Final Reflection Essay

Before enrolling in CS377G, my knowledge of creating a game from scratch was minimal. My background was predominantly in iteration, testing, and feedback, concepts I had picked up in previous HCI courses. System design, immersion, game mechanics, and understanding game loops were areas I had little to no experience in. Therefore, the prospect of developing a game seemed daunting, if not entirely out of reach.

However, this class turned out to be a pivotal experience for me! The process of creating all of my games was filled with challenges, learnings, and surprising discoveries. It was a rollercoaster of many iterations, filled with highs and lows, doubts about its feasibility, playability, and the level of engagement it would evoke. There were moments when I questioned whether the game would be fun or if it would resonate with players.

Despite these uncertainties, each project evolved to become games that not only I am proud of but also became favorites for many. The games struck a balance between being complex, fun, and educational.  The game’s development process made me feel like a real game developer, providing me with hands-on experience and insights that were both enriching and empowering.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned was how to effectively use playtest feedback for iteration. Each round of feedback was a golden opportunity to refine and enhance the game. I also gained a deeper understanding of how to immerse players within the “magic circle” of the game, creating an environment where they could temporarily step into a different world and experience new perspectives through art, storytelling, and design.

Additionally, this class taught me how to create a systems game that mirrors real-world scenarios and complexities. Balancing the dynamics, mechanics, and aesthetics of the game was a challenging yet rewarding process. It required a thoughtful approach to ensure that each element worked together to create a holistic and exciting gaming experience.

In conclusion, this game design class was one of the most valuable courses I have taken at Stanford. It went beyond theoretical knowledge, allowing me to create an actual product that underwent numerous iterations and transformations. The experience not only increased my confidence in game development but also equipped me with a rich set of skills and knowledge that I will carry forward in my future endeavors. The journey of creating all three of my games was a testament to the power of perseverance, thoughtfulness, and creativity in crafting a successful game.

Throughout the course, I developed three games: “Behind Closed Eyes”, “Truth or Troll”, and “Kittyopolis”.

Behind Closed Eyes:

Developing “Behind Closed Eyes” was an enlightening and deeply personal endeavor. This project grew beyond an assignment; it became a channel for addressing a significant social issue—school bullying in South Korea—that I hold close to me, especially after hearing firsthand experiences from a friend who endured such hardships.

The distressing story of my friend, who faced bullying in Korea, was a catalyst, compelling me to delve deeper into this societal problem. The startling statistics on bullying in South Korean schools and the emergence of the “Hakpok #MeToo” movement also fueled my desire to contribute to the conversation and use the medium of gaming as a platform for awareness, empathy, and change.

The core of the game was to immerse players in the reality of bullying, making them face the consequences of their choices in a simulated environment. The irreversible decision-making mechanic, where players are locked into roles based on their actions, was designed to mimic the permanence of such choices in real life. Observing playtesters’ reactions to this aspect was both validating and revealing, affirming the game’s potential to elicit strong emotional responses.

Introducing socio-economic status as a factor in the game added a layer of realism and complexity, mirroring the intricate social dynamics of bullying. The feedback from playtesters was extremely helpful in refining this aspect, ensuring the game’s authenticity and depth in portraying how socio-economic backgrounds can dictate responses to bullying.

Moreover, the iterative process of playtesting was a crucial learning experience. Each round of feedback led to significant improvements, from integrating real-world statistics to enhancing the socio-economic dimensions. The introduction of a typing simulator for the lower socio-economic status character was particularly impactful, symbolizing the character’s feeling of powerlessness and lack of agency.

Reflecting on the entire process, “Behind Closed Eyes” has been an emotional and insightful journey into the intersection of gaming, education, and social issues. This project has reinforced my belief in the power of interactive media as a tool for fostering empathy and understanding. It has been a journey of growth, not only in developing a meaningful game but also in gaining a real understanding of the deep complexities surrounding bullying and bystanderism.


Truth or Troll:

Working on “Truth and Troll” was a fun and insightful experience for me, one that expanded my understanding of the digital information landscape and the nuances of game design. This project evolved from a simple idea into a sophisticated game that skillfully mirrors real-world complexities.

Our journey began with a simple prototype, a “Cards Against Humanity” mod focused on identifying fake news and credible sources. The feedback on our first prototype was a bit discouraging; peers mentioned that the game didn’t seem like a “system”. I remember feeling quite unsure about how to create a game that accurately reflected the intricate ecosystem of digital information. But this challenge was what made the process rewarding.

After many brainstorming meetings, one of our team members pitched a few innovative game mechanics, like assigning roles like journalists, activists, bots, and politicians. These roles were not just characters in a game; they represented the diverse players in the online world, each with unique goals, motivations, and strategies. This setup created a dynamic and engaging gameplay environment that went beyond just winning or losing—it was about understanding and navigating the digital world.

What really stood out to me was the way our game mechanics dovetailed to replicate the online ecosystem. The tension between maintaining credibility and gaining followers became the center of the gameplay. As a player, I was constantly juggling the need to craft accurate headlines to build credibility and sensational ones to attract followers. This balancing act was not only strategic but also reflective of the real-world dilemmas faced by those who disseminate information online.

Ecosystem modeling was another aspect that stood out to me. Unveiling facts about the news topic progressively, alongside the introduction of announcement cards, effectively simulated the fluid nature of online information. It taught players the value of staying adaptable and informed in a world where information is always evolving.

Through developing “Truth and Troll,” I’ve grown immensely. It made me realize that doubt is very normal in the creative process, and not every iteration will bring about positive feedback. And because we received sharp but clear feedback, we were able to pivot swiftly and work on creating a better game!



Creating “Kittyopolis” turned out to be a delightful surprise and one of my favorite projects ever. Honestly, I never imagined I’d be behind such a cute and engaging game that not only entertains but educates. This game became my favorite creation, a testament to how a simple idea can transform into a playful yet impactful tool for learning.

What started as a board game project became a favorite project of mine primarily because it exceeded my expectations in every way. “Kittyopolis” wasn’t just a game; it was a playable, cooperative, competitive, strategic experience. Its ability to mimic the complexities of urban planning in a fun and accessible way was something I hadn’t foreseen when we began.

The feedback from playtesters was overwhelmingly positive and enlightening. Players appreciated the balance between cooperation and competition, mirroring real-world decision-making and the incentives that drive urban development. The game’s design allowed for varied strategies, providing a dynamic gaming experience. It was gratifying to hear that the game was easier to learn and more relaxing to play than anticipated. The custom-made game pieces, including 3D printed and laser-cut items, added a unique touch, enhancing the overall “magic-circle” experience. 

One aspect that stood out was how “Kittyopolis” fostered social dynamics. The overlapping objectives across players encouraged interaction and collaboration, which players found engaging and fun. The blend of competitive and cooperative elements in the game led to interesting strategies and alliances. 

The encouragement from playtesters, like suggestions to sell the game, was heartening. Their enjoyment and engagement with “Kittyopolis” validated the effort and creativity put into the game! Reflecting on this journey, “Kittyopolis” has become a cherished project. It was a learning curve in understanding game dynamics, player psychology, and the art of combining fun with learning. The experience of creating “Kittyopolis” has been a highlight in my creative endeavors, inspiring me to continue exploring the vast potential of game design (and possibly selling the game!!).

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