Before the class, I’ve never given a serious thought about game design. I enjoy games, both board game and video games, such as Catan, Zelda, and PUBG (the shooting game that I currently enjoy, even though this non-changing shooting topic has received a lot of critiques in our class’ readings). However, I’ve never thought about how games were designed, why they were addictive, what was fun for each game and what was the inspiration. Not to mention designing for “serious games”, I have not even heard about the terminology before.
I thought the readings and videos that we sketchnoted were really helpful. They were carefully selected to cover general big pictures to detailed playtesting scenarios so that we could be exposed to aspects in game design right away. The pace of the class was running really fast. Two sketchnotes in a week and one game plus a report every two weeks were a little bit overwhelming in the beginning, but we got the chance to explore more sides of games.
I remember in the very beginning of the class, we did a re-design on the game Tic-Tac-Toe in a really short amount of time. I came up with a two-step version of Tic-Tac-Toe with the first step is drawing the face and the second step to be the hair, a person is a face plus the hair, and whoever gets 3 people in a row wins the game. I worried about the winning ratio for this Tic-Tac-Toe I designed. In the class, when I playtested with the other classmate, we had fun. However, later when I excitedly told my boyfriend about the first game I designed, my boyfriend, who is really good with logic and math, pointed out the game was really imbalanced as the second person would always win.
Even though later I have learned that we could list out all the options in one step and write all the steps in one of the readings, I think the logic or calculating the winning side is still my weak spot in game design. The other technique I learned to target the game balancing is solo playtesting. However, later I learned through my solo brainstorming playtesting and reading, it is difficult to test hidden information games and games that require players to negotiate or bluff with the solo tests.
When I was brainstorming for P3, one of the ideas I developed was to model the tensions between peer pressures in working environments. However, this game had hidden information — players would draw “finished work” or “didn’t finish work” cards and kept their working status card hidden from each other. Also, that game would base on social cues include bluffing, guessing and deceiving because players need to tell other players if they are going home or staying to finish the work. If everyone is staying or leaving, then we don’t need to do a peer review, but otherwise, they need to identify the “worst performance employee” among the players. It could have been a fun system to work on, but I couldn’t figure out the mechanics and logic, so our group decided to develop another system.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO CUT IDEAS
I think in design fields in general, there is a curve. When you started your first couple projects in this field, you wanted to inject all your ideas in one project, later you would feel like you were running out of ideas. The results were pieces that didn’t have main sparks because everything was briefly touched and there was no focus. I often call these pieces “spoiled kids”. This happened in my P2 — the IF, when I was dragged by my original “spoiled kid” idea and couldn’t move forward. After I talked with Chris and cut the heavy piece, I felt much relieved and moved on smoothly.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve never heard of the term “serious games” before, after I took this class, I really appreciate this “serious games” focus. Usually, people think games are fun and serious things such as global warming or social justice were not fun. We could alter this stereotype through the games and educate people through games. The difficulty is similar to embed rules in the game since rules are part of education too.
I think “How I Get My Mom to Play Plant vs Zombies” is a great inspiration not only for teaching rules in a game but also for education in games. However, I still found it to be really difficult to embed the rules in game pieces. In our P4 — Recidivism, even though we introduced the game boxes, a game mat and individual mats with instructions to cut the length of rules, but players still think the rules are really loooog and hard to digest.
I’m really happy with the final product we came up with for Recidivism. I’m glad that I’ve experienced stages of game design, from brainstorming to final graphic/product design. When I go to make games in the future, I will keep game balance, idea balance and education balance in mind.
THANK YOU for the amazing quarter!