Blog Post Response to Scratch

I went into the scratch session expecting it to be difficult, and knowing that I would not be able to create an awesome game in the span of under an hour and a half. I had still underestimated the task at hand though, and even with these expectations I was surprised (and at times a just a tiny bit frustrated) by how difficult creating even the simplest game can be. I do not think that I had fully comprehended the magnitude of creating an entire virtual world from scratch (no pun intended), including the most minute details and operating rules. My game consisted of a dinosaur chasing a shark, with the player scoring points whenever they caught the shark. I spent much of the period trying to make the shark move swiftly enough to create a challenge, without getting suck in the corners of the frame and flashing between the T-Rex and the border in what I imagine was a state of panic. I tried to introduce a timer, but never quite got it working the way I wanted. Suffice it to say, this experience not only gave me an immense respect for the scope and mechanics of the games I play, but also made me realize that every single aspect of a game, from the way an avatar moves when it walks to the color of the pain on buildings, is an extremely deliberate choice.

This relates back to some of the discussions we have had throughout the term about world-building and “place” in a virtual sense, making the concept a little more tangible. Every aspect of the virtual worlds present in games like Fallout and Call of Duty are constructed for a specific reason or purpose, whether as a reflection of the story being told and the fictional setting of this world, or as a reflection of the person creating this world. I am reminded, then, about the disparity between the number of male and female game developers, and the persisting male-dominated environments of many games. If the majority of game developers are white, heterosexual males, then it stands to reason that the games created are a representation (at least to some extent) of the values and worldview of a white heterosexual male. This accounts for the accusations of racism and sexism in many games throughout the industry, and points again for the need of a demographically diverse group of game developers.

While I definitely have neither the qualifications nor the desire to become a professional game developer, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience I had with Scratch. Working on creating a video game was a very welcome break in the middle of dead week (also known as Mt. Doom), and I plan on fiddling with Scratch some more over spring break. Also, the next time I am playing Skyrim, I might spend a little more time admiring the way things move when I run into them, and the details on the cliff face I am trying to scale.


About Karlin

Karlin is a graduate of the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon, with a degree in Marketing. He wrote his thesis on marketing movies using digital media. Television, and film aficionado, lifelong Portland Trail Blazers fan, recovering comic book nerd.
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2 Responses to Blog Post Response to Scratch

  1. gmills2013 says:

    I agree that Scratch proved to us how difficult game design can be. I set out to try and create a dance game, played around with all of the options on the side bar, and realized that I had not created a game at all, but had just thrown together a sort of ‘short story’ where one guy is dancing, tries to ask a female character what her name was, and the female character responds ‘you’re gross’. I was pretty proud that I had figured out how to create dialogue in Scratch and make a funny little story line.

    The student working next to me (who knows me outside of class) leaned in, looked at what I was doing, and stated, “oh, looks like you are making an auto biography”. Everyone laughed.

    But it did strike me later that perhaps I was projecting personal experiences and stereotypes into my simple Scratch games that I had 45 minutes to come up with. My game was also entirely from the view point of a heterosexual male who could break dance (so myself, doing something I wish I could do).

    I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to spend thousands of hours on a video game and not have many self-representations even unknowingly ingrained in the game. This is why women should be part of the process, for both the conscious and unconscious representations that get thrown in. I believe that diversity of ideas can make things better. And if that is true, then games could only get better the more women and other under represented groups become involved.

  2. cstabile says:

    Two things:
    1. K. – do you remember what McGonigal had to say about failure? That video game players are good at sticking to a task, even if it means getting killed repeatedly. As I was banging my head against Scratch yesterday, I kept thinking about the kind of determination we bring to playing games (or at least I bring to playing games, maybe because I’m not good at them) and wondering if I could bring that to making games.
    2. G. – I love the self-reflexivity you brought to bear on your experience. I think you’re totally right that we smuggle our own experiences into our creative acts — that’s fine and good, but as you point out so clearly, when it’s only the experiences of one group that gets represented, well, then we’re in the realm of tropes versus video games.
    Nice work, both of you.

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