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Robin Hunicke hopes her games 'encourage people to help one another'

"We've been spending a lot of time thinking about mechanics & systems as an industry," the Funomena cofounder tells Eurogamer, adding that real-world troubles need "the counterbalance of playfulness."
"All of the games I'm working on at the moment are about interacting with others in purely playful ways. I hope they encourage people to help one another, not for what they can get out of it, but just for the sake of it."

- Game designer and educator Robin Hunicke.

Why make games?

There's a very nice profile of Funomena cofounder Robin Hunicke published on Eurogamer today that sheds some light on why the longtime game designer and educator does just that, and it's worth reading for fellow devs seeking fresh perspective on the practical value of fostering play.

"We've been spending a lot of time thinking about mechanics and systems as an industry," said Hunicke, in the course of explaining why she finds it fulfilling to work on more "playful" games like Funomena's upcoming Wattam and Woorld. "Doing something a little more open is important right now for this difficult, sad and important time. We're having conversations about all of the forces that inform how we behave, and how we sustain our planet. They are crucial conversations. But that needs the counterbalance of playfulness."

While this isn't a new message for Hunicke -- she's championed games' ability to foster joy and empathy for years -- it's being delivered in what feels like a new global climate of fear and uncertainty. And while some game developers may seek to make games with mechanics and themes that directly address their concerns about the state of the world, Hunicke makes a case for why broader, more open-ended games are worth making.

"When it's in the world it's there for everybody to draw what they will from the work," she said. "Besides, you can't control the context. For example, art that's made in this moment around Brexit could have a very different interpretation in ten years depending on what happens to Britain's fortunes."

The full profile, which includes anecdotes about everything from Hunicke's work on Journey at thatgamecompany to how her pursuit of a PhD in AI led her to work on The Sims 2 ("I thought I'd just go to work and then finish my PhD alongside it. I didn't realise how hard devs work"), is worth reading over on Eurogamer.  

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