Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Robin Hunicke, co-founder of Funomena. Read more about Robin in this interview:

Hi Robin! You are the co-founder of Funomena and in the past have worked on titles like Journey and MySims. You’ve been in the games industry for over 10 years now, how did you land your first job?

I was organizing a conference on AI and Games, and at that conference I met the game designer Will Wright. He was giving a talk about the AI in The Sims, and afterwards I approached the podium to ask him some questions about the specifics of the system. During our conversation he asked me what I did for a living, I explained I was a graduate student in CS and AI, and he said “Well you sure sound like a game designer to me!” 

Before that, I’d never really considered that as a career option – but the more I talked to other designers, the more I felt like they were “my people” so to speak. Creative, curious, many of them versed (like me) in both art and coding, with rich interests in film, music and so on. Eventually I interviewed for a design position on The Sims, and when they said yes, I dropped out of my PhD program to take the job. The rest is herstory!

You are also an Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz, where you lead the BA in Art + Design: Games & Playable Media. What are some of the key things a young game designer starting out in the industry should know?

Yes! I have been running the program for about 5 years now, and we are the fastest growing undergraduate major on campus, and the second largest major in the Arts! I’m incredibly proud of the work we have done there, and especially my incredibly diverse faculty. We have 4 full-time, tenure-track women, and a wonderful visiting professor who graduated from our Digital Art and New Media MFA as well. You can read all about it here: https://games.arts.ucsc.edu/

I often share the best piece of advice I got when starting my own career – which was “under-promise and over-deliver”. This is one of the core tenants of the program’s Senior Games Capstone sequence, in fact. The way that we make this goal actionable is by planning out our time, looking honestly at our capacity for work versus our need for self-care, rest and relaxation. When we factor these things in, then we can make commitments that we can meet with integrity. In the long run, over-working burns you out. It drains your batteries and eventually lowers your ability to deal with uncertainty – which limits your ability to be creative when a design works out differently than you originally planned (which, by the way, happens all the time!). So I encourage all the students, and every developer who asks me this question to be true to their own needs and always put health first. It is the foundation from which you can do great things!

With Funomena, your focus lies on playful, experimental experiences and a strong emotional impact on the player. What is one thing every game developer could do in order to create stronger game experiences?

To make stronger game experiences, I suggest thinking hard about the desirable emotional outcome of your game design. Do you want the player to feel strong? Victorious in the face of great odds? Perhaps you want them to feel incredibly touched, emotionally open or even somewhat melancholy in response to some part of your game. If you design *towards* the feeling (the aesthetic outcome of the game), from the rules (the mechanics of the game) then the system you create, and the dynamics of that system (how the game performs alongside/with the player input) will produce that desired outcome. A good example of this is Journey, which tries to create a connection between strangers by eliminating unnecessary or distracting information (like their name, age, location and even their likeness, voice or text chats). When two people must collaborate with almost no verbal communication… they have to learn to focus on each other’s actions… which can speak much louder than words.

Thank you for your time, Robin!

Robin’s Links:

Robin’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/hunicke
Robin’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hunicke/?hl=en

Funomena’s Website: http://www.funomena.com/

WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke