I’ve always loved playing games.
My first taste of games was Poptropica: a 2d side scroller game in which you would travel around to different islands and solve varying puzzles and problems. Each island came with its own minigames and storylines, and I’d spend hours just exploring islands, talking to NPCs, and replaying minigames and levels even after I completed them. Then it was Club Penguin. Then, Animal Jam.
Games were worlds that I could escape in.
As I grew older and school, extracurriculars, and strict helicopter parents stepped into the limelight of my life, I didn’t stop playing games. Instead, I started to play in secret. I’d leave my computer next to my bed, waiting until late at night or early in the morning to furtively creak the laptop open (as little as possible, so the light of the screen wouldn’t spill into the hallway) and play. Rather than sleeping in the car on the way to figure skating before school, I’d build massive treehouses in Minecraft and sprint into the millions of points in Temple Run. As I started to explore the world of Steam games, I constantly left my fingers waiting on the alt tab buttons.
I won’t lie: like everyone else, I was caught playing a few times. With time, games began to adopt a new identity. Rather than just being my escape, they became my secret. And with the secrets came the guilt: despite how fun it was, a part of me felt guilty for ‘wasting my time’ on games, rather than using my time for something more worthwhile.
Fast forward to the pandemic. As the pandemic officially hit around the summer after my senior year, I finally felt free to use my time as I saw fit. And for the first time in a long time, I let myself play without hiding. But while my parents could no longer reprimand me for doing so, I still felt strangely… guilty. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I could be doing something else: drawing, skating, reading… yet, I couldn’t keep myself away. I stumbled through every nook and cranny of Ori and the Blind Forest, slashed my way through Hollow Knight’s sprawling world, and soared through Sky with friends.
Skip to present-day. Overwhelmed and yet buzzing with excitement, I stepped into CS247g’s first class. As this was my first upper-division class, I was terrified that I would find it incredibly difficult to follow along. But on the first day of class, I met people who loved games just as much as I did. Here, people weren’t scared of playing games: they were proud of the games they had played and the skills they picked up along the way. Throughout the course, I learned everything from not being afraid to mod games rather than come up with something completely original, to the importance of onboarding.
P1 taught me how difficult it is to create your own game from scratch: for the first time, I wasn’t just playing games, I had to design one from scratch. And while P1 taught me the difficulties of coming up with mechanics and design decisions for analog games, P2 taught me how much harder that was for digital games. More importantly, it taught me how difficult it is to work together in a large team: as we worked in a team of 6 people, integrating the ideas of so many different individuals into one overarching game was incredibly difficult. With each class, my respect for games and game creating grew.
Without doubt, CS247g was by far the best class I have ever taken. As the challenges were placed so clearly in front of me, overcoming the challenges became all the more exciting. Although I was initially worried about making all of the art for P2 (as I was scared that I bit off more than I could chew), I ended up learning photoshop and (re) learning a little bit of animation. And seeing the final product at the end gave me a rush of exhilaration and pride that I’ve never felt for any of the group projects I’ve completed before.
Yet, I don’t want to stop here. While I was proud of what we had come up with as a team in such a short amount of time, I wasn’t really happy with the final product. I spent this morning daydreaming about what I would’ve wanted the final game to look like, and I think I’ve taken it upon myself to try to—if I have the time—keep working on it during the summer. Of course, things are still up in the air. But I’m excited for what’s to come. And most importantly, I’m no longer ashamed of games: regardless of whether I’m building them myself or diving back into playing them.