Games have always been a huge part of my life. Some of my very first memories were playing games with my brother and cousins. They hold a special place for me whether it be video games or board games, playing them with family, friends, or even by myself. I originally had no intention of taking CS 377G when the quarter started. However, I had been intrigued with the idea of learning how to make games and got an email about openings in the class. I took a leap of fate and decided to go to the first day of class despite not having any of the prerequisites listed as necessary. In short, I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Before this class, I had only tried to make a game one or twice in high school CS classes, most of which were mindless games created in a rush to show that I could write some form of code. Despite this, I never bothered looking into game design to make games and only vaguely new of some terms thrown around from watching game conferences with the intention of finding out what new games would come out in the upcoming year.
In this class, I got to expand my vocabulary and idea of what game design actually means. I quickly realized in the first project just how little I knew about design as each article we were assigned to read contained new and valuable information to me. The article on MDAO was particularly helpful to me as I had never even heard of MDA before. Now, I tend to start designing games using MDAO instead of mindlessly going for it as I had originally started.
Playtesting is something I struggled with throughout the whole class as I’m often afraid that showing an unfinished product will be reflective of myself. However, I knew I would have to get over this as I learned games thrive on being playtested. Playtesting is so crucial to game design as some games simply need to be played to see how they work. Often times just thinking a game will work one way doesn’t mean it will actually play out the way I intended
On top of playtesting, flow was a part of game design that I knew had to exist but never put much thought into or knew the name of. Finding that balance between anxiety and boredom for a player was always hard in the projects but great to learn as it makes sure the game was fun. On the topic of fun, I didn’t know the different classifications of fun that existed when it comes to games. Knowing what they are now and how they can intersect was very helpful as it made sure I would stay focused on my goal for the games.
Although we learned this towards the end, I feel balance is something I will take with me beyond this class. Balance was a term I heard before in the gaming community but only knew in reference to a game lacking it. Learning about the different ways a game needs to be balanced was great as it made me aware of what aspects I need to have a clear idea for when it comes to the design. During P3, I often felt a bit lost about what or why to emphasize certain mechanics over others. Now I know that my team was pushing for this in order to ensure a better balance for the gameplay.
The projects that I made in this class were all extremely beneficial to me as they showed me how many different ways there are to create a serious game. Making an educational game was difficult for me as I still had this notion that a serious game needed a serious topic, which is what I did for P1. This class showed me that this doesn’t have to be the case and that a serious game is just a game that has a purpose beyond entertainment. This has opened up the way I view games as I now realize how much can be done with them.
This class also reminded me how games encompasses so much beyond video games. Board games are an extremely viable form of play that I had forgotten in recent years as my family stopped playing them and friends primarily played video games. This class reminded me just how fun a board game can be and how great they are when it comes to serious games. The class also showed me how great they are as prototypes for any kind of game. I definitely gained a greater appreciation for the medium after taking CS 377G.
Overall, CS 377G was an amazing learning experience. While I struggled immensely all throughout, I know that everything I learned in this class will stick with me from now on when I make games in the future. I’ll make sure to apply everything I learned about mechanics, flow, and balance into games I make in the future and to playtest as often as I can with whoever I can.