David Ruttka

Engineering | Gaming | Improv | Storytelling | Music

A New Set of Lenses

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Those who know me know that I really love gaming, and in particular, game design. A desire to build new worlds and deliver the feelings of wonder that I’ve experienced through play are why I got into tech in the first place! I’m very enthusiastic about creating or remixing mechanics, defining core engagement loops, and balancing systems to force players to make choices that matter.

While I’ve constructed a few tabletop campaigns, designed some “escape” rooms for the family, started my secret (LOL) portfolio of designs, and dabbled in Unity, I have not yet channelled my enthusiasm into really “doing the thing.” I’ve recently decided that I’d get further if I put some more structure and concrete goals around my study. In the spring, I intend to take a formal game design certification course through the University of Washington. In the meantime, I’ve been doing some reading.

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses

I’m very much enjoying The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses. The introduction alone struck me. Schell mentions working as an entertainer and as a software engineer at IBM before circling back around to game design. Given that I also pursued entertainment first and software engineering second, this certainly reminded me that it’s never too late to chase one’s dreams =)

I’ve been capturing copious notes and my own reflections in a personal OneNote, and now that I have the blog back up, I intend to play catch-up on sharing some of that very soon.

Reality is Broken

I’m also reading Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. This has renewed my thinking around serious games and meaningful play. I plan on making some time to look more closely at Gamers for Good, Games for Change, and MSU’s Meaningful Play.

Level Up

To round out a set of three, I’ve also got my hands on Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design. I find that where the Art of Game Design is guiding the way I look at concepts and elements of my ideas, Level Up! is full of tips for more hands-on, practical execution. I’m looking forward to making more concrete use of that guidance.

Putting it all together

Everything I’m highly skilled at today, I was absolutely terrible at when I started. Please, (don’t) look at my Game of Life or Lemonade Stand from CS101! Ramping up and adapting quickly to new challenges has been a superpower, and in fact, I believe the gaming I did while growing up helped me develop it.

It’s perhaps a bit silly that I’ll spontaneously leverage this ability when it comes to ever-changing tech stacks but forget about it when it comes to what I really want to do. Maybe I’ve let myself believe that game design is too far outside the box, but no more. There’s only one way to find out how far I can go and how much I’ll really love it once I’m more seriously into the weeds. I feel that the resources above are going to help me focus my energy toward that end.

Are you a more seasoned game designer? Are there other resources or exercises you’d recommend? What are the “new player” levels and achievements to get the ball rolling? Let me know in the comments or on LinkedIn!