On February 26, 2020 I gave a workshop at the MICA (Maryland Institute College of Design) Gamelab walking participants through my project and its methodology. Collaboratively we came up with escape room ideas (digital or analog), sharing ideas and prototypes with each other. While the experience in Baltimore was fantastic and I will probably share some other reflections in a later post (you can also find a summary of the trip here), I wanted to write about the workshop and some of the ideas and questions it raised.

After spending so much time in the writing framework, it was great to sit down with participants and think about some creative games we could create. I invited individuals to choose a topic that resonated with them, and after pulling apart some of the themes, we began to speculate about puzzles, environments and player experiences. I found the choice of topics really interesting, ranging from microtransactions, to recycling culture, participants wanted to use games to talk about concepts as abstract as the digital divide. 

As the first workshop I have ran related to my Masters, I wanted to take time for participants to engage with each step of the brainstorming process. The group found puzzle design was really interesting, where I challenged them to think beyond locks, passcodes and other common escape room tropes, and get creative. Some great ideas emerged, such as using lighting through paper to trigger sensors, or developing digital currency for players to use in the gameworld. However, while puzzle design was engaging, it became challenging for some groups to really connect their idea to game mechanics.

As the facilitator, the most rewarding portion of the workshop was our discussion around environmental design, where participants made sketches of their potential game space. This really helped some groups that were struggling to connect puzzles to theme, where visual learning practices allowed them to connect games pieces together. For instance, one group went from the idea of having players clean up a space (such as a dorm or home), to the idea of a research lab, where “chemicals” (cleaning products) can help uncover puzzle pieces while also referencing proper ways to dispose of certain products. Talking with the group, they mentioned how drawing out the space helped them solidify their puzzles, encouraging them to expand their theme to focus on incorporating player experience.

While this was my first workshop, and I definitely have some things I would change (mainly around timing and content examples), it reminded me of how valuable game design can be to talk about issues. Even though we made no physical games, discussing how these social issues can be presented in a game prompted conversation about the issues and our own knowledge of them. Participants were encouraged to spend more time researching their topic, further informing themselves, and expanding their current grasp of the content. I also left encouraged, wanting to share and discuss ideas with others, create new games and puzzles, and also explore the conversational effect of designing games.

All Photo Credit to Matteo Uguzzoni

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