This post is aimed at discussing the factors I should consider as a designer when I try to accommodate one or more audiences and a reflection on the assumptions I may hold. As a User-Centered designer, one of my main considerations is to ensure that I design for a user, rather than myself. That means I must acknowledge certain biases which may affect the decisions I take in designing games.
I must be aware of biases I may hold as a result of my upbringing. I may hold certain political, religious, social and cognitive biases which affect not only the kinds of games I play, but also the way I play them. I should also consider these factors in my audience. Our most recent seminar discussed the use of random game idea generators, such as Orteil’s generator, which can be accessed here: http://orteil.dashnet.org/gamegen.
I should be mindful of risk in a product. Risk can be viewed as both an intrinsic or extrinsic factor (or both). A player may take a risk that the game will meet their expectations and personal assumptions. I take a risk that the product I develop will meet such expectations and assumptions and risk engaging or alienating my player. Risk can also be considered in the context of the game itself. Perhaps a game might be built around the concept of risky decisions and interaction?
It occurs to me that as many of the game ideas I’ve been contemplating of late have been looked at through the lens of uncertainty (and G. Costikyan’s excellent book, Uncertainty in Games is a great resource for this (Costikyan, 2015)), risk may also be a compelling lens through which I can look at Ideation and player experience.
Experimentation is quite likely when leaning into a game idea and pursuing one or more factors to an extreme. This does lead me to consider whether such factors as Risk and Uncertainty might be successfully pursued when they are viewed as an incremental or sliding incline.
Some fundamental questions exist for me in the context of determining my game. The core purpose of a game requires definition.
Is it for an audience?
Is it for me? if so, for what purpose?
Is it just to see what happens? to prove or disprove a theory?
For monetary gain
For commercial release? If so, what factors affect its viability?
Is it original? Has it been done before? If not, why not?
Is it to teach something? What epistemic factors may be at play?
Is it to soothe an ill? Can and should games act as panacea?
Following the initial brainstorm of my idea (see https://whimsical.com/experimental-games-7B8DKbvHusq83jhNwKwcbd.), I have concluded that my Ideation is quite weak. I had a pretty clear idea going in what I wanted to make, but this doesn’t make it a poor idea. I could also push further experimentation with iteration. I’d also like to make longevity and replayability one of my criteria for success.
Assessment and review of games can often be considered ‘biased’ when a score is involved and this can be observed particularly in the trade and game press. Dan Gilbert gives an excellent Ted talk on this, which can be viewed here: https://www.ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_why_we_make_bad_decisions?language=en and his discussion essentially comes down to the fact that whilst we are good at comparison, we are extra-ordinarily bad at estimation, from a cognitive perspective.
One assumption in particular extremely worthy of consideration is that of representation. As a designer I am aware of the importance of representation in games when it comes to gender, race, sexuality and any other number of defined and protected classes. I feel quite strongly that there is a moral aspect to representation. Not only should all people be supported and included, regardless of any particular classification, we have a moral obligation to ensure that our games engage people. All people.
I am conscious of assumptions of assumptions I may make about my product. I’m a strong proponent of divergent and emergent behaviour in games but there is a risk associated with accommodating un-prescribed behaviour; my game could be used for good, but also bad purposes. But from an experimental perspective, how can my ideation accomodating this risk and add value and weight to the design?
As a user centred designer, I’m conscious that many UX principles may be at play with my game, particularly when it comes to assessing how the user interfaces with the product. https://lawsofux.com/ is a great starting point for considering such factors.