Games for Personal Growth: A Design Process

I love video games, deeply. Video games have been a resource for me at key moments of my life. They have been a safe space for relaxation, for meditation, for introspection, for identity experimentation, and overall, for growth.

But most of my friends don’t like video games. In fact, when I talk with my friends, their biggest misconception about video games is that games are a waste of time and don’t help them grow or change.

At my company, Tru Luv, we’re making games with the intention of repairing this misconception.

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Speech Anxiety for Game Developers

I've spent the past year and a bit travelling full-time from conference to conference, but I have no natural talent for public speaking whatsoever. The first time my boss asked me to speak on camera, I forgot my own name. Fifteen minutes before the second talk I ever gave, a man asked me if the seat next to me was taken and I was so nervous I couldn't understand the question and couldn't answer. I just stared at him until he walked away. 

But speaking at conferences is good. It's good for so many reasons.

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How To: Pack For Travel

I have a terrible memory but I live out of suitcases. So I use a list.

And living out of suitcases, I can only own a few things. I've discovered over time what things are good things. I've refined the list over many, many months.

For trips less than 3 months I use a carry-on suitcase and a laptop bag. For longer trips, I add a big suitcase. I'm happy with my Briggs & Riley suitcases. They have a lifetime warranty and after so many, many months they still look almost new. I'm currently using an Aldo laptop tote with bad zippers while I wait for a Dagne Dover Legend Tote to go on sale (as recommended by the fantastic Ann Lemay).

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Slouching Towards Relevant Video Games

I wrote a thing a while ago about how I love video games but my friends find video games boring. I made the case that the multitudes of white masculine gamers who dominate the games industry have made experiences that are relevant to them but not to most people. 

I made the case that life is really difficult, that our world has changed fast, and that what my friends are looking for in art is a relief from the constant overwhelming shock of capitalism (and now the looming reality of fascism). I made the case that video games that are about care and characters would be more culturally relevant to more people. 

But I think it's not only for cultural reasons that my friends prefer care to shock. I think there's also an underlying physiological reason why this is so. I think it has something to do with stress reactions. And I think this holds the key to the future of the industry.

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I Used to Work on Other People's Ideas

I used to work on other people's ideas. This is probably because I have always been painfully shy. Three years ago while shipping Child of Light I was diagnosed with cancer. A friend who I admired fiercely and deeply had just died of cancer and my mother had died of cancer at the same age as her and as me. It seemed bad. I kept busy with shipping the game and had the tumour removed the day the reviews came out. It turned out to be very minor and I'm fine now. But after that experience everything that seemed difficult about life started to peel away. I stopped trying to care about anything I felt I should care about but didn't. And I started to figure out what I truly cared about. 

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The Best Candidate Is a Lie

I make video games with people who don't like video games. I made AAA games for 10 years. The turning point that sent me here was years ago when I was crunching on a particularly difficult game, contemplating where it had gone wrong, and noticed how one colleague of mine had tried to consolidate power by pushing away people who were different (in gender, sexuality, and nationality) and pulling close people who was similar. They called themselves the Wolf Pack. 

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Video Games Are Boring

Video games are bigger than moviesEveryone's a gamer. I've devoted my life-no exaggeration-to video games for 14 years, working on titles such as Company of Heroes, a few Assassin's Creeds, and Child of Light. But everywhere I go, I meet people who don't like video games. Most of my friends don't like video games. And one of my favourite things when I'm meeting a new person is to watch them squirm, to struggle to relate, after I mention I work in the video game industry. They'll mention some old game they used to play, try to say something nice about it, and then confess that they don't play video games. 

Meanwhile, our lives have changed radically compared to our parents' lives. As we adapt to new technologies, our lives are becoming increasingly fragmented, multifaceted, interactive. Linear novels and films are less relevant now for reflecting our realities. What forms of art and entertainment are most relevant now? Collage? Memoir? No, it should be video games. Interactive entertainment. Yet, many people don't like video games. 

Why?

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