Game Design Philosophy

Game Design Philosophy – who am I?

My main interest in games lies in the creation of them, and in the thought processes of the designers involved. The moment when a game creates a sensation of the magic circle, just like the moment when an animation goes from a mere drawing to the illusion of life, just like when a story creates immersion, is where my main interest lies. Investment, identification and immersion, design and development processes and praxis. And, obviously, the educational aspects and learning that happens with this.

What makes a good game – for me?

I’ve been making games for around five or twelve years, depending on how, and what, you count.

My first touch with game making, apart from drawing up some board games with my sister as kids, was with the indie multiplayer script-based platform BYOND, which I dabbled with as a teenager in ninth grade and beyond. I wasn’t very good at the scripting part, and most games I made were to make my siblings laugh (such as the one in which my brother jumped around in a labyrinth, chased by a teacher at our school), but it did teach me a lot about interactivity and pixel art tile-based asset creation. After that there was a pretty long pause until 2013 and a multimedia workshop at university, Aalto ARTS, – actionscript in Flash – until 2015 when I was dragged to Global Game Jam. In 2017 I made a game on my own for the first time for a course in art education – The Game Exam Game.

I’m a classic example of someone who values exploration. Games in which there is a lot to find in interaction and relations with characters and objects, and in terms of the environment and the world of the game, make my heart soar.

I genuinely adore working on and playing story-rich games where interaction with the world is slow and pensive, rather than adrenaline-inducing. I love being met with funny little easter eggs as awards for strange efforts as I discover a mystery in the game, or strange combinations in a crafting tree giving unexpected results. On the other end of the spectrum, I enjoy strategy games and city builders. Oh, and I also frigging love space. And, on the completely other hand, console fighting games like Tekken or Soul Calibur, party-games like Overcooked, are incredibly fun. And board games are great, too. We all are multitudes, and I believe it reflects in the types of games we create.

All things considered I am a terrible player. I have no patience to try again, and again, and master combat or controls. This does not mean I do not appreciate the great design of souls-like games or precision platformers – it just means those are not games I play or create for fun or to relax.

My Early Years – Clueless Casual

I’m a secret lover of, arguably, terrible games. Perhaps it’s because all my childhood games came from the bargain bin, and they tended to have weird quirks like broken geometry, but I never played the most iconic games of the 80’s and 90’s until well into my 20’s. Still, these small, strange CD-ROM-games I somehow got my hands on were very important to me. Games such as The Secret of The Nautilus, Rise of Nations, Mysteriet på Greveholm 2: Resan till Planutus and Maxis’ Sim:Park, as well as EA franchise Harry Potter-games 1 and 2 were very important to me. Most games I played until the age of 13 were Swedish learning games such as Matteraketen and BackPacker Junior, or picture book games such as the Moomin-games, Pettson-games and Mulle Meck-games of the early 2000’s. Heck, I played Sim:Ant, because it was interactive. They were an irreplaceable part of my childhood, just like the books many of them were based on.

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Playing with a friend in 1998 (me on right, posing)

I had friends who had consoles. My first console game experience was probably in 1996 or 1997 (aged 4 or 5) of Super Mario World on SNES, but I only remember the dread of being eaten by a piranha plant haunting me for days.
Another friend had a PS1 (later a PS2 as well), and the first time I visited her her dad was playing a game where you scored points for mowing down pedestrians. We, however, played Crash Bandicoot and Spyro – or like usual, she played, I watched.

Game Education – Working for a productive media literacy

Art education today is not all about drawing and painting. A modern take on the subject, one supported by the new national Finnish curriculum, sees art education’s role in schools as that of visual culture education. It studies both art history, art present, and the ever-changing landscape of personal visual culture. Games, as an audiovisual narrative medium and as a design medium, fall into that category. Moreover, the new curriculum emphasises cross-disciplinary learning and collaboration. It is my opinion, and belief, that games are a part of both the visual culture of my students and something worth looking at and producing in the context of art, as well as in the more “traditional” context of STEM-learning. Perhaps we should start having a more multi-disciplinary approach to learning in general?

Game education in Finland could be criticised for teaming up too closely with substance abuse prevention work – for gambling and addiction reasons. The fact that games can be a positive thing is still not quite accepted, though the discussion is moving in that direction. What I would like to work for is game education that not only treats games as a medium of entertainment, self-expression and creative problem solving, but also encourages people to try their hand at game production and recognises game making as a creative hobby – a craft. Things are slowly moving in this direction in the field as well, and I look forward to building the creative and inclusive game education of the future.

My MA thesis in Art Education bites into some of these subjects. In it I study game jams in the context of game education. Find out more [here].