My College Experience: A Collaborative Work

This semester, I took five courses:

  1. ACCT 101 – Accounting
  2. ITAL 101 – Italian
  3. THEA 131 – Technical Production
  4. FSEM 100N6 – Part Play, Part Game
  5. ECON 201B – Macroeconomics

The biggest take away I had this semester is that college truly is a collaborative effort. In every class I had there was a significant amount of cooperation and teamwork that took place. In Accounting, Italian, and Macroeconomics, we studied together and worked out problems in class together. In Technical Production, we worked together to build sets, and in the FSEM we constructed games together and playtested our individual games with each other. Looking back on the semester, my favorite parts were the times that I worked in a group to solve problems and challenges, create something, or just commiserated with each other about homework and tests. The core of my college experience thus far has been working with my new friends, teachers, and advisor, and I can’t wait to meet old friends and make new ones in the next semester. Thanks for reading!

Ps. My apologies if this shows up on the Part Play website; I’m still trying to figure out how the blog link thingys work! 🙂

Goodbye to All of You Awesome Gamers!

I suppose that with this semester wrapping up, its goodbye for now! I really hope we’re all able to keep in touch in the semesters to come (and I greatly look forward to seeing you all again in January!)

I’ve had such a great time working (and playing!) with all of you. It was so amazing to find a group of such like-minded people; I’ve never been in a group of people who thought so much like I do. This class has been so much fun, and I know I’m going to miss seeing you guys in class next semester.

I wish you all luck on any remaining finals (oy), and I hope you all have a happy and restful holiday!


Out of Class Playtesting

So I playtested my game outside of class for the first time on Friday, and it turned out to be a huge help in figuring out how my game needed to be adjusted. I wasn’t really expecting my out of class playtesting to be that different from the in class, so it was actually a nice surprise to see how dissimilar the experience was. I don’t know if it’s because the FSEM class is mostly made up of hardcore gamers who see puzzles differently, but when I playtested in class, all of my players solved the puzzle quickly and with relatively little effort, which was good, because I was testing the intro level. My impression from the in-class playtesting was that the puzzle was either a good tutorial level, or it could even be made a little bit harder. However, when I playtested with two people outside of class, I had a pretty different experience. One of my players had trouble solving it until I gave her a hint and the other gave up entirely; both of them said that they thought the puzzle was too hard.

There are several thoughts/modification ideas I’ve had from this. First, I’ve gotten a lot of comments both from in class and out of class playtesters that the number of ‘dots’ that represent a missing word or part of a word should actually represent each letter. I was a bit hesitant to implement this, because it isn’t really accurate to a signing or lipreading experience. However, since I’ve gotten this comment so frequently, I’m thinking of implementing an ‘easy’ mode that does this; to adjust, each puzzle in easy mode would be worth less points than a puzzle in regular mode. Second, I’m thinking of adding in some kind of hint function that would, again, reduce points, but help a player if he/she is really lost. I’m not sure what the in-game rationale would be for this; perhaps your character can read a little bit? I’m not sure how important it is to justify it in the game… Finally, instead of front-loading all of the ‘little’ explanations for the puzzles (like how words are often misspelled in lipreading puzzles or how signing puzzles will be missing entire words while lipreading puzzles may just be missing parts of words) I’m thinking of spreading this information out as players leveled up, to help simulate the learning experience that the character is going through.

All in all, out of class playtesting turned out to be a fun and highly informative foray, and I feel like it was a great help in improving my game. Thanks for reading!

Playtesting My Semester-Long Game

Yesterday I playtested my semester-long game (well, a small portion of it anyway) and I was pretty pleased with the results! Thanks so much to all the people who contributed ideas and suggestions (and patiently listened to my spiel)!

I was really happy with how my test players interacted with the puzzle; it was really cool to see that they each worked through the puzzle differently. However, the model itself was a bit flawed; one of my playtesters pointed out that if I gave that much information in the first puzzle, there wouldn’t be much room to grow as players leveled up.

I got some really great ideas from my playtesters, as well as some good questions to think about. One suggestion was that I manipulate the view of the game depending on what the puzzle was; I had only ever thought about showing the puzzle from the side, but he pointed out that if I showed it from the top, I could do some maze-type (and other, more complicated) puzzles as well. Another idea that I really liked was the suggestion that guides could come back for multiple puzzles, and that they’d remember your performance from earlier puzzles; for instance, if the player really frustrated a guide, the second time the guide came up he’d remember and be annoyed with the player right from the start.

I also got some good questions to think about, mostly on game mechanics. I hadn’t really thought about what the maximum number of levels was, or how much the player’s abilities would improve with each level; that’s still something I need to work out mathematically. I do know that I don’t want to give the players enough levels to max out both their signing ability and oral abilities, because I feel like that defeats the choice component of the game a bit.

Finally, one of the biggest breakthroughs I had during class actually happened with someone who didn’t playtest but heard the concept of my game. She was a little more familiar with the history of deaf education and was somewhat surprised that I was going to represent oral learning in as positive a light as signing. Answering her question first made me realize that I needed to clarify my position and reasoning and second, defined for me what one of the core messages of my game is.

Deaf education is extraordinarily controversial; the debate over how the deaf should be taught/communicate is one that has been very long, extremely heated, and hurtful on all sides. From the interviews and essays that I’ve heard from people on the issue, people will pick one and only one form of communication as being the ‘right’ way for deaf people to communicate. I’ve heard many oral learning advocates insist that a deaf person cannot get by in the ‘real world’ with sign language, and many signers say that there is absolutely no place for oral learning in deaf education. One question that really bothered me during my studies was why there was such a remarkable divide. Why do people so firmly hold on to one method and reject the other in its entirety?

I believe that much of the oral learning advocates’ problem lies in a misunderstanding of what ASL is. ASL truly is it’s own language with it’s own nuances, and is an entirely effective means of communication. But what about signing advocates? It is true that there has been a long and honestly embarrassing history of oral teachers forcing oral methods onto deaf students in oppressive and downright inhumane ways. There were definite wrongs done in the oral era of deaf education. However, what I think is really important is that we not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Oral education was bad because it was forced, wrong because of the methods used by oral teachers to force their deaf students to stop signing; however, speaking and lipreading in and of themselves aren’t bad. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a deaf person choosing to supplement his/her signing abilities with oral methods, or even substituting them entirely. Whether a deaf person chooses to sign, speak/lipread, or do a combination of both, is a choice that is theirs and theirs alone. We don’t need someone to decide what the ‘right’ way is and mandate that everyone follow that method of thinking, because there is no one way that works for everyone. Instead of trying to find one solution, I believe that we need to recognize that people are different, and that the best solution for an individual is what that individual wants to do.

And here’s where my game comes in. The player isn’t told how he/she must communicate with others; it’s the players’ choice. There is no right way for the player to play the game; instead, the player receives a fair and comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each method and is given the ability to navigate the world however he/she wants. And that’s one of the core messages of my game: people have the right to choose how they interact with the world. We don’t need one set system; what we need is to give people the opportunity and the freedom to discover what works best for themselves.

Phew. If you got to the end of this post, thanks for sticking it through, and I can’t wait to playtest other people’s games on Thursday!

Some Further Game Details

It’s Phase Two of our game design, so here’s me trying to articulate my jumble of game design thoughts! Here we go.

There are a couple of things that I want people to learn from playing my game. First, I hope people will gain a better insight into how deaf people learn to communicate with deaf and hearing people alike. Part of this is because deaf education is quite interesting, and something that I feel more people should know about, but mostly it’s because I want people to have a better understanding of both sides of learning, oral and non-oral. Oral vs. non-oral education tends to be a very polarizing debate; one of the things that struck me the most when I started researching deaf education is how ‘stuck’ people get on one side or the other. Very few people seem to think that either is a valid way of communication, with many oral-promoters stating that deaf people shouldn’t sign at all and many non-oral promoters stating that there is no place for lip-reading or speaking at deaf schools. I want to give a fair showing of both sides (since I honestly believe that there are pros and cons to each) to people who are already embroiled in this debate as well as newcomers to the issue. Second, I want to help people understand how to more efficiently communicate with the deaf, and perhaps negate some of the awkardness people tend to have. I took ASL with my mother, and we used to sign a lot in public, sometimes to practice and sometimes because we were in a loud place and it was just easier to sign. However, I started feeling self-conscious about signing in public because of the way many people would react. They would often assume that either me or my mother was deaf, and they would instantly become really anxious and awkward. I don’t know about the personal experiences of deaf people (I really should start looking into interviews!) but in my experience with signing in public, I’ve never met anyone who was unkind or rude, but many of them seemed so nervous and uncomfortable that it ended up making me uncomfortable. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure why people tend to react this way (perhaps something else that I could interview people on for research?) but I’d really like my game to first, address that problem so that people are less skittish about communicating with deaf people, and second, to discuss some of the more efficient ways of communicating with deaf people.

The target audience for my game is something I’m still grappling with. I feel like the content of the game is probably something that is mature enough for adults to enjoy, but I wonder if the gameplay itself is more something middle school or  early high school children would gravitate towards. The games that I tend to enjoy are more on a younger level, and I wonder if that will end up impacting my design. In addition, I’m not sure I could make puzzles that are hard enough to be engaging on an adult level; I think the types of puzzles that I want to implement into my game might be more of a middle school or early high school level. I guess it’s something I should still think about!

Finally, my objective: To win, the player must infer from incomplete instructions how to solve puzzles.

Well, if you got to the end of this somewhat long-winded post (it’s beginning to dawn on me that I might talk too much) thanks so much for reading!

Story-Type Brainstorming

So with the move into the next stage of our big semester game, I’ve been thinking more about the story part of my game. To be honest, I’m kind of hitting a block with this. I know we’ve talked in class how important it is to have a good story in a game, and how the plot is really what hooks people into the game and keeps them playing. My main problem is that I’m not a very good creative writer. I know I want to do some type of fantasy ‘ordinary villager is chosen to save the world’ a la Star Wars or LOTR, but beyond that, I’m at a bit of a loss. I’m really hoping that over the course of the rest of this semester, I’ll be able to refine my story and come up with something a little more… ahem, interesting.

My second thoughts have been on the graphic element of the game, and how I can use the graphics to help the players get to know and understand the personality of my characters. I had originally envisioned the game as a Mario-type low resolution kind of game, as I thought it would be simple and fun and cute. However, as I thought more about my topic of Deafness, I started to realize how much more important facial and body expression is in deaf communication than the actual words are. Signs without expression is like talking in a robotic, monotone voice all the time; to add emotion or nuance to a sign, the signer needs to add expression and varying degrees of movement. Expression is sometimes even more important than the signs themselves; while I don’t know how much actual signing I would use in my game, I think being able to see the expression and body movements of my characters would help to really convey their personality to the player. With all of this in mind, I’ve been starting to think that a higher resolution game, or maybe even a motion-capture type game like Until Dawn or The Last of Us, would actually make a more interesting and compelling game. It really is incredible how advanced the technology for motion capture has become, and how realistic the people can look (even to the point that it’s almost a little unsettling; for some reason, watching Grant Ward and Claire from Heroes team up to escape a cabin in the woods kind of weirded me out) and I wonder if taking advantage of that kind of technology would be beneficial for my game concept.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts I’ve been having. Thanks for reading!


Last Thursday was such a blast! I played Settlers of Catan with Elizabeth, Zach, and Scott, and it was so much fun! I was the only one in our group who’d ever played before (and I literally remembered zero of the rules) so I had a really great time learning the ropes as a team. Madison did a wonderful job of running class (of course!) and I very much enjoyed the candy. I eagerly anticipate finding out what we voted to do as a class, and I look forward to seeing you all again on Tuesday!

Some Interesting Research

I’ve been thinking/researching more on my game topic of Deafness (especially Deaf communication) and I came across two things that I found particularly interesting.

The first involves communication between people of different languages. I found an academic paper that indicated that Deaf people who sign in different languages have a much easier time communicating with each other than hearing people of different languages. This was a view of Deafness that I hadn’t previously considered in terms of my game. I had previously thought of ways to demonstrate the difficulties that a Deaf person might have in communicating with a hearing person, but I’d never thought of showing the ways that a Deaf person might be better equipped to communicate with people than a hearing person is. I’d really like to incorporate this information into my game in some way, although I’m not entirely sure how yet!

The second is a statistic that I learned earlier, but re-discovered in another academic paper. Studies have shown that many Deaf students who graduate high school often have a reading level comparable to that of a third or fourth grade hearing student. While this kind of information feels a little out of place for a game, I do think that this is something that is really important for people to know. The fact that this statistic exists means that there is a failure in our education system; something must change in the way that we educate Deaf children. Deaf children have the same capacity to learn as a hearing child does, and there is no excuse for our school system to do so poorly in teaching them how to read.

I’m planning to go more in-depth on these two subjects as well as other information in my paper (my first college paper, yeeks!) but here’s a quick look at some of my research!

Captain Up-ing My Blog

For the gamification of my life, I installed Captain Up on my blog. I was a little nervous about it, because I’ve recently discovered that I am really, really bad with computers (technology is so confusing!) but so far I’ve actually been able to do some things with it, which has been both exciting and rewarding!

I can definitely appreciate the levels/badges/points elements to it, as achieving those kinds of things are a great motivator for me, and having all the achievements in anything always makes my OCD happy. I also like the flexibility of the badges and levels, especially since the site seems to skew a lot towards social media like Twitter or Facebook; I don’t have any social media accounts, and it felt strange to then ask others to promote my site on their accounts! I like that I can delete badges that have to do with Twitter and whatnot and replace them with my own. I also like the video lessons (especially the one on the badges; I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to add my own!) and I appreciate that he keeps the videos short and engaging. Overall, the only thing I really don’t like at all about Captain Up is the pop-up that shows up when you go to the blog. I think I’ve fixed it so that it doesn’t come up every time you go to the site, but I’m not entirely sure…

To sum up, Captain Up has been fun, relatively easy to use, and a great way to add variety to your blog. It’s definitely something I never would’ve found or installed on my own, so thank you to Part Play Part Game for pushing me outside of my comfort zone to try new things!


Last Tuesday, my ‘It’s Mine’ game was playtested, and it was so exciting! Thank you so much to Dr. Kayler, Zach, Scott, and Rose for playing!

The basic idea for my game is that each player have either red, blue, orange, or green spots; they can attack other players’ spots by rolling a die for their spaces, and whoever has the most of their color by the end of six rounds is the winner. It turned out to be a little more competitive than I was expecting (I underestimated the power of roommate rivalry!), but I had so much fun with it and I hope the playtesters enjoyed it as well.

There are some ideas that the other players came up with which sounded really cool, and I would definitely think about incorporating into the game. One person suggested that if you roll a one you get to roll again, to negate the bad luck that seems to follow, ahem, certain players around (you know who you are!) Another idea was that rolling a one was like an ace, and beat everything, which I liked a lot. The way we broke the tie was also a lot more interesting than my original idea (I had just said that gameplay continues until somebody wins) but we instead rolled three executives rolls in a row until somebody won.

Overall, playtesting was such an awesome experience, and I’m so excited to try other  people’s games out!