Mae TidmanApril 29, 2010LCC 4725 - Game Design as a Cultural PracticeBlogpost 6: Design Reflection. 1000 words. Describe the ways in which you applied thereadings and core concepts learned in the class to your final project. Focus on your own personalinterests and contribution to the project. Design Reflection: 4 teh lulz’s Natural Rivalry For my final writing assignment, I will consider my game design process over the courseof this semester in relation to the readings, lectures, and other experiences involved with thisadvanced studio course. Before beginning this game design course, I did not even realize that I was predisposed toa realization of the hegemony of play as explained in the Ludica reading of the same title. Ourgame is a reaction to the hegemony of play; this is most apparently through my character assets,which I took the liberty of designing as a playable African girl and a Chinese (or more generallyAsian) male playable character. This was my attempt at appealing to more than just boys andgirls, gamers and non-gamers, but also to step ahead of the standard by representing people whoare often ignored through the game industry, especially in the way I designed them. For example,the male was drawn to look like a recognizably Asian character with Asian traits. I have noticedthat in most anime and anime-like games developed by the Japanese, traits such as narrow eyesand dark hair are often if not always excluded. Another important point about anti-hegemony inmy team’s game is the point of the game: fighting over natural assets. This is something thateveryone in the world faces and has been a huge concern for developed nations since the firstventures for world exploration. This global topic should be easily transferrable across nationaland cultural boundaries, which is something I have also studied this semester in my global cinemacourse and was happy to apply here. I would like to admit one disappointment I have with our game is that we were limited tothe point of not getting around to coding AI for single player gameplay. Henry Jenkins points outin his essay on video games as gendered spaces that, “Video games play with us, a never tiringplaymate.” (pg 332). Natural Rivalry could have been a much more well-rounded, complex, andadvanced game had we had the choice open for single or multi-player gameplay. With that said, Ifeel it is also important to note that our game may be simple as far as art and core mechanic go,and perhaps we could have been more ambitious; but I feel like we successfully decided onsomething doable and had expected to have time left over to improve it. Perhaps if we had pushedourselves a little further we would have been able to add more to the game, but as is I think itstands out as a statement against the hegemony of play and is more fun than most Flash gamesand even some Wii games that I have played. Our game also involved inspiration via the gendered spaces essay by Ludica. Thefollowing quote in particular is something I as the primary artist would like to make note of: "Incontrast with earlier more abstract forms of expression in digital games, there is a tendency withinthe game industry today to focus on the production of "realistic" representations of space…" (p.2)In Natural Rivalry we notably step away from any realistic representations of space, creating amore youthful and cartoony game space that could appeal to boys and girls of hopefully a rangeof ages. This was completely intentional and even agreed upon early on in initial brainstormingsessions. There is nothing dangerous about our game space and if anything we tried to createmultiple endings to appeal to different players (most obviously boys against girls but alsoindustrialization versus the green movement, adults versus children, and even culture versusanother culture).
Our metaphoric representation of natural resources through animated animal non-playable characters (NPCs) is something I personally (as the artist) hope was an easy metaphor to“get” in contrast to the more difficult metaphors briefly described in Donald Norman’s onlinearticle. If anything the metaphors in our game helped create the theme and underlying messagesexpressed above. Conventional usage as explained by Norman was completely followed. WASDand arrow keys for the two-player interactions as well as collision with obstacles and not withmoving animals are all conventions I would expect others to expect of a game. Using words toour advantage (as detailed in the second principle for screen interfaces of the Norman reading) orsimple feedback would have made the gameplay even better, because the player would have hadfeedback during play resulting in a more engaging and interesting gameplay. Our instructionscreen gives desired controls can be readily perceived and interpreted for our “easy to use design”(Norman). Previous experience in a more thorough iterative design process would have greatlybenefitted our team’s project; with that said, now that we have all been exposed to this I think thenext time around will be even more intuitive from preivous experience. The questions that couldhave emerged through more iterations or at least more testing would have been beneficial tounderstand our underlying goal with this game and how to get that across better. We werecertainly successful in a fairly frank and obvious way, but the use of more interesting andthought-provoking metaphors (as described by Norman) and art aesthetics could have helped ourtheme get across in a much more artistic and successful way. From what I gather from this quote,“To design a game is to construct a set of rules. But the point of game design is not to haveplayers experience rules -- it is to have players experience play.” (Zimmerman) I think that weachieved the experience of play is the simple form of versus or challenge. I have seen manydifferent kinds of games throughout this semester from my experiences at the TASP conference(especially the keynote by Bernie DeKoven) and through Professor Pearce’s in class lecturepresentations, and I am pleased with our game in relation to others in that it is playable,potentially fun and rewarding – whether that reward comes from simple success over opponent orthe giggles that may ensue upon reaching the win screens – to more than one type of player andspecifically aimed at the minority players. I would also like to note that I completely agree withZimmerman’s point: “The principles of the iterative process are clearly applicable beyond thelimited domain of games,” because I think this is applicable with probably all of my projects atGeorgia Tech and especially in the field of computational/digital/new media. The reading by Nicole Lazzaro brought several points to my attention that would havebeen beneficial before our initial brainstorming sessions. Throughout this course there have beenmultiple readings discussing play and what constitutes as play, but here she is specificallyaddressing fun and “Why We Play Games” (the title). Had we been exposed to this before, wemay have been able to come up with a more fun game with a higher replay quality. Our game iscertainly neither hard fun nor easy fun, but could possibly fit into the altered state as an escapefrom boredom – although this is not my official conclusion of our game because I have yet to useit for the purposes of alleviating boredom. Since it is two-player, one could expect there to besome sort of “People Factor”, at least from the “personal recognition that comes from playingwith other people.” (Lazzarro pg 7). This was recognizable from our playtesting sessions,especially with players blocking one another via our collision design. Other than that, I will admitthat our game is probably lacking in the fun department; but that is not to say it is not aworthwhile game for reasons that transcend fun – such as art and declaration of ideals andappeals. In conclusion of this final writing assignment and this course, I can only say that I ammore than happy with every aspect of my game, be it the team we formed during a fun exercise inclass, the concept we came up with and how the final version meets the expectations we held forourselves, the repeated fact that it goes against the hegemony of play that has bothered me for
years, my peer’s numerous compliments to the first game art assets, and the experience of going through the entire game design process with a team of peers that became friends. I feel great about this game and am excited to post a link to my portfolio; but what is more than that is the fact that I have grown so much over the course of this semester, more than I could have ever predicted. I am pleased to admit that that growth is apparent throughout my writing assignments and ultimately to this point here. This class has been an amazing experience, and it has propelled my life in a more interesting and enthusiastic direction toward the study of games, gaming cultures, and of course game design. ResourcesFron et al (Ludica). “The Hegemony of Play.” In Situated Play: Proceedings of Digital Games Research Association 2007 Conference. Tokyo, Japan, September 2007. Web.Fullerton et al (Ludica). “A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space.” In Proceedings, Digital Arts & Culture 2007. Perth, Australia, September 2007. Web.Jenkins, Henry. “Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Spaces.” The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Ed. Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. 330-363. Print.Lazzaro, Nicole. (2004) “Why We Play Games: Four Keys to More Emotion Without Story.” Web.Norman, Donald A. (2004). “Affordances and design.” Web. <http://www.jnd.org>Zimmerman, Eric. (2003). “Play as research: The iterative design process.” Web.