In a sense, every game is a language. When you sit down to play chess with someone, um, if you and I were playing chess we would be conversing so to speak through the language of chess. We both understand how it works. We share a kind of common knowledge. And we use that language to express ourselves, right, to - at this moment to improvise, to sort of say things to each other in the course of the game, making statements back and forth and operating together on this shared system of - of a particular game of chess. Um, video games are really no different. When you’re interacting with a video game it’s kind of a language. And for a lot of games there is sort of a grammar of interactivity that’s been established by genre. Here is genre is our friend. Um, Super Mario established that when you jump on enemy’s heads you destroy them. There is nothing intuitive about that. There’s nothing in the real world that would necessarily lead to that conclusion. You might think, well, you could bounce off and nothing would happen, or you yourself might be injured, or you might push them to one side or another. But, but the idea that, well, that’s how you destroy an enemy by jumping on their head is something that - that we learn so to speak by - by growing up through these genres as they’re established. When you’re a game designer making a game, you need to think about how players are going to learn about your system. And in this sense, every game designer is an educator because you have to think about how you are educating your players to speak the language of your game. And the more weird and experimental and unusual your game is, the more important it is for you to think about how you’re going to train them to - to speak this weird language, to interact in these weird new ways, to - to do things that they haven’t maybe done before in a game. So, um, in that sense I think game designers really need to be sensitized to the human experience, and that being a - being a designer means that the player is your other in a sense, that you need to put yourself into their shoes. And in that sense, I think design is an intrinsically humanizing discipline or practice because you really need to think about someone else. Even if you are just doing a game to express your own personal point of view, you’re still doing it so that someone else can sit down and - and understand that point of view. Now, how does that happen in practice? The communication between the game and the player begins way before they’re ever pushing a button and - and actually interacting with it. When they first see the title of a game, when they first hear about it from a friend. When they, you know, when they look at the box or they see an image for the game, all of those things start to tell the player, uh, what they’re doing. So, a lot of what a game designer does is set up expectations. You know, the board game, before you open the box, what is the box telling you about the kind of game this is, the kind of experience that is. Then you open the box and start to unpack it. Then you get into the rules. Then you start playing. Right? But all of that experience of kind of getting to the play is really just as important as the play itself. And this is where design sort of blurs almost with marketing and PR and all those kinds of things. You want to be sure that when players come to your game the ex - your expectations have been set. And if you’re doing something unusual, like you’re doing a weird gallery game installation, it’s really important that people walk up to this thing, they - they - they understand what they’re supposed to do because in a gallery, for example, people probably aren’t there to interact with something. They’re there to - to look at art and have that kind of classic art experience. And in my museum and gallery works, this has been, uh, you know, an - an interesting issue to wrestle with. How do you - how do you seduce a player into wanting to interact with your game. Now, once they’re there and they’re doing it, the communication continues. Um, that the game has to let the player know what they’re trying to do. And I think a lot of the hidden magic of game design is in these moment to moment communications with the player. Um, I ran a studio for about ten years called Game Lab in New York City. Probably our biggest hit was Diner Dash, which is a game that in the early 2000s really helped define what casual games were, for better or for worse. Um, in that game you, it’s a 2D game on a single screen. You’re a waitress who is, you know, running around trying to wait tables, attend your customers, clean up their dishes. Every time you click there’s about seven or eight things that happen and they’re - they all pass unconsciously by the player, but there’s, the, for example, you click on a table that’s dirty and needs the dishes picked up. First of all, the mouse changes, uh, to a, um, to - to show that you just did an action. Then there’s a little check box that appears on the table. Um, when Flo comes over to the table to clean it, the customers change their expression as she clears the dishes. They also have a health meter that goes up slightly. Then they score points for you and some bonus point, too. I mean, there’s literally six, or seven, or eight things that happen from one mouse click. And in Diner Dash that was actually the most difficult part of that game. The, yes, the character design was challenging in designing the levels. Those were more known problems. But in trying to invent a fairly new style of game play, communicating that to the player exactly what was happening, that was the real challenge. And, um, that’s, I think, a lot of the really difficult stuff to teach students and to - to help try and explain to new game designers is how do you get that moment to moment meaningful activity? A game is usually something that consists of very repetitive activities. If you’re running in a race you are running over and over again. In chess, all you’re doing is moving a piece. That’s all you get to do. Um, in - in video games, think of a game like Tetris, or even a first person shooter, or an MMO like World of Warcraft, you’re mostly doing very similar things over and over. You’re moving through the world. Or you’re going through combat. Or you’re managing your inventory. That’s probably most of your time in World of Warcraft. Um, so, um, how do we make these repetitive activities meaningful. And part of it is every time the player does something, not just on a narrative level, ah-ha, you have completed the quest, but on a much more atomic micro level. Have - are we attending to their sense of pleasure and desire. Are we making sure that the game signifies everything that - that it needs to so that they’re not confused. Um, in - in your example of walking into a - a room and not knowing where to click it, if you really don’t know how do I solve this level, how do I win the game, either the game designer has been kind of lazy or - or sloppy, and - and really needs to do better or you’re in an interesting game where the point was to confuse you. Right? Where that’s the whole idea is you don’t know what you’re supposed to do there. That’s okay, too. So, all of these classical rules of, uh, you know, this is the proper way to do something that - but I’m talking about there they are all there to be broken. But you want to know that you’re breaking them. I think, you don’t, you don’t want to break them because of - you’re doing bad design, right. So, but - but I do think that this, this idea of how do games signify, create meaning for players, not just on the level of story and character that we know from the history of image making fields and storytelling fields. But on this weird new thing which is - has to do with interactivity and interactive design and game design, those are some of the real interesting challenges of games.