August 17, 2017
5 Things We Learned From Tracy Fullerton

We brought in world-renowned game designer Tracy Fullerton to help us pull back the curtain and give us a sneak peek at the years of work behind "Walden, a game." Here's what we learned.

On Aug. 17, we hosted an INconversation with Tracy Fullerton, world-renowned game designer and the mastermind behind the critically acclaimed Walden, a game. (You can get your copy of the game here and see photos of the event here)

Here are five things we learned from that conversation, moderated by historian and digital humanist Jen Guiliano:
  • Games are powerful tools. How can we use them to help players do more than just “level up”? How can we use them to explore notions about non-traditional stories? As Tracy said, so much of digital media is a “knee-jerk reaction,” what if we could use the same technology to remind us to breathe and slow down?
  • Walden, a game is unusual. Ok, we probably already knew that. But we learned how Tracy and her team were able to build a game that can appeal to a wide audience–grandmas and gamers–by allowing players to interact on a deep level without making it punishing for people who aren’t used to playing games. We also learned how she made gamers go against their gut instinct and typical game strategy to “level up,” earn more cash, and beat a game. 
  • Sometimes the “Tom Sawyer method” can get you pretty far. How can you convince others around you to help you build your dream for free?
  • Being historically accurate is important but not always the best way to gamify something. Her team took its research seriously, consulted with scholars, and had some serendipitous moments to make details like having the right birds chirping amazingly accurate–but sometimes the designers had to make a few hard decisions to make the game better for the player. It’s something they know they’ll have to live with, and as Tracy said, “No matter how many details you get right, someone will tell you you’re wrong.”
  • Game creation has many layers–like an onion. Before Walden, a game became the world’s most improbable video game, there was paper prototyping, play-testing, a 2-D version, and finally a 3-D version with the narrative built into it. Shameless plug: If you want to get started in game design, you can attend our digital gaming workshop on Feb. 9.
This event was in partnership with Gen Con and Sun King Brewing Co., and took place at the City Way Gallery curated by iMOCA. If you’re interested in topics like this, you might also like some of our other Quantum Leap programs–including Frankenfest and our INconversation with Ray Bradbury scholar Jonathan Eller.
Posted In: Quantum Leap