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Let's get personal! (about games)

  1. Let’s get personal! (about games) @underskinnyhrt
  2. How do developers/players benefit from these games?
  3. "Games have always sort of just been there for me, not purely as escapism but also in a very productive way. They helped me deal with my struggles, and understand and prioritize goals"
  4. Linearity, agency, realism............
  5. So, like, basically, yeah.

Editor's Notes

  1. Hi! Vaida. Small experimental games about MH & relationships. The design of short, personal games and the self-care aspects of making games.’s-get-personal-about-games
  2. In the past few years, more accessible tools (Construct 2, Twine), easy hosting sites (, more people curating and reviewing small indie games. => people from different creative fields and diverse backgrounds go into games: they make games that work in unexpected ways => more freedom to experiment & less pressure as you’re making many shorter games with smaller teams, that can be small hobby projects rather than necessarily commercial. Don’t have to commit a lot of hours. => REALLY INTERESTING PERSONAL, AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL GAMES BEING BROUGHT FORWARD IN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS.
  3. Useful to define what I mean by a personal game. Quote-reply to an article about wanting more non-power fantasies in games. [READ OUT] Something that deals with topics you wouldn’t often see in blockbuster games; Games that are not afraid of vulnerability; Stems from personal experiences; Most importantly: the author is somehow strongly present in the game. The game can be abstract but still be personal.
  4. A couple of interesting examples. Twine: choose-your-own-adventure. scarfmemory: losing your scarf on the bus. Very short, but it does go into the subjects of time passing & ppl changing.
  5. Lieve Oma: going mushroom hunting in the forest with your grandma. Very relaxing; she notices when you’re sad & you talk it out.
  6. Go in-depth into DESIGN PROCESS. When designing a personal game, you’re thinking about how to best convey the experience you want to talk about, in a “game format”. In other words: you are trying to link a story, a feeling, a series of thoughts into ‘game language’: mechanics, interactions. Make the claim: going through designing a personal game is a way to process that experience and is a form of self-care.
  7. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is for Hackers “Cognitive behavioral therapists mirror hackers in how they see the world and approach problems. They share the same core values: an emphasis on problem solving as efficiently and effectively as possible, using logic to debug a system, gathering data to test out what works and what doesn’t”
  8. To illustrate this: feedback loop = CORE DESIGN PRINCIPLE OF GAMES, WHY GAMES WORK AND ARE FUN. Mario. Satisfying. Why satisfying? You figured out how to jump, what it does, maybe when to do it. => pressing/doing things, seeing what fx they have, using the newfound knowledge. In a broad sense, games are about Figuring Stuff Out -- patterns, how to optimise your score, in narrative games like Gone Home it is about understanding the story. As a designer, you have to think: In the context of a personal game, how to communicate thoughts, thought patterns/a change in emotional states through a feedback loop? How do you give the player your experience as a game to figure out/understand? Let’s look at an example.
  9. What Now? Arielle Grimes. Very short game. Walk around, slowly start glitching out, growing white noise, field of view reduced. As you move towards objects, they provide you with comfort - you get a new entry in your journal, but it’s only momentary. As you run out of objects to interact with… end. ALSO, just walking too quickly/interacting with too many objects. Just a few actions you can take: walk around, or stand next to an object; but both have very clear feedback and tell the player how it affects the character - clear that it is about sensory overload/panic attack.
  10. Game is very short, but that’s the perfect length for it. When making a tiny game, CONSTRAINTS: Cannot afford complex systems, clutter, distract player. Focus on CORE, SIMPLE mechanics. What Now? There are just a couple of mechanics in the game: how walking affects you, the visuals, the journal. But they all are essential to the experience and make it very clear.
  11. What is the point of figuring out these mechanics, the design process? Arielle Grimes, What Now? Sounds a lot like self-care.
  12. STRONGLY BELIEVE Being able to deconstruct a personal experience (ESP ONE THAT TROUBLES YOU) and understand what the core components of it were and how they influenced each other can help you process, become more self-aware and understand yourself better., bc of NEW PERSPECTIVE, by putting the emotions/feelings into mechanics, things that interact and react to each other. In my case, the games I make help me describe my mental illness to myself better. Especially since it’s something that is always changing shape and can be confusing, and it’s made up of elements such as sleep/work/social situations/etc that can react to each other in positive/negative ways. <3 interview. They mention: [..] also view 29 as a kind of self-inventory. “It’s a way to examine yourself, It’s like a ‘get to know you’ session. And you get to examine each other, too.” “Like when you’re doing the animations, Trying to learn the mannerisms of the other person” PAYING ATTENTION, because you’re translating it into a game.
  13. Not just about mechanics and deconstructing things: “the process of creating something can be a form of self–care by itself”: Cathartic. Throw things into a prototyping engine quickly, having a very long very intense development session where you’re completely focused & ending up with something that reflects your state of mind: rewarding & ultimately, might help to fully process it & let go. Cathartic 2: making games about good experiences, healing games, focusing your brain on them. [self-care jam].
  14. Might ask yourself, isn’t it an oversimplification to reduce something complex into just a few mechanics? Counterintuitive at first-- why scope it down when brain is brain is complex, MH is complex. Can’t possibly scope it down to two/three mechanics. Won’t do it justice. Actually, works out: a lot can be achieved by combining a couple of simple mechanics together, they become more meaningful than the sum of their parts. Brain works in a similar way, in that it’s composed of atomic parts that together, become complex. Example.
  15. Description. Abstract, you can interpret it however you like, but it’s pretty clear what themes it is going for. MECHANICS: clicking z to zoom in & blend; other squares attacking you when you’re not blending in; levels where it’s harder and harder to avoid not being exposed to others. Something as simple as trade-offs/balancing two things - LIM - can be very powerful and nuanced as a storytelling element. VERY simple, but thing is it doesn’t need amazing graphics or sound effects-- the goal was to communicate the feeling of having to fit in & not be true to yourself to avoid bullying.
  16. Been talking a lot about seeing a experience differently by seeing it under a ‘game lens’, boil it down to its core elements in order to figure out how to translate it into mechanics, using small components and adding them together. What about the players? Mental exercise of ‘figuring stuff out’ is also beneficial for players! > making you figure it out on your own instead of telling you about it is so powerful. they’re able to experience it by themselves and play around with what the different choices do. More impactful, they are making the choices. Why games work so well for empathy, is that generally speaking, you put the player in your shoes & in a certain context, with a set of tools and they kind of have to figure it out on their own.
  17. What Now?-- you realise that there’s a problem, you try to solve it, figure out that objects help you, but at some point you realise there is a limited amount of them, so this is not a great coping mechanism. For people who have gone through a similar experience, they’ll be able to relate, see how other people experience a similar issue, maybe understand the issue better by seeing it under a different perspective ;), feel less isolated. For people who have not gone through this experience, they might be able to understand the thought patterns better, since in order to experience the game & Figure Things Out, they had to think in a specific way that they haven’t done before. In summary, either the feeling of being understood, or the feeling of understanding.
  18. Most interesting-- intersection developer & player. Spoon Theory - disability metaphor used to explain the reduced amount of energy available for activities during the day. (wikipedia) Communication: sometimes it’s hard to talk to people, say things in words. Game can be used as an intermediary, you make a small game for a specific person to help them understand a struggle you are going through. Easier since it’s a less direct way of communicating, so sometimes you can be more honest. Player might interpret mechanics in an interesting way, and developer might discover that they subconsciously designed the game that reflects how they think about something, but didn’t realise it as they were doing it. ~similar to writing a diary (in bits) in how it helps you reflect: it might not seem to make sense at first, but if you read it after some time you can clearly see/ someone might point out how different factors relate to each other and why you designed a game in a particular way.
  19. I’d love to talk more about this but I am almost out of time. If interested, chat to me afterwards.
  20. Whether it’s about having a nice stroll through the woods or losing your scarf, we all have small stories that are worth sharing. They might help us process, and might even have the nice side-effect of helping someone, either by allowing them to relate or by helping them understand. So next time, when you feel the need to unwind, think about making a small game.