Final Class Reflection- Zoe Lynch

I have always known that telling stories was my purpose in life. Whether they be romance, horror, comedy, or drama-oriented, the feeling of creating my own worlds and fantasies completely different than our own has always been something I have constantly chased. It’s exhilarating. And, when I share my stories with others, I feel this other-worldly high of empowerment and joy that overtakes my entire self. When I was younger, I actually dreamed to be a writer, actress, or verbal storyteller. In my mind, I was going to be the next Jane Austin, Halle Berry, or Jan Blake. Nothing would stop me. 


However, something did stop me. My younger self had a reading processing disorder, ADD, and a speech impediment. And, unfortunately, when I grew up, my peers did not want to hear or read the stories I wanted to tell because of the non-linear, rather crazy, and jumbled manner I would tell them. In fact, they would actually make fun of me and label me and my stories as ‘weird.’ Craziest thing is, I actually started believing them. In school, I got awful grades on my essays and written assessments so my dream of becoming the next big watt pad novelist was practically shoved down the drain. I lost all of my confidence and passion; I was simply lost. 


See, this was until I played my first Japanese Dating Sim, Obey me! One Master to Rule Them All. Immediately, I found myself again. It was beautiful, incorporating all of my favorite things: romance, narrative, and art. I remember sitting by myself being like “who the HECK made this and how? I bet I could do this! I bet I could do it even better!” But, the brief thought passed through my mind in seconds and I went back to doing my petty middle-school things. The following summer, I attended my first coding camp and programmed my first Twighlight-themed choose-your-own-adventure. Though it was extremely dramatic and occasionally buggy, it was mine, and whoever played it was playing MY story. I presented it to my friends, family, and class and they all LOVED it. I felt that feeling of pride and self-appreciation that I had not felt in a long time. And, it was that moment when I realized I was going to be a game developer, specifically, I was going to create story games centered around romance and drama. I want to own my OWN studio so that no one else can ever dictate the stories I tell and how I tell them again.


I am here at Stanford because I want to achieve this dream. I was aware before coming here that in regards to game design, Stanford does not rank or even have a department. But, I was also aware that in regards to graphics and AI, it does. I was expecting just to come here, learn how to code proficiently, and leave to do my own thing. I did not expect to run into the HCI track and see the CS247G course offering in the fall on explore courses. I rearranged my entire schedule to fit this class and its prerequisite CS147 this year as a freshman because I was just so surprised and excited to see an actual game design class here. And, that was single-handedly the greatest decision I made this year.


CS247G is easily the best class I have ever taken (which means a lot because I have taken some BOMB classes in the past). I love it all from the sketch notes (I have NEVER done them before this class but I will for sure do them in future classes) to the projects to the guest lectures to the critical plays. Working to create games with others was such an amazing experience and it gave me a taste of what I dream to do in the future; every section, team meeting, and zoom call when we worked on our projects was just so positive and fun. Every single game design topic we reviewed stuck with me deeply (the iteration/prototype process, types of fun, mechanics, dynamics, etc.) and I sought to draw from each of them when designing my projects. I mainly took over the designer role (I work as a graphic designer and illustrator outside of school**)  in each project and made sure that everything I designed was cohesive with the overall project and had a strong visual hierarchy. Like all collaborative processes, you will run into disagreements but I feel like I’ve improved my problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills. 


I think my primary challenge was most definitely following the design process taught in class. I am not one who follows rules or creates things linearly, especially when it comes to project-based work. Sometimes I make design decisions that randomly pop up in my head and don’t have a justification behind them rather than “this is a super random addition that I think would be crazy so let’s try it out.” Also, I am also someone who firmly believes that the player is not always correct (in regards to initial prototypes) and they don’t know what they want until you give it to them. There have been many instances in my life where I have pitched the beginnings of my own games to others and the immediate response is “that is too out there” or ‘I don’t think people would play that,“ but then after I am finished it flips to “oh my god, this is so good” or “I did not expect it to turn out this way.” This is probably because a lot of my ideas are seen as socially taboo or unorthodox so I personally think that the process sometimes goes against people like me when playtesting with the general public before a final product is fully formed. However, I will say that I learned that playtesting mechanics is super important through this class to catch pesky bugs. And, though I sometimes disagreed with the design process we followed, I do think it was important to learn as it is a model that many follow in the professional world.


Through this class, I think I grew as a designer, collaborator, and storyteller. This summer, I will be working at EA to develop creative tools to facilitate storytelling in the Sims 4 (my favorite game of all time) and am developing my own mobile game to launch in the fall. I feel like this class has beautifully prepared me to pop off and effectively communicate my ideas with my team and in my game. This class only reaffirmed for me that game design is indeed what I am on this earth to do. I was able to make new friends, work on cool projects, and tell my stories. To be honest, I initially was scared to express myself fully in my games this quarter (the duck syndrome was REAL). But, as I met more and more students in the class and went to more and more lectures, I realized I was right where I belonged. This was the first class environment where I felt like people wanted to hear and valued what I had to say. Thank you so much teaching team and Professor Wodtke; this class meant more to me than you can even imagine.


Sketchnotes/Mind Maps!



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