Prior to 247G, I thought about play in a broad sense—my brother and I creating competition in the hallway by trying to throw a football through opposite doorways, or the formal structure of a family board game, or the many video games that I was immersed in throughout my childhood. Game design, however, was a more opaque concept—I knew what I liked, and I knew what cogs generally made the machine go, but the area I struggled most with was knowing what was feasible to create.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway I had from 247G is that it’s okay to not seek out perfection—in fact, doing so is counterproductive. Being in an environment where playtesting and iterating constantly can be celebrated makes a difference, and both of my groups’ games were better for our commitment to starting with something and then repeatedly making improvements. Similarly, on a high level, I found playing lots of games incredibly valuable. I’d like to build in time to explore more games as I enter into my work this summer and beyond, and I think even playing what I’m working on from a variety of angles might be useful to better empathize with different types of players.
Class concepts that stuck with me in particular include patterns for building friendships, onboarding, and game balance. I was constantly impressed by the attention to detail and deliberateness that designers articulated in these areas—because my experience is more on the end of a player than a designer, I’ve taken some remarkably savvy design decisions for granted. As someone who cares deeply about the precision and consciousness of any form of content, it was exciting to realize that leaving no stone unturned is a philosophy that can absolutely apply to creating games.
The more I muse, the more I find that onboarding is an essential element of any game—and potentially the area that leaves the most room to grow in new titles. No matter how fun or diverse or detailed a feature (or game) is, if it can’t build momentum with the player to start, it will fail. Although the designer’s tendency is to want to focus on the mechanics, I want to be someone who builds systems that, if nothing else, can reach the full potential for what they are. As far as game balance goes, my general approach is to offer options when possible—in our escape room, hints were included yet optional to take. For years, I’ve thought about skill vs. luck and its intersection with balance across sports as well as video games; I don’t know that there’s any best answer for how to navigate the dynamic. Ultimately, it likely depends on the specific objectives of the players, and almost certainly changes depending on the play session—that’s part of where I want to try exploring what I’m working on in different facets (how does my experience change when I’m prioritizing enjoyment vs. competitiveness?)
Additionally, I grew as a teammate and collaborator. Being able to delegate work and leverage our personal skill sets made both of our projects as strong as possible, and going forward, I want to continue to make use of my unique talents (as well as those of whoever I’m working with) whenever applicable. Leaning into areas of expertise and passion is such an effective way to create work that is meaningful and efficacious; it also contributes to designers feeling good about the way they’re contributing. Since I will once again be doing work going forward in a domain I’m familiar with from a whole host of perspectives, I plan to make use of that knowledge.
Most importantly, I attribute this class with helping me remember the simple joy of play—in the purest sense, in the productivity-be-damned, I’m a kid and it’s 6am on a Saturday morning so my brother and I are going to play Madden for four hours type of joy. Amidst the chaos that is being a student at Stanford in our ever-frantic world, that joy sometimes gets lost—yet its allure should be neither age nor context exclusive. Play is fun, and getting to design that fun—crafting each moment so that someone else becomes immersed with their same personal joy—is a privilege I look forward to carrying with me beyond the walls of 247G.