Final Reflection – Selaine

When I signed up for CS 247G, I honestly had no idea what I was getting myself into (in a good way). I knew that I needed a 247 studio for my major and thought that “Design for Play” was vague enough to be interesting and pretty much hoped for the best. Before this class, I didn’t really think about play. As an only child with two working parents, we didn’t play many traditional/board games growing up, so I mostly played with toys where I could create different stories on my own. I did love to play on the Nintendo DS and Wii but getting older meant I had more homework and serious responsibilities and less playtime, until eventually I stopped playing at all. I have continued to play random games on my phone, but most of the games don’t stick around for more than few weeks. Play and video games were farthest from my personal interests.

Since starting this course, I feel like I have a renewed interest in games, both analog and digital. Now, I analyze every small video game, toy, or app that is presented to me, even when I don’t mean to do so. My best friend, who is a huge gamer, and I have begun to talk about and play the games that we bring up in class, and I am able to see the concepts and elements that we discuss. The class concepts that stuck with me the most are the formal elements of the games, and how game designers must intentionally craft these elements to create one cohesive feeling, and an overall enjoyable experience. I also feel that the ideas we have had to sketch note are more deeply ingrained. Beyond the course concepts, I am also more interested in exploring games on my own, even if they are only meant to be played for a few levels and then un-downloading. I now see the benefits behind playing lots of games and learning a little bit from them all, rather than feeling the need to wholeheartedly dedicate myself to a game until I pass all the levels / collect all the coins / unlock all the items / (insert some other extrinsic motivator here).

My greatest challenges in the course were that I am “not a gamer”, meaning I have limited gaming experience (both playing and developing). Many of the concepts that we talked about in class were reinforced by examples of current games, and most of the time, I didn’t know what any of those games were. Sometimes we saw the specific game features in pictures/videos, but many times we did not. For example, if five game examples were thrown out to discuss “escapism” as a form of fun, we might see one actual example in the slides. This made it harder to visualize all the different options, and easier to just latch onto that one example. Sometimes, I struggled with knowing what exactly I should be mirroring in games of my own. My limited experiences also meant that I was sadly never going to win one of the books from guessing the PowerPoint presentation theme (damn).

My other challenge came from my limited game development experience. Although I enjoyed that section became more of a work session for most groups, I wish we could’ve spent more time learning Unity, or other game development software. As a CS major, I felt that it would be important to do an all-digital project and agreed to do so with my team. However, the team was split about 50/50 with those who had Unity experience and those that did not. This made it extremely difficult in the last few weeks, as I wanted to contribute to the game, but would often spend hours on end combing through YouTube videos, StackOverflow, and Unity documentation to learn the simplest commands. Something that would take me over five hours to do would take my teammates less than thirty minutes, which made me feel guilty about not contributing more to the final project (as they would often have to help me debug or finalize features when I would get stuck).

Learning a new tool in the last few weeks was one of the larger challenges, but I know that I did the best I could based on my physical and mental capacity. This growth of learning new topics and tools, but more importantly acknowledging that I did all I could for my current knowledge is what I am taking away from this game. I am super proud of our end product (soRRRt) and that even my smaller contributions made a game that many of the play-testers enjoyed. I also am having a good time making the closest friends play the game, especially after they had to listen to the seemingly never-ending soundtrack loop for hours on end while I developed. If I keep working on games, I will try to focus on enjoying the development process a little bit more, so that way I am both happy during the process and after. I will also work on trying different mediums to develop, and hopefully find the one that works best for me early on in the project.

Overall, I really enjoyed this class, and the different assignments and projects were often a highlight of my week. I especially enjoyed the many opportunities to interact with my classmates’ games, as I thought that seeing all the genius and creative ideas that they could come up with was half the fun. Thank you to Christina and the teaching team (especially Jean!) for making the experience so fun, and I hope you all have a great summer (and keep playing lots of cool games). I will be Keeping Up with Nina on Instagram, as she really made coming to class all worth it during the more stressful times!

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