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The Value of My Greatest Failure
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To explain what I learned from my failure, I have to explain the process of that failure fully. In this class (EL 405 New Media Projects) my biggest failure was the meeting portion of my game. This exemplifies, I think, a bigger issue where I was too directive and lost some the integrity of parts of my game.

The meeting portion of my game was essential. It is a back-and-forth exchange between characters in the game but without player involvement. I wanted to simulate a meeting from the beginning of my plans. Still, conversations can’t just happen in IF, so I had to get the player to make turns happen somehow. Dr. Jerz showed me how to set up the following code:

Before going up in the newspaper office for the first time:
Dr Important welcomes the audience in zero turn from now;
Suzy inserts her opinion in one turns from now;
Dr Important asks a question in two turns from now;
Josh answers the question in three turns from now;
Suzy defends her opinion in four turns from now;
Dr Important closes the meeting in five turns from now;

After doing that we had to specify what happened when these actions were enacted. For example, this was the first code that actually made the meeting happen.

At the time when Dr Important welcomes the audience:
if the player can see Dr Important, say “The meeting begins. [paragraph break] ‘We, as the administration, want the student’s feedback on what we should do with the school pool. It’s been out of commission for some time and we are unsure if it received enough use when it was working to put the time and money into fixing in,’ Dr. Important said.”

From my first user test, I noted that there were some problems. Doing actions to make the meeting happen was not intuitive at all. I added the idea of “using” an iPad or notebook to take notes while the meeting was happening. This worked better but was still hard to understand for new IF players. My solution required some intense directiveness. When a player enters the meeting, they are given the following instructions:

It looks like the meeting is just about to begin. Make sure to take notes as the people are talking by using your iPad or your notebook. Type ‘use notebook’ or ‘use iPad’ until the meeting ends.

This didn’t start out being so pointed, but after my multiple other user testers looked at the game, I realized something needed to happen to make this part of the game understandable and therefore functional. My directions worked, and the focus is still on the learning of journalism which was my goal.

Still, this part of my game is still not what I wanted it to be, but I learned a lot about understanding people and problem solving. I didn’t anticipate how much trouble new players would have at first. My priority for this class was getting a working game that was focused on the learning not the cleverness of the Inform 7 coding. My solution was writing up directions and just including them. Something I realized though, was that I wasn’t satisfied with how that worked especially in the meeting.

What I learned from this failure was that there is a difference between what you want to do and what you can do. Creative problem solving on one’s own in necessary to make something work on a deadline, but it’s not an all-time fix. Just a little bit of collaboration in the class today lead me to a much better idea, but even if I had thought of it a couple of days ago, I’m not sure if I could have implemented it. Now that I have editors and professors interested in my game, however, I have motivation to work on this project more (even though I’ve already done the portion that will be graded) and improve it to be more interactive and less directive.

In the “real world” this is important. You have to do the project you are assigned (or you pitch) by your deadline. It might not be perfectly the way you intended but you have to make it work. If you can sell improvements and convince your boss that you should be paid to work on the project more, then you get to fully complete something you are really passionate about.

I want to make more journalism teaching games and I want to improve this one, but I’m also a student with lots of responsibilities. This busyness is never going to go away, however, because that’s how I operate. Learning how to fail successfully will be essential for me because I get big ideas and I can’t always fulfill them to the level I imagine them being fulfilled at the beginning. This class and this project specifically taught me a lot about glorious failure.

My original goals line up with my finished product pretty well, but I know that there is a lot of room for improvement. I feel like I failed properly though; I still have more goals and more ideas for how to achieve my original goals in a better way, but I have a working project.

1 Comment to “The Value of My Greatest Failure”

  1. This was a well-articulation celebration of learning. Well done, Katy! I’d love to see your game develop.

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