Before this class, I never thought about what makes a game fun. I thought that games either were fun or were not. If games weren’t fun, it was because they were too easy, too hard, or too boring. I am happy to say that after taking this class, I have expanded my definition of what fun is and have come to understand how difficult it is to make a good game. This means that I now have a greater appreciation for good games.
I enjoyed learning how to define fun. I’ve always known that I am a competitive person, and so I enjoy competitive games and puzzles. I was happy to learn that there is a category of fun for people just like me: challenge. I love the feeling of overcoming an obstacle or winning a game, so it makes sense that I enjoy playing games like Scattergories and Super Smash Bros. I also learned that all games fit into at least one, usually more, of the categories of fun. Now after playing a game, I can identify the intended types of fun and understand why I did or didn’t enjoy it. I am also able to better recommend games to friends based on the types of fun that I have noticed they enjoy.
I was able to apply this knowledge in my critical plays and in the two class projects. For example, when designing The Dinner Party, we played around with different variations of the game, but we always knew what kinds of fun we were going for: fellowship and challenge. Identifying these types of fun early on allowed us to tweak in our mechanics in a way that aligned with these intended types. When designing Secrets of Stanford, we made changes to the narrative and corresponding clues, but again, we knew that any choices made needed to align with our intended types of fun.
Developing The Dinner Party was enjoyable, but it was also challenging. During one of our playtests, we learned that using faces as clues introduced unforeseen ethical issues. One playtester commented that using non-physical clues to describe faces allowed for stereotyping. We had never even considered this as a possibility, and we knew that we needed to change something. This was challenging because what we had intended to be a lighthearted fun game became potentially harmful. I am, however, glad to have had this experience because it showed me how important playtesting is. We were so focused on the game from our designer perspective that we overlooked a problem that was right in front of us. I grew from this experience by learning that even though we had good intentions, the potentially negative impact outweighs them. This is a lesson that I think can apply to all areas of life.
Lastly, I want to add that this class is tied for my favorite class ever taken at Stanford. I remember week 1 when we started class by playing games, and I immediately knew that I would enjoy the rest of the quarter. I used to love playing games as a child, but my parents worked a lot so I didn’t get to play as much as I would have liked to. As I got older, as with most Stanford students, everything became about school and work, so I didn’t allow for much time to enjoy myself. I appreciate this class because I had the opportunity to tap into my inner child and have some fun. Thank you Christina and Eugene for a great quarter! 🙂