CS 247G was a formative class in my understanding of game design and development. Before this class, my understanding of game design came from an engineering perspective. I never considered the mechanics of games originating from design thinking. Instead, I always believed the mechanics and dynamics of game design to be children of the engineering of the game. In CS 247G, I learned that the software of a game is actually a function of the design of the game; it is merely an interface between the vision of the designers and the players. One of the class concepts which stuck with me was the types of fun and how they are comprised of different ratios of mechanics and dynamics. Principles such as sound design, controller interfaces, colors and speed, and randomness fluctuate between different types of fun. Different types of fun evoke different emotions which make us experience games in different ways.
One of the aspects of CS 247G which I found challenging were the critical plays. While I found sketchnotes to be valuable (even though I don’t consider myself an artist), I found it difficult to play a game critically and then write an essay about it. There was a delicate balance between writing about a game critically, and writing like a designer. When playing games, I found it easy to focus on the logic and controls as opposed to the narrative and visual design. Games like Plants vs. Zombies cater more to skill and challenge, while walking simulators have freeform narrative which encourage the player to get lost in the story.
Over the course of the class, I learned how to play a game like a designer. While it was still formative to play a game like an engineer, playing like a designer helped me tie course concepts to real life applications. Playing like a designer changed the way I thought about my P2 project. I have played hundreds of hours on Minecraft servers, but rarely have a I thought about the importance of maps, portals, clues, and how they contribute to the fun of the game. It became evident why certain Minecraft servers made design decisions I had always thought pointless, and why pointless design decisions don’t exist on the funnest servers.
Like all of the HCI core classes, CS 247G was fundamental in my development as a human-centered designer and engineer. Designing with humans in the loop is the most important lesson I have gained from the 247 classes. At some stage or another, every system we develop impacts a human’s life, and that interaction should be the crux we design for.