Final Class Reflection!

I walked into this class not as a game designer, but as a gamer and a designer. These two separate segments of my identity rarely intersected. I was a reflective designer, but not a reflective gamer, meaning that my purpose for play was to maneuver my ways through set boundaries to complete the quest, level, or goal at hand. This meant mindlessly drilling practice bots in Valorant, speedrunning quests in Genshin Impact by repeatedly tapping the dialogue boxes to skip the story, and finding shortcuts in Minecraft to get to the End the same day the world was created. I didn’t look back to reflect on any of my past achievements in these games and was incessantly forward looking, but that’s just my own form of play – I’m a competitive completionist speedrunner (what a mouthful). As a result, my idea of efficient game design was slightly warped, as I thought of the end before the beginning. I generalized my idea of “fun” to be the standard, believing that the best games are those where the player has a strong desire to win and beat. 

This, however, meant that my idea of the game development process involved aligning all the mechanics with the win condition and treating aesthetics and story as “fluff”. The true interdependencies of narrative storytelling, mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics I had learned much later through the shortcomings of our first game and by playing several others for critical plays. Our first couple of iterations of our card game showed errors in ensuring succinctness in the mechanics as well as simplicity for the player. We designed for an aesthetic that we aimed for, discovered the dynamics we wanted to foster, and implemented mechanics we thought were fit. This order was incorrect and led to an overly complex game that felt separated between its theme and its mechanics. Games should not feel one dimensional in this way, and instead, we focused on building meaning in our mechanics while keeping it simple. Through this, we had to let go of previous ideals and visions to create something that would feel succinct… leading directly to the importance of embedding narratives, storytelling, and the significance of the player role. 

Considering the player’s role was pertinent not only to puzzle making and level building, but also to enhancing the user experience by designing for the player instead of the game – that was our prior mistake. For our second game, we considered the mechanics we wanted to implement, the greek mythology narrative we wanted to embed, and for the first time, I found myself reflecting on all parts of our story from beginning to end. Our story acted in waves, and there were a variety of emotions we sought to evoke from our players that we hadn’t considered before. Maintaining tension throughout the story while balancing difficulty was a challenge, but we wanted to tell a story that people would want to replay and reflect on as well. This type of fun was something I haven’t dabbled in or considered before, but after playing my own game, I realized that I cared more about it being fun rather than it being complete. In my own experiences with games, the short term satisfaction of a winning screen with confetti could never amount to the hours I spent running around doing my individual tasks or the journey I took to get to the end. Ultimately, this class had redefined my definition of fun. 

For my future games, I want to re-explore this push and pull of player and designer agency, level difficulty and design, and re-center the gameplay on the player experience. I want to be able to tell a story that feels complete, with a journey of emotions the player would feel satisfied with. Learning from my prior mistakes, I would start small and build up, staying true to what the initial vision of my game really is instead of overloading it purely for the sake of “completion” or “aesthetics.”

Now, as I take a moment to reflect upon this course, I have now reached a point where I can say I completed the quests CS247G gave me and have beaten the class. There were level redos, rage quits, and too many energy drinks but it was an experience like no other – I felt truly immersed in my role as a game designer. It was a good run, and most importantly, I had fun. 


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