Conversations with Creative Game Designers — Pop Junctions

Below are six lessons that summarize what we can learn about game design from our conversation with designers:

(1) Use game storytelling to solve power issues in daily life. Artist-researcher Zoyandre Street, describes how they tackle the systematic injustice and power issues that emerge in daily life through storytelling and game design. As someone who identifies as a neurodivergent and genderqueer trans man and who designs indie games for audience engagements, she sees storytelling as a way to raise awareness of gender or the experience of neurodivergent people by designing interactions with games for the public. Through such engagement with games as a medium, Zoynader explains, games “become a social object like another work of art when in public.”

(2) Learn the tools of online communities and use them to build a new world. game developer Liz Fiacco talked about the possibilities that games create for experimenting with character creation, rules, and world-building in game design. She claimed that learning technological tools for game development and modding games can be learned in online communities and in collaboration with various people who can contribute their expertise in game design and game development. Liz mentioned that some games come with tools that allow participants in the game ecology (e.g. gamers, programmers) to customize the game to their own needs. Modding games, she described, “are empowering and an expression of yourself.”

(3) Take game design beyond programming to include aesthetics and visuals as the language of storytelling. We also interviewed Momo Pixel, a multidisciplinary artist and video game designer. Momo Pixel is the creator of Hair Nah Arcade, which she describes as “a video game about a black woman tired of people touching her hair.” In her work, Momo Pixel uses various techniques that focus on aesthetics and inspiration from everyday life. For example, she uses pixel art as a storytelling language in game design.

(4) Consider designing intentional functionality between players to connect, build relationships, and collaborate. Cooper Sanghyun Yoo is an Assistant Professor and Creative Technical Director based in Seoul, South Korea. Cooper introduced us to the idea of ​​designing games intentionally to enhance player interactions and collaborations. While it uses technologies like virtual reality for its games, it centers the social interactions between players.

(5) Transform the ecology of play by writing the stories you want to see in games and the design experiences you hope to play, for example, by centering the experiences of black creators rather than reinforcing the design space of game as a predominantly white space. Author and educator Malik Toms, who teaches science fiction, told us about his experience as a speculative fiction writer for game design. Malik described his own experience of not finding someone “like him” in the game’s ecology. It was this lack of narratives with black protagonists that made him decide to do this kind of work and tell stories that bring different perspectives into games.

(6) Collaborate with others in the production process and combine storytelling with acting, story and culture. In our conversation with Tracy Fullerton, game designer, teacher, and author, we talked about his approach combining storytelling, play, and the connection between art and technology to create games that represent diverse human experiences, histories, and cultures. Such an approach is made possible by teamwork that enriches the process of storytelling and building the games. Examples of games she has created are Waldena game that takes a narrative-based game-playing approach to exploring the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his independent living experience at Walden Pond.


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