Towards a theory of Everything: Lessons learned as a programmer, designer, writer, and teacher

Game Connect Asia Pacific

One of our first instincts is to play. As children, we use it to explore our environment, to test roles, to establish our position in the world. We test the rules imposed by our psychology, our biology, our social structure. We form our own individual goals as we go, trying to build a model of how the world works, trying to work out who we are and why we’re here. We skip and stumble and run and tell stories as we move further and further away from our comfort zone towards the extreme limits of our abilities, where we fall, hopefully not too far, then pull out our pencils and scribble down that we found the edge of the map.

Video games tap deeply into our need for play, but now the goals are constructed, the rules are more rigid, and how we interact with the world has been carefully designed as an experience. But that experience is still an act of exploration. The player is wandering through a game space finding the edges, charting the terrain, failing and trying again.

The process of creation is the same. We begin with a vague sense of where we are, and where we want to go, and then we write experimental programs and sketch thick lines in photoshop and build prototypes from paper. We tentatively map the programming and art and design space, finding new things, stumbling, falling, mapping the edges, still following that same urge we have as children – to play.

This instinct is central to how we learn, how we create, and how we live. Drawing on experience as a programmer, a designer, a writer, and a teacher, this presentation will discuss how that knowledge can inform our approach to the development process and the eventual player experience.