Camping out in the foothills of Game Design Mountain

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I started writing this blog originally to document myself making a game. But, after trying to do something on my own, I quickly realized how truly challenging game making is. I learned that coding is not my strong suit too. In fact, everything I did code-wise, I completely forgot in about two or three days. Since failing miserably at coding I just decided that if I had the time and energy for it, I’d do a bit of writing about games and gaminess. I didn’t really have any plan, I just would do what moved me. Sometimes I’ve had the compunction to talk about a specific game that blew me away or had some amazing qualities to it, but most of the time I wanted to dig into a game’s design. For example, my Bloodborne post wasn’t just an analysis that took only from the story itself, my main goal was to analyze the how the developers created meaning with game mechanics and then I used that understanding as a key to unlocking the story.

Recently, I’ve gone through and read Dan Cook’s entire 12-year (at the time of my writing this post) design blog and watched more than a couple of his amazing talks and realized that this is the kind of stuff that I’m crazy for. Another blogger asked me if I was a game designer because I was talking about it with them and that got me thinking. Like a bolt of lighting, I realized that holy crap!, game design specifically is what I’m interested in! Its the subject of game design/game design theory that keeps coming back in my posts, without me considering it to be anything too particularly important. Now, after 53 posts here on my blog, I can say that with that help, I’ve discovered that I love game design. I can also say that I know very little about it as I’m not a game designer.

I’m not really interested in games journalism, game reviewing, or coding, or making music/SFX, or writing stories per se … its the meaning of- and the creation/implementation of rules and how they compliment the other elements, that really draws me in. But I don’t just want to say that its the mechanics. There’ s something more than mechanics, as there’s more to paintings than paint… there’s game designs that can evoke profound and impactful moments within players, like in Inside’s secret ending, or FF4’s Mt. Ordeals moment of self-transformation, or the sheer joy of laughing with family at the dinner table over a game of Sorry!. That too is game design.

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Of course, I’m interested in a great deal of many important things, native studies, public administration, literature, religion, media studies, psychology, sociology, philosophy, science… and all sorts of other stuff, but this has been one thing that has been bugging me for awhile.

Anyhow, it’s definitely a relief to know this about myself, as I’ve felt haunted and a bit exhausted with this compulsion to blindly keep digging into what games are and do. I have a hard enough job in real life and plenty of things to do on my plate, but I often find myself waking up early and saying up late, just to continue researching into games, without even being sure what it was that I was trying to find! I just knew there was something in there that I wanted. Yeah, I’ve been pretty obsessed.

I suppose I can take in a deep breath and stop obsessing now. I found what I was looking for. I find myself collapsed at the bottom of an enormous mountain that lacks any guarantees, a mountain fraught with peril and all manner of challenge. However, I’m quite happy just to know just which mountain it is I’ve been searching for all this time, within the mountain range of game development. We all start somewhere and I just happened to have started verrrrry far away from the mountain range, and this mountain in particular.

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I might have to take a vacation here in the foothills, stock up, gather my wits and do a bit of lowlands sight-seeing before I choose my next adventure. Wish me luck!

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