The project proceeds quite nicely. The first five months of the project have centred especially in advancing our knowledege on the various aspects of game design and innovation in game development. Per project plan, our two major areas of focus have been in work packages 1.1. and 2.1. In the former, our goal is to generate a deeper understanding on how game designers create and develop ideas. In the latter, the goal has been in forming a descriptive framework through which to research game design.
The main effort in studying the best practices of game designers in work package 1.1. has been conducting interviews among the game development personnel. We analysed interview data from earlier projects in the University of Tampere: GameSpace and MC2. The data dealt especially with how game designers generate ideas. The results of the analyses will be discussed in the forthcoming article: Kultima, A. (forthcoming) “How Game Designers Ideate?”.
The more current interviews conducted in GaIn have been aimed at charting how game development professionals view innovation in game development processes. The interviews have been carried out in the Game Developer Conference 2009 and in the Nordic Game 2009. One more round has been planned for the Game Developer Conference Europe in August 2009.
Design as activity
In work package 2.1. the main effort has been directed in understanding game design in connection to other disciplines of design such as architecture, product design, engineering and so on forth. By applying some notable theories from general design research, we have attempted to open the notion of design as activity taking into consideration the issues pertaining to the designer (the stakeholder’s involved in the process), the content (e.g. the design constraints, goals, solutions, etc.), the context (the studio culture and history, market situations, etc.)
Adopting a model of designing by Bryan Lawson (“How designers think”, 2004), we have come to believe that researching game design through the individual activities of the designer will provide some very interesting results. Lawson’s model consists of six groups of design activity: formulating, representing, moving, bringing problems and solutions together, evaluating and reflecting. The model will provide a powerful tool for analysing the data gathered during the project. The topics relating to work package 2.1. are discussed in more detail in the article Kuittinen, J., & Holopainen, J. (forthcoming 2009, September). “Some Notes on the Nature of Game Design”. Paper presentation at Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory, London, United Kingdom.
At the beginning of the project, we began an internal game development sub-project which covers the topics of the whole project quite extensively. Developing a game from scratch allows us to understand the process more profoundly and to identify new research topics. As researchers, it also allows us to bring theory into practice.
The game is a somewhat simple platformer called Monster Confidence (http://monsterconfidence.wordpress.com/). It is still in a design phase and our intention is to continue in a slow pace resulting in a functional version sometime at the end of the year 2010.
An important research tool we adopted right from the beginning have been designer diaries kept by each member of the team. Motivated by an article Capturing and analysing own design activity by Pedgley (2007), the idea has been to briefly document all activity (including thinking), experiences and emotions related to the design process. This has allowed us to get a handle on the members’ internal and external processes.
Initial observations from the diaries strengthened our view on the importance of a common vision to guide the process and the problems pertaining to understanding and communicating it. Similarly the diaries showed that group dynamics have a significant effect on the design process in whole.