Final Class Reflection

Before this class, I thought about design as something primarily graphic: visual design for cohesiveness using colors, fonts, space, composition, etc. While I recognize that this is an important part of design, it really is only a sliver of what design can truly entail. Especially in games, design involves so much more than just visuals as developers are forced to dive into the design of experience, balance, puzzles, conflict, growth, and more. Every mechanic in a game can be designed with intention and specificity, and each mechanic has the potential to contribute massively to the player experience.

Before this class, I also has a completely different perception of play, considering it something important but almost childish, something that you do much more when you’re younger and much less when you’re older. The early lectures completely shifted my view on this, encouraging me to see play not only as something widespread but also as something necessary for adults. I also really value now the idea that play can be facilitated in a huge range of ways- from online RPGs to peaceful walking simulators to rowdy party games with your best friends. Paying attention to how play impacts my own life- the joy I get when engaging in even a simple guessing game with friends- has really altered my perception of the importance of play and games in bringing brightness and life to what could otherwise be mundane and boring schedules.

The class concepts that stuck with me the most were probably ideas of balance and how game design can be used to facilitate (or dismantle) friendships. The idea of balance stuck out to me most because it requires close attention to the exact mechanics of a game, something that I think I’ve always been aware of but never fully noticed. I tend to comment that my favorite games are a balance of luck and skill so that you can blame your losses on luck and your wins on skill. By paying attention to how balance operates in all games, and especially in our own games, I found myself reflecting on this statement and how true it actually rang for me. I also found myself paying more attention to how specific games or mechanics are able encourage or discourage certain social situations. Especially in creating our first game, I was really engaged by the questions of how certain mechanics might work if you were young, old, inexperienced, shy, or any other personality trait. Considering how unique individuals interface with your project is a fantastic skill, and while I had never necessarily paid attention to it in games I found it fascinating to think about.

This quarter, I faced lots of challenges in working to create the two games. In the first game, our group struggled a lot with balancing the social aspects of the game as we tried to anticipate how any random combination of unique players might approach the game. We tried to print awkwardness, silence, guessing, or just general disconnect from the game which ended up being much more challenging than we anticipated. In the second game, I took on the role of head developer which ended up oncoming much more time than I expected. Since the digital component of our escape room was crucial to gameplay, I quickly became one of the only people with a birds-eye view of the entire puzzle sequence who could debug the flow and optimize for the best cohesive experience. Combining this high-level view with the low-level details of getting the actual code to work meant that I spent lots of time on this game. In combination, these two projects took up a lot of my time and contributed to my problem of falling behind on assignments to prioritize my mental health.

Moving forward, however, I would absolutely LOVE to continue developing games. I’m disappointed that at times I was too busy or overwhelmed to engage properly with the content as I know how exciting it would’ve been. That temporary disconnect won’t stop me from continuing to grow: As someone fascinated by the intersection of art and technology, I was so incredibly inspired by the small indie design studios creating this games and am definitely interested in at least hearing a little bit more about these kinds of groups and people. Next time, I would love to spend more time truly diving into a need finding process to develop a game that both my teammates and the world at large can get excited about, or more specifically games centered on emotional or learning experiences. I think games are such a deeply human place where are and technology and design all have the chance to intersect, and I would love to spend more time intentionally exploring this space.

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