I actually only started playing games during the beginning of the pandemic and had begun as a way to fit in with my friends who were all gaming as a way to bond online. I fell in love with games quickly after starting. I appreciated them for the total artwork that they were and I especially admired the games that were developed by one individual–like Cave Story and Undertale–because it was unbelievable that they had created not only the gameplay, but the music and sound design, the visuals, the story, etc. Coming into this class, it was this type of full experience that I was excited about and something I wanted to create. Despite my excitement, before coming into this class, this was more of a dream than a goal. I was sure there was no place for me in the game industry–I hadn’t gone to school for game design, I hadn’t been building games since I was in high school, and I hadn’t even been playing games until a year ago. And also I am a girl and I’d heard terrible things about misogyny in the field. I created two games during the pandemic before taking this class and they reflected my notion of game design at the time–you think up a cool mechanic, add in a story and some art and then work out the bugs along the way.
In this class, I learned that that notion of game design is far too linear and that the actual process is a lot messier. Through playtesting I learned so much from playtesters about the drastic difference between my conception of the game as a developer and their conception of the game as a playtester. I learned that immersing someone into a completely new world means giving them a comprehensive guide on what this world is and how to interact in it. One of the most interesting videos I watched in class was onboarding, told from the creator of Plants vs. Zombies. There was so much nuance that I never realized had to go into simply getting your players not only familiar with the controls, but immersing them into the landscape of the game. That video also taught me that learning for a player doesn’t have to end before the ‘real game’ begins, and in fact, it goes much smoother when the onboarding lasts throughout the game. This way, players never feel overwhelmed by the information and advanced mechanics can be saved for later on. I ended up using this information in the second game I created for this class with my team, by giving players useful tips when they were unsure about what they were supposed to be doing (steering the ship, delivering a package to the right area). We also sprinkled useful hints on getting other endings.
Another topic I loved learning about was designing games for building friendship. This video had altered my perception of multiplayer and online games and added a dimension to game design I never thought about–real human dynamics. People online can be mean and scary but they can also be kind and helpful. It all depends on the environment you put them in. Daniel Cook talks about creating game environments that promote trust building and working together. Although I didn’t create a multiplayer game for this class, I am working on a project now that is aimed at capturing the presence of multiple digital bodies online. This type of experience necessitates friendly interaction between strangers and I’m looking towards the tips from this video to create this. Specifically, I’ve actually forgone a chat feature, since it’s not a game and I don’t have a repetitive level feature that allows for viewers to gain trust over time–interactions are intended as a one time occurrence. However, Daniel talks about interactions that can occur between strangers that remain the cloak of anonymity. For this, I intend to use abstract notions of chatting–a viewer can alert to another that they are around by chirping. There is no expressivity to it and so there is no propensity for mean-spirited conversations.
During this class, I felt insecure about my role in my final project. I was in charge of sound design and music, and helped out in parts of the code. I felt insecure that the sound design was merely an additional flair that anyone could add at the end and so I felt pretty useless. However, the last week of class assured me that my role had a purpose when I learned that sound design was integral to the emotions of the player. It reassured me that the hours that I spent trying to find the perfect dialogue beep was not a waste, and that it went a long way into the world building of the game. This class has done a lot to reassure me that I have a place in game design, whether it be in a big company (probably not) or just building games on the side (either independently or with a group of friends).