Game Designer

8 years experience in the industry within AAA to startup, and roles from game designer, to manager, teacher, and public communicator. Promoter of games as world-changing empathy-engines.

I was cofounder and VP of 3D animation (with mocap) and game that was awarded over $300,000 in grants across 4 original projects. All 4 used Unity and Unreal engines, 2 were games I designed, 1 of those being an original idea I pitched and wrote the design doc for. This startup was founded after I completed a 2nd degree in game development where I wrote my undergrad honours thesis on exploring design space in game design.

Currently seeking work: full-time, contract, or freelance. You can reach me by email or twitter.

The case studies below showcase some of my work, and problem solving process!

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Working at an animation and game startup, we were seeking additional projects to apply for grant funding for. I pitched an original game concept to our team that won over gamers, and non-gamers alike.

Together with my coworkers, we integrated the concept into an existing IP for children the company was developing. This positioned the game towards broader objectives about promoting learning. We were awarded the grant to continue into conceptualization.

As product owner, I led the design, creating a design doc that would double as part of the 2nd stage of grant applications. It included gameplay loops, progression systems, player personae, and a component breakdown of how the game's puzzles would be crafted, both technically and to ensure consistency for the player.

As part of the grant application, I was also responsible for conducting and presenting initial market research. I described how we were positioning the game to appeal to educational institutions like libraries and museums. This included working directly with a veteran of library services in the U.S.

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It was exciting to be chosen among 8 students across all of Carleton University to take part in a pilot game dev course. But the university had no game design program. We were all computer scientists and software engineers. Some had no interest at all in the 4x genre we were assigned by the product owner.

So I knew I had to prioritize both a vision of the game, and one I could communicate to the team and get them excited about! I started by crafting personae to represent the key player-types. I modeled some directly on members of the team to make sure I was working towards a vision that would appeal to their interests too.

This led down a design path that could easily be sold to a broader audience as well as our team. A greater emphasis would be placed on narrative events. These would be crafted in a way to reward different play styles, including folks that just wanted to cause chaos. Events would be chosen and styled specifically to appear for, and appeal to folks beyond just the traditional 4x crowd.

It was a great success with the team and product owner, and paved the way for my later work on systems development, and scenario design.

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I created a new version of tic tac toe to build on its strengths and address its weaknesses!

Tic tac toe is often a textbook example of bad game design. On closer inspection I found a great game ruined by a few fatal flaws. The optimal way to play is too obvious because you have absolute knowledge about the game state, present and future. And unless your opponent makes a mistake, there is no meaningful uncertainty as you play.

I addressed this by introducing uncertainty, as well as competing priorities. In this version you play both sides (Xs or Os), trying to make one assigned side win. On each turn you can only place a move on one of three semi-randomly selected spots, as determined by a card deck system.

Finally, I introduced competing priorities. You play on 2 boards at once, that are randomized and tracked separately. Input is shared between the two, so be careful! The corner spot may be ideal on one board, but botch your plans on the other. There's also an optional per-board timer to keep you on your toes, but that's excluded in the version below to make it easier for newcomers.

Give the prototype a try here!

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For my undergraduate honours thesis project, I designed a game that would tell a story about mental health challenges. It featured a character only capable of moving along 1 dimension in a 3-dimensional world.

I brainstormed rules permutations to establish the bounds of what was possible. Then I consciously limited the scope around design priorities to compliment the story and intended puzzle gameplay.

For puzzle-based gameplay, barriers were a must: something to serve as obstacle, goal, and feedback. Then there was all the screen space unused by the player character themselves. Combined with the story concerns, I decided that the character's relationship to the surrounding 3D world would be central. What the character was facing and observing would affect the world around him both directly and indirectly. What he viewed would manifest mental barriers connected to distractions.

Through paper prototyping I found that facing backwards ruined the ability to create reliable puzzles. I limited the player to 3/4 cardinal directions, excluding south. I also honed in on what angles to cut off each view cone at. With this in place, I developed a dictionary of all irreducible building blocks from which to construct more complex puzzles and mechanics to introduce at later stages of the game.

I have a wealth of other experiences too from teaching young children, training and coaching coworkers, down to hosting roleplaying events. My first full time job was at Blizzard Entertainment, working with players from around the world where I learned invaluable lessongs about UX and the unexpected ways people play. I even proactively creating instructional material for coworkers on how to understand and address different types of players and issues.

If you want to hear more about any of the projects above please reach out via the info below.

I'm currently seeking work: full-time, contract, or freelance. You can reach me by email or twitter.