Speeding motorcycle: it’s just a bike

Back in college, I worked full-time to pay for my tuition and books, my apartment, and everything else life charges you (food, clothes, cupcakes).

My daily commute from the University of Washington to my job in Seattle’s industrial area did not allow much time between classes and work to worry about finding (or paying for) parking. Until then I would bicycle commute about 20 miles round trip, which wasn’t that fast (or pleasant behind semi-trucks for roughly half of the trip).

So, I did the only logical thing: I signed up for motorcycle school, a one-day intensive training.

Me, at Mom’s house: Practice

Then, I flunked it.

Do you ever remember crying, when it was so long ago?  I remember this cry. (It was a bitter, motorcycle-less cry.)  Though I’m sure they were right in flunking me: during the class, I was very hesitant and careful.  So much so, that the instructors must have taken one look at me and deduced: “She’ll kill herself out there!”

So, after the tears parted like the red sea, I did the next logical thing: I took my newly acquired Honda Shadow 500 (thank you to my boss at the time Mitch B. for riding it home for me) and began to practice riding in the parking lots of Seattle.  After all, it was very similar to a bike, and a car, both of which I had “mastered” (except for the time I biked into a car door.)

Slowly, I gathered courage to take it out on the slippery, rainy streets, with some  pretty inferior gear (at the time they didn’t have — or I wasn’t aware of — the awesome leather-alternatives they have today).

I loved my Shadow.  The fun of riding was only tempered slightly by my imagination’s interest in the macabre: I would often picture crashing then sliding down the freeway (while on the freeway).  This led me to drive very, very, carefully.


(Not like this. But I love this song.)

Then, one day, my Honda Shadow 500 broke down, and sat in my Nana’s garage until I sold it for $5 to my cousin.

My motorcycle life, for the moment, had ended.  But I was definitely a motorcyclist, with the flunk fading into the sunset.

Which brings me to this week’s installment of my game design process.

Everything unfamiliar has something relatable

Even your Uncle Ned!

As mentioned in my first post, I am not a game designer. As advised by the author of the book I just completed, The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell, I stand corrected: I am a game designer.

Even though the book was written in 2008 (there is an updated version apparently) and Mr. Schell seems to have (or have had?) some gender biases as I described here, I must say that I *loved* this book.

game design
Here it is again


Schell uses what 100 “Lenses” to examine the principles taught in the book, asking questions through each lens. (For instance, the lens of the Player, the lens of Surprise, and the lens of Fairness.)  These lenses helped me better think through the game being created, so I have a better chance in making a game that people enjoy, find challenging, and that feels rewarding.

Though I haven’t designed games, I have, over the course of years, studied and learned many other things that relate to the process and philosophy of game design. Relatable topics include psychology, behavioral economics, team dynamics, “fun,” challenge, motivation, community, the feedback loop, and so much more.

I was excited to read a point Schell made about team dynamics (in the Teamwork lens section) that Google recently spent who-knows-how-much to research and discover  — namely, that in order for teams to be successful each person needs to feel “safe” in sharing just about any idea they have — even the shy folks.  This is accomplished by creating an atmosphere of inclusion and respect. Language is important — rather than saying “Your idea” you can say “the spaceship idea,” and rather than “I don’t like A, let’s do B,” it can be, “What if we tried B instead?”

Sounds touchy-feely, but in my limited experience in rolling out diplomacy, it seems to work well, beyond the feels. Speaking of.

Teams: I am grateful to these individuals!

A few weeks ago I put together a short survey online and shared with a few folks who gave their perspective on one aspect of the game (mentorship).  I want to give a special thank-you to my survey takers!

Lynn Post
Candace Mixon
Kaitlin Grady
Rachel B.
Ru-Ru Eckles
Nick Cooney
Kerry F. Cantwell
Rachel Atcheson

You people ROCK!  I’ll be compiling/sharing generalized anonymized results as things progress.

Bring me a rock

The other takeaway from the book, in addition to the 20 pages of takeaways, is that it’s very difficult to communicate what we want.  Schell uses the classic “Bring me a rock” story to illustrate this point (he said it’s classic. I’m going with it.):

 “Bring me a rock.”

“OK, here’s a rock.”

“No, not that rock. A different rock.”

“OK, here’s another rock.”

“No, not that one either…”

[repeat 200 times]

Instead of getting caught in that loop, he recommends you ask: ““What kind of rock?” [they respond – “I don’t know…”], then you ask: “What are you going to do with it?” [“Doorstop.”]  “Okay, I’ll find a few rocks that would be a good fit…”

In other words, you can take some control of our natural difficulty narrowing down many possibilities (the paralysis of choice) by asking some very specific questions.

Schell relates this process as designers working with clients, which was also illustrated most perfectly by The Oatmeal years ago (worth a read!):

Clients  … it starts off well.

However, it applies to any area where you are trying to narrow down your list of choices.

So … I am a game designer.  Next week, I’ll share a bit more about the concept of the game, which involves a Greek myth and some super secret mysteries.

Do you feel like an “amateur” at something you do?  Why?