When I was a child, I consumed books voraciously. I would escape into the worlds described in their sentences and experience things that reality didn’t allow for. As I grew older, video games became my new preferred method of escapism.
Before this class, I judged games based on how much time I distract myself with them. I buried my head in grindy MMORPGs with loads of dailies while games with low replay value like walking simulators were never considered. I prioritized interactive, dynamic gameplay which usually meant multiplayer games, I didn’t want to click through some set path the developer laid for me. It felt like I was searching for the agency that was missing in my own life in video games.
This mindset carried into the class. When I heard about using games as teaching tools, I thought that view was ridiculous – who would want to play that kind of game? Games are obviously for distraction and unproductive. As I progressed through the class, completing the sketchnotes and critical plays, my mindset slowly began to change. It felt good to have some of my intuitions as a gamer verified through the teachings of the class, but I was often befuddled by other concepts. It didn’t make sense to me that a person would choose to play a game about grief and relive negative experiences in their life. Thankfully, I was able to come around. The amazing instruction and support offered by the class, along with its easygoing and occasionally silly nature made it feel like I was safe from judgement and in a space conducive to change. Learning about the reasoning behind the creation of That Dragon, Cancer changed my view on games. I only viewed games as a method for escapism, but they have so much more to offer.
This paradigm shift was so exciting that I decided to make a single player narrative-focused game for P2. My team and I tried to incorporate themes of wistfulness and nostalgia while making the game fun at the same time. Not only was it was extremely difficult figuring out the design choices that would best suit our intentions, but it was our first time creating a digital game. We ran into issues with conflicting visions, time availabilities, and even technologies. The project shed light on how difficult it was to work together as a team while making sure everybody was heard and was able to contribute. Nonetheless, we pushed through our challenges and put forward our best attempt at making a compelling game. Being able to see the stages of our game as it progressed through development gave me an extraordinary sense of fulfillment that was further strengthened when we conducted playtesting. Seeing other people enjoy a game I helped create, especially one that challenged my own thinking, was very gratifying and further motivated me to improve our game.
The final playtest was particularly eye-opening. I loved experiencing other teams’ games and seeing what other people accomplished in such a short time span left me in awe. Although there may have been a difference in background and experience, it gave me hope that I could also produce the amazing games I played. There were a great variety of games, many of which were novel for me and helped me explore game genres I was unfamiliar with.
The critical plays and sketchnotes also contributed greatly to my learning. It felt as if learning was fun again and taking notes was no longer a chore. Having such a diverse range of assignments further broadended my view on gaming and what games could contribute to people.
I want to carry on the momentum from this class and continue learning more about the design of games and perhaps attempt creating my own fully fleshed out game in the summer if time allows for it. I hope that I can continue nurturing the inquisitive and open mindset I’ve gained from this class.