A Case Study in (Not) Giving Up

For my prototyping course in my first semester of grad school, we were tasked with creating a non-digital game that contained strategy and meaningful play. Turns out, it’s not as easy as it sounds. There was a distinct moment I had when developing my first prototype when I questioned whether or not I belonged in my program.

I had been working on my original idea for a few weeks and I just kept adding and adding mechanics in an attempt to make choices for players to make, at the time mistaking choices for meaningful play. I took a pause in what I was doing and looked at what I had so far. I was not happy with what I saw. I saw a weak core mechanic drowning in the middle of way too many peripheral mechanics. I had a moment of doubt, thinking “they’ve accepted me into this program by mistake - I have no idea what I’m doing”.

As quickly as the thought sparked in my brain, I was at the ready with an extinguisher. “You do belong here - you just have to prove it”. I stepped away from my work for about an hour to read some extra material on prototyping and iteration. (Shout out to Tracy Fullerton - her excellent chapter dedicated to prototyping in Game Design Workshop helped save the day). Sitting back down with new eyes, I began hacking away at all of the fluff until I got to my core mechanic, refined it to a point that I felt was workable and then tested out peripherals until I found three that I felt made sense.

This first instance in growing pains was a defining moment for me. All other roadblocks I’d faced in my career and education prior to this seemed like training so that when I came this roadblock, I would be ready to quickly brush it off and work the problem. In short, I feel that this case study demonstrates my attitude to problems or situations when I feel I’m out of my depth; I research and I work the problem.