The game building experience has been extremely productive for me, both in giving me a chance to organize and manage a team and in game design. We approached the problem from , and although we never talked about it explicitly I believe considering problems of gender within games was a very active subconscious through line in our project. We designed levels first around trying to realize an emotional conflict within the character, assigning tasks such as collecting or navigating a difficult level to different kinds of emotional struggle. For example, in level 2B where Genevieve can either climb up a series of invisible clouds or collect duck toys we were trying to demonstrate a conflict between one's desire to either stay "at the bottom of the well" collecting toys and staying within a state of perpetual adolescence, or going through the arduous task of climbing out of the well of ignorance into the beautiful night sky. 2A we were trying to literalize the struggle of one's ability to pull themselves out of a difficult situation by using the well imagery again and the sensation of being chased by adding upwards scrolling. Overall, I think that we've created a very interesting and beautiful game, but the prototype does not include all the contextualizing pieces (mainly decorative assets and cutscenes which naturally are pieces that come at the end of the development process: as our goal was a prototype these are the things that take the least priority) so some of the strength of the game, its rich symbolism, is still locked inside the space of our collective heads.
WHAT WE DID WELL
I believe our game is something that, although building off previous game paradigms, is gendered more towards being something that is inclusive of both male and female gamers, and through its storytelling focus of its levels . While most game stages are "play through this area to get to the next bit of gameplay" we wanted our gameplay actions to mean something and provide an emotional story. Hence, we began with themes, that became a story and character, then became a series of events in this person's life. When we thought of the idea of chasing after one's father vs. retreating to an idyllic but false childhood abode, we planted the seeds of our first level and thought: how can we best realize this? How can we create not the story of this aspect, but the sensation of the feeling best? Those allowed for a very rich design vs. a very arbitrary one.
WHAT WE COULD HAVE IMPROVED
Our mechanics began as quite intricate but unfortunately by the end of the game are quite normal. Jumping, running, and collecting are very simple gameplay mechanics that although we've tied to meanings in a very precise way, are in themselves somewhat overdone and do not provide the most entertaining game. Most games will have innovative and quirky mechanics that are at a disconnect with the larger story or message, while ours are somewhat opposite in trying to connect normal mechanics in service to the story and emotional content. Braid was a major inspiration for us, and Braid accomplishes both using a very well executed mechanic with a strong emotional and metaphorical meaning that runs through the game.
Our documentation is unfortunately last minute and ultimately we could have assigned a team member to be a collective documentarian throughout the process. As it stands, our current documentation will have to be something we work to improve in coming days as we refine this project, giving us more work in making this a finished project. Meeting notes and work is spread out across the group, making the documentation process harder than it needs to be right now, and although we have many products of presentations, notebook notes may be gone for good.
Overall, I enjoyed the experience of being a team leader despite various hiccups and not quite ending our game at the state I want it to be (but certainly close enough seeing that I was aiming far in retrospect). Although this is my first attempt at making a game, it demonstrated a kind of process and immersion that I value in games. Through this class, it turns out that I value the importance of a rich, emotionally invested world, and translating those feelings through mechanics. The Void, for example, reinforced its metaphorical message about famine with its very strong feeling that you were going to run out of color at every second of play. That feeling, compared to Fallout 3's mismatch of showing a bombed out world and handing out food, ammo, guns, and armor on a silver platter for you, is something I strive for now in making games.
-Jason Lee, Team Metaphoria