Before taking CS247G, I always imagined game designers to be some kind of mysterious, super smart, ultra creative people. Game design seemed very out of reach, only for those with special talents. But in this class, I got a taste of what it really was like to develop games from scratch. I learned that there were so many other aspects to game design, and that by studying and practicing, one might train to become a great game designer. Even though we can’t become a game designer just by taking one course, I felt that equipped with the concepts and theories presented in this class, I am now able to better understand what makes a game fun and what doesn’t. It was very interesting to learn about concepts and realize there are explanations to some of the experiences I had with my favorite games.
One of the concepts that I learned in class that stuck with me was the dos and don’ts for friendship leveling in games. Using the laws of friendship formation (proximity, similarity, reciprocity, disclosure), I realize how detrimental the trend to just cram unlimited chat functionality in games is. A lot of mobile games that I’ve played before had chat functionality and friend systems that were not well designed and eventually abandoned. Another concept that stuck with me was how to design good puzzles. I previously thought designing puzzles were pretty much stand alone exercises, but in this class I learned how puzzles should be designed to fit naturally into the environment and progress smoothly in difficulty levels, with appropriate hint systems to help players make the best out of the game. These puzzle design skills came in handy in our escape room project. My team and I spent a lot of time and effort refining the puzzles and balancing out the game. Through constant playtesting, we were able to observe what was confusing, what needed more hints, and what didn’t fit well. Over multiple iterations, we were able to create a game core of our escape room that we feel proud of. The importance of testing and iteration was also something that was emphasized in this course. I’ve learned about prototyping and iteration in other HCI courses, and it was interesting to see how the same skills can be applied across different design disciplines.
One of the biggest challenge I faced during the course is balancing challenges and narratives. Our project 2 escape room initially had a narrative that was quite wild — the players were supposed to find out about what happened to a missing classmate, and the final revelation would be that the classmate was in fact an undercover spy and was taken away for doing malicious activities. As we continued to develop puzzles and refine the narrative, we realized that the challenges were not very cohesive with the narrative. The narrative did not flow through the challenges and the ending seemed abrupt. We brainstormed and slowly iterated on our game until our story was woven into the puzzles naturally and the narrative and challenges were balanced.
After taking CS247G, I feel like I gained a new perspective on what fun is, and can now really appreciate what goes into a great game. I also practiced many skills that are crucial to my CS masters direction in HCI as well, including accessibility awareness, branding, prototyping, and so on. Through the two team projects, I also gained more experience in teamwork. I learned how different people may have different ways of doing things and it is important to try to reach a common ground where everyone feels respected and can be productive. In this class, due to time constraints, and workload balance, I mostly worked on analog games, which was a great way to focus on the concepts of game design taught in class, instead of spending time trying to learn new technology. However, I am still very interested in creating digital games, so next time when I get the chance, I will try building a digital game while exercising all the game design concepts that I’ve learned from this class.