The importance of story

This semester, my group is working on a transformational game for the non-profit Games for Change. We were given the controversial topic of gun violence in America, which was really difficult to come up with an idea for. Of course, we did eventually settle with an idea. I covered our brainstorming and idea evaluation process in a previous post, which I strongly encourage anybody who is working on a transformational game to read.

The goal of our game is to get the audience to understand the motivations and communicate respectfully with others who have different viewpoints from them on the topic of gun control. We specifically chose to focus on gun ownership for self defense and protection, as our research showed that that was the most common reason among gun owners.

The gameplay of our game is something like Twitch plays interactive theater. The audience controls the speech of an actor on stage by sending in conversation points via a web interface we built. This first actor then voices this out to the second actor, who responds accordingly. In this way, the audience discovers and directs the story as it unfolds on stage.

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The formal game elements of Alto’s Adventure

Alto’s Adventure is a beautiful 2D endless runner in which you snowboard down the mountains to rescue your runaway llamas, all the while doing backflips and other tricks. Its minimalist art style is really beautiful and almost ethereal, reminiscent of games like Journey and Monument Valley.

Look at how beautiful the game is!
Look at how beautiful the game is!

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Designing for VR

Virtual reality is cool, there’s no denying it. Yet it’s still in its infant stages, and there aren’t that many consolidated design guidelines around (Oculus does have a really good Best Practices doc though). And so I’ve decided to come up with my own set of general guidelines, based on my personal experience with VR, as well as some of the stuff I learnt at the recent Game Developers’ Conference (more on that here).

Note that this guide doesn’t have a specific headset in mind, and that I am by no means an expert in this subject.

On simulator sickness

As many as one in two people suffer from VR sickness. I myself have it really bad – think not being able to eat (and eating is my favorite thing in life!) after spending a day developing a VR experience, or wanting to puke after an experience which over a hundred other people have tried and are fine. Yet I still love VR, especially those which don’t make me feel sick after. Yes, it’s possible to eliminate sim sickness from an experience!

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We’re done brainstorming. What next?

Your team has had a successful brainstorming session (or sessions), and now you guys have a ton of ideas. Now what? How do you narrow it down? This might seem like a daunting task, especially for larger projects which have a hundred or more ideas. A Google search will turn up millions of suggestions, but for this post, I’ll be focusing specifically on narrowing down your ideas for a transformational game. Why transformational games? Because that’s what my team is currently working on (more on that later). The general process for narrowing down your ideas isn’t sufficient, and there is woefully little relevant material about this on Google.

Transformational games are developed with the intention to create a real world change in the player which persists outside of the game, be it in the form of knowledge, belief, behavior, etc. It’s an umbrella term which encompasses other categories, like educational games, training simulators, games for health, and so on. The two key ideas here are transfer (the change extends to the real world) and persistence (the change remains after the game is over).

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Zero2Hero – Our design process

Over the past weekend, I took part in the Global Game Jam (GGJ), a 48 hour hackathon-like event for making games. It was my first game jam ever – heck, I’ve never even taken part in a hackathon before. Yea, unbelievable right? We made this 8-bit, 2 player game called Zero2Hero, and I’m very pleased with it! (: So, how did we arrive with this idea?

Zero2HeroA screenshot from Zero2Hero

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On brainstorming

One of the first steps in starting a project is brainstorming. Making a game is no different. I would argue that it’s one of the most crucial steps as well, and yet… I don’t really like it. And then today (1/20/16), I had the chance to observe a brainstorming method which I’m actually excited to try out.

That particular method made me reflect on myself and wonder why it resonated with me so much. What was it that made me dislike brainstorming in general, what other methods have I tried, and why didn’t I like them? What do people say are the important things to do during brainstorming, and do I really agree with them? Here are some of my thoughts.

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