I came into this class with a bit of game design knowledge given that I have previously taken CS 247G. I found Design for Play a fascinating introduction to the realm of game design and decided that I wanted to learn more about developing games that provided players not only fun but also lessons about the world that they live in. So I walked into CS 377G with that one goal in mind, and now that I am at the end of ten weeks, I feel confident that the games that I have developed will help people notice parts of the world that they have not thought about before.
Projects & Lessons Learned
P1 was definitely an interesting experience. It took a couple weeks to get back into the rhythm of being able to work with randomly assigned team members, but that project taught me so many lessons regarding how to communicate and negotiate with team members with contrasting personality types. Aside from team dynamics, looking back, I acknowledge that “Cooking Conundrum” has very basic game mechanics. Though the theme and design were adorable, players could primarily switch between a few actions: 1) Draw ingredients, 2) Trade/buy ingredients, and 3) Cook Recipes. Throughout our playtests, it was evident that players got bored and unmotivated after a few rounds. Since the mechanics lacked complexity, the rounds were slow, the needed ingredients were difficult to accumulate, and players struggled to win in a reasonable period of time. From developing “Cooking Conundrum,” I learned that complex mechanics do not exist for the sake of complexity but serve to motivate players to stay engaged and care about the game over time.
I really enjoyed P2 as well. I had never heard of the genre of interactive fiction before P2, and getting to incorporate storytelling and creative plot lines into a game proved that writing could be fun. I took ENGLISH 91, Creative Nonfiction, this quarter, and P2 gave me an opportunity to take a break from nonfiction and dive more into the genre of fiction instead. In “Eternal Bargain,” the player navigates a society where lifetime years had turned into a commodity and can be bought or sold. This concept was inspired by my desire to write an interactive fiction that encapsulates what it feels like to live a strongly capitalist dystopia where everything is commoditized. I hope that my P2 alludes to some tragic realities in our world right now and warns players against a world run by money. “Eternal Bargain” was fun to write though it was initially daunting to realize that interactive fictions are often much longer than novels due to the branching paths and multiple endings.
I found P3 to be the most useful project this quarter. The lectures on designing games to represent real-world systems were incredibly interesting, especially the one about the different arcs and loops that a systems game could operate on. Our team also made more changes while iterating on P3 than the other projects. All of our team members were genuinely passionate about making a game that was fun and represented the real-world spread of misinformation, so we took playtest feedback very seriously and were willing to make drastic changes to our prototype between playtests. I think this dedication was what made my P3 team particularly great. We had team members with different skillsets and we communicated effectively in distributing tasks especially when some people were having a more difficult week than others. The mechanics of “Truth or Troll” meshed well together as players took on hidden roles, wrote true and “clickbaity” headlines, voted for the best headlines, got punished for spreading information, and accumulate followers and credibility.
Since P3 was particularly successful, I decided to group with two other team members from P3 to improve “Truth or Troll” in P4. As we are nearing the end, we have already made many changes with an emphasis on better visual design and improved game mechanics. As the team member with the most UX design experience, it was exciting to take full control over our game design, and I am super excited for the teaching team to see our game box.
Conclusion & Future Plans
Overall, it was nice to take another game design class and learn how to model games after the workings of the real world. Although the classes were long, I understood the importance of playtesting and how time-consuming iterating for a board game can be. In the future, I hope to design more board games on my own time and maybe launch one on KickStarter. I also plan on apply my game design knowledge moving forward in my career journey as a UX Designer.
In terms of general feedback, I wish that there was less overlap between CS 247G and CS 377G. At the end, I got unique lessons out of this class, but in the first few weeks, it was a bit redundant to relearn sketching, sketch-noting, MDA, and basic fundamentals to game design.