When I enrolled in this course, I was really looking for a theoretical/practical (praxical, as is all design imo) foundation to base my personal interest in game design on. I’ve loved playing various board and video games for years and have associated doing so with getting through rough patches in life and creating positive memories with wonderful people. I’ve had plenty of shower ideas and fleshed out random architectures of board games in my head while hanging out with friends. I also was looking forward to having an excuse to think more about my own research interests (designing sound in/and VR experiences) in an application I am very attached to (games). Play is a personal value of mine that I tend to forget about if my brain just decides it’s not safe to play anymore in times of struggle/heightened mental illness, so I was looking forward to experiencing that myself as a designer learning through doing.
Through the class, I gained a quick and easy framework (formal elements of games), got to analyze them, and designed with them as a baseline. I also loved learning about designing friendship and cooperation in games, and values-driven game design. Playtesting was an awesome way to see these concepts in real-time. It’s always interesting to see what assumptions I’ve made are on the nose (tells me my intuition is improving) and get feedback I’m not expecting at all (I’m learning something I’ve never considered before and that’s awesome!). I still remember how cool it was when my P1 group figured out that the way to address seemingly uncrossable ludonarrative dissonance was through simply changing the medium. We turned our game from a card game into a map-based board game, and suddenly our issues of meshing key mechanics of location/time with the narrative were fixed because making a map-based board game baked in those mechanics. Never would have known that that was possible without playtesting, thonking hard (reflecting a lot on it), and discussing directions as a group. Then, further playtesting confirmed that for us, which was very rewarding.
To be honest, the challenges I faced during this class were not due to the class itself. My project groups were wonderful, I enjoyed the in-class/section exercises, and I got a lot out of the readings/sketch notes/critical plays. Life just completely ran me down. For countless reasons summarized into capital D Depression and capital A Anxiety (note to anyone reading, please go to therapy and see your doctor, take advantage of Vaden), this quarter quickly became an “I need to fucking get through this”. I had to mourn the loss of the experience that could have been for my last quarter here at Stanford. Mental health is hard. General well-being and health are hard. Holistic health is hard. I needed to prioritize these aspects of life because I honestly had no other choice. Shit was really fucking bad. To Christina, Khuyen, and my group members, thank you for always accepting me wherever I was and making efforts to support me. Despite the horror that was my mental state for two months straight, I still felt like I got to the end of this quarter having met the learning goals, not been a burden to my group, had a good time, and was proud of my accomplishments. It was really fucking hard. Still kind of is. Definitely is.
I don’t need to go into detail about it to say that I have grown in many ways just to manage my brain and keep moving forward. I’m not out of this crap yet, but I’m now moving in the direction I want to be going. I still have a game I want to make (tying back to the VR/sound thing), which means I’ll be staying in touch with Khuyen (please help me I am no narrative writer and I want to learn to be one and you are super awesome and cool be my friend) and groupmates and Christina! But to be honest, it’s a game that I’m making for myself. I don’t really even care to playtest it for the sake of making a “good” game. I’m just making a game that I can keep inside like a little gift or treasure or token you hang on to that makes you happy or feel some kinda way. Peace offering to myself kinda game. I get the feeling it might help me remember what it is that keeps me going. We’ve all got something to say, and sometimes we’re the ones that need to hear it the most.
Anyway, this is oversharing time, but that’s kind of me always. Being able to show up however I really am doing and not hide it is something I care about a lot and I am so glad that I got that in this class. I have deeply appreciated my time and everyone’s time/energy invested in this course. Thank you again and hope to see what amazing things we do with this experience under our belts. Be well.