Sunday, March 13, 2016

What’s it Like Being a Game Dev Tycoon?

Play Journal Entry #4

As part of the Games and Learning course and study with University of Colorado Denver Information and Learning Technologies Master’s program, students will participate in both shared and individual play sessions. These play sessions are part of “learning by doing” and reflection necessary to understand what it means to be a learner through playing games. The play journals are a synthesis of scholarship and reflection on play per the chosen game.

How would you describe the social context of Game Dev Tycoon, and how did this inform what it meant to play?

Game: Game Dev Tycoon
Platform: PC (Steam download)
Genre/type: Sim, strategy, indie, casual
Players: Single player
Game familiarity: None! Until I browsed for games on Steam, a computer platform for game purchases, play, and social interaction. A few past co-worker and game developers “own” the game according to Steam social network so I decided to give it a try. Good reviews on Steam also helped me make a decision to purchase along with the $4.99 price. Although many of the reviews were sarcastic critiques on games and game development, it still seemed enjoyable. I would expect nothing less from the Steam community.

If you are a person interested in this product you are probably a game developer, aspiring game developer, or a person interested in gaming business development, or learning. The game is text based with limited interface and choices which determine various outcomes. I decided to start a company with a cheesy, but catchy name, called “Ultrasoft.” The cleverness of this seemed to work well with the writing in the game.

What - if anything - did you learn during this particular play of Game Dev Tycoon, and what lessons (more generally) does the game teach?

I was really interested in trying this game out of interest in adult learning and to experience a simulation about business development. The subject of the game, game development, is also of interest to myself and the affinity space which I am participating in for the affinity space project, “Unity Community.” I have worked on games before as an artist, so I have some familiarity with the game subject matter, however I only have a myopic view from those experiences. The game uses a historical context with references only a shave off of “reality.” Such as, literally showing pictures of consoles or platforms that look just like a Nintendo or Playstation, but instead, they would be named something like “Playsystem.” Of course, I have some familiarity with this history being a child of the 80’s and 90’s, as can be seen in an introductory blog post for this course about how I am situated as a video game player. As I marched through the development choices each time I created a new game to develop, I referred to what I knew about successful games in history. This is interesting, because had I not grown up during that time, how would I be so familiar with possible combinations that would be successful for the market? The game allows you to “generate game report,” after you complete a game and to give the player a better idea of what combos work or what attributes are not as advantageous for the particular genre. I played the game until I earned just over a million dollars and moved out of my garage and into an office. I hired two employees and trained them then released a few games. Invites to “G3” started coming in along with potential publisher deals. At this point the game started to get a little overwhelming, but it painted a pretty realistic picture of what it might be like to see what things come into play as a developer. The game does a really good job at simulating game development from a general perspective in a historical context.

Critique Game Dev Tycoon: What established constraints, or "game mechanics" (such as specific rules systems), inhibited alternative forms of learning or creative expression? Yet why do these constraints matter?

Although the game does very well at text based simulation, I wish the game had a little bit more personalization involved. It would be neat to personalize the office space. Perhaps game posters about the games that you made, or notes on a white board. Maybe the ability to walk around in third person to walk over to other employees? What if you could create a dialogue with an employee, fan, or other interested party with a more expressive character? These things all have the potential to add a layer of depth to the game that would allow users to be more invested in the story of their game company. However, because the game lacks some of the typical personalization and character development qualities, it allows for quick play. You can quickly generate games, engines, and research without having to deal with fluffy dialogue. I found this to be relatable to articles about Muzzy Lane reasearch and non-traditional learners. Or adult learners with limited amounts of time. Students like these are interested in accessibility and available time to spend in a game. It’s very easy to access, create a scenario or two, and reflect on the results of that experiment. I found this could be applied to other types of employment or business scenarios that could be helpful for adult learners. Educational games for professions that involve human resources, project management, or scientific research could benefit from running simulations in a similar fashion. It helps players reflect on cause and effect relationships and resource management. These things are of utmost importance for many professions but seldom do students have opportunities to experiment or take risks in the “real world.”

My Achievements for Game Dev Tycoon

From our second or third cycle of course readings: What one reading - and specific idea - do you find most relevant to playing, and perhaps learning with/from, Game Dev Tycoon? And why?

How does this game relate to the course readings thus far? I’m really struggling with this answer as most of the readings refer to “children” or “young people,” when clearly a simulation such as this captures a more adult perspective. It’s not networked play other than through Steam. Steam does share achievements with people in my friends list or people who look me up. But the achievements have not brought up any social interactions about the game. I have not referred to any affinity spaces about this game either. It really does not directly relate to any core readings thus far but perhaps cycle 5 and 6 readings will? I think the most relevant connection would be to adult learning scenarios and Muzzy Lane research that was a topic of discussion earlier this year. I’m really excited to have played this game and I hope to apply what I learned to the games and learning course and to games I may develop for adult learning scenarios.