Purnima tells it in her own words how she got into games and design. Plus a few words of advice.
My gaming days started with good ol’ hide n seek, scrabble, paper rockets, playing cards and many more non-digital games. The one that I was most fond of was “Name, Place, Animal, and Thing”. A person chooses an alphabet from a pool of alphabets or calls it out and everyone participating in the game will have to come up with a name, a place, an animal/bird and a thing (object) that starts with that alphabet. It was a perfect edutainment game. Game that helps you explore new words makes your thinking process sharper, triggers a healthy competition, and all this while having fun. I don’t know who originally came up with the game. It was just passed on via friends.
Scrabble and Monopoly were and still are my favourite board games. I’m sure a lot of people will agree with me. The main thing with these games were the social factor. The pure joy of sitting around with friends, joking and gossiping, and occasionally cheating!
My first digital game started with ‘Tetris’ on a Game Boy clone; the simplicity of the game still makes it one of my favourite games ever. Then there was the NES clone with ‘Mario’: the game that was/is played by majority of the world population. Probably the first digital game I played which had a two player mode. I remember the weekends where the entire family sat down together and took turns to play ‘Mario’ and ‘Duck Hunt’. Then of course there was a ‘Tank’ which allowed one to create your own levels. That’s where I started analyzing the game. I started working on my own levels because I loved the game.
I got my first computer only at the age of 16. Yes, I started late but I think it was a great thing for me as I ended up playing non-digital games a lot! The first thing I played on the computer was well, ‘Solitaire’ ;) Soon enough one of my friends introduced me to ‘Age of Empires II’ and then there was no turning back. The strategy, the historical events, the civilization, their significance, everything was so beautifully covered. The AI difficulty stayed true to the settings chosen. Once I finished playing the entire “Campaign” mode, I was awe-struck. I started creating my own Campaign customizing it and personalizing it with my friends’ names as rulers, creating my own story and map. I didn’t even realize what I was doing then, but it seemed that the Game Designer in me was waking up.
Soon enough Warcraft III, GTA, Zeus, Caesar III, Quake, PoP, NFS, Ragnarok and a lot others followed. I was mostly drawn to character driven fantasy based RPGs and RTS games. I loved the character customization and the seeming influence of the characters in the game world.
On my first job, I was asked to design an RPG. I remember how I almost cried looking at the Dungeon & Dragons manuals coming my way. It was a dream come true! That’s where it began for me on a professional front and since then, I knew this was what I wanted to pursue. I did take my occasional breaks where I moved on to being a software programmer and an application designer. But once a game designer, always a game designer. It’s something you can’t just throw away.
…AND SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS ON GAME DESIGNING
Remember, it’s not about how well you play a game or how good you are at it. If you want to be a designer, enjoy the game, then analyze it, then create something on similar lines with twists or an entirely original concept if you have a great idea.
An often neglected part of game designing is the Game Design Document. Documentation is merely the process of transforming your ideas to paper so that others can understand precisely what's going on. Remember, these “other” people may inhabit a different planet from yours and may not necessarily even know anything about gaming (something that's quite true in the Indian game industry which is populated as much by non-gamers as gamers). It's more than just writing stuff. It's
about putting together images and words in such a way that if someone else were to look at it, they would instantly “get it”. The document can be an art form or a piece of rubbish depending on how you approach it. That's why it's called game designing.
I also believe that putting your ideas to paper is also a great way to revisit some of the fundamental principles behind the game, to remould it, to make it clearer, and to polish it to a high degree.
There's plenty of material on the Net on fundamentals, ideologies and various game design methodologies. Refer, observe and create! One should never stop learning. Be humble and be the best. :)
- Purnima Iyer