind of environment in games.
This class in general prompted me to think much deeper about facts that I thought I knew. I’d known that game development was a long and complicated process before, with an incredible amount of factors that most other art forms do not need to consider such as empty space, social interaction, and technical details. However, experiencing it for myself was a completely different story. I learned so much more about the process and how methodical and intense it is from examples and first-hand experience, not just second-hand accounts. I find myself now being able to appreciate many more of the finer details- how well-placed sound can be, the barely noticeable rust on a door, even the absence of elements, now that I know of the amount of work that goes into deciding every minor detail.
The part of this class that stuck with me the most was how important and powerful playtesting was, and how biased we were as designers. Playtesting required new hypotheses and ideas, but ideas also required playtesting. It’s also a very critical lesson in general- that you should back your ideas in data because sometimes your data will vary from your experiences. Learning more systematically about designer biases and the difficulty in making accessible games was also fascinating- once you gain a certain perspective (ex: you get used to a certain GUI) it’s hard to return to a state of understanding how a new user might think. This class also unveiled words and ways to express aspects of games and experiences I’d never had words for before. Learning about why certain games made me feel certain ways and breaking them down piece by piece into named strategies (ex: the most recent sketchnote on Subnautica’s Terror factor) uncovered a lot of new tools for me to break down the formats on how any other source of media might convey something for me.
I also greatly appreciated the chance to finally learn Unity. I feel like I have an intuition for how most programs can be built, but I’ve always been a bit lost on how to conceptualize programming a game since there are so many aspects. Being able to build a game, albeit not to utter completion, was a wonderful experience, as I feel like I’ve gained a new tool for myself. I’ve already started learning how to use Unity to create projects on my own, which I don’t believe I would have been confident enough to do if it wasn’t for this class. This class also gave me some exposure to programs that I’ve always wanted to check out but never had the chance to, such as blendr. I will definitely be taking these skills with me in the future.