RANDY CHUNGA, Copywriter AND game level designer

By day, I write about exploring our world. By night, I build ones of my own. Designing levels for video games has opened up my creativity in all that I do.

Q: How does each role affect the other? What is similar and what’s different?  

A: Game level design is the creation of the world(s) in which games take place. Copywriting and game level design have a lot more in common than you might think. Fundamentally, both deal with problem-solving and communication. The art comes in finding a balance between function and form to create a compelling experience.

In advertising, an effective communication begins with a consumer insight. The same applies to creating a level for a video game. You must understand the psychology of the players and the natural behaviors that emerge given the rules of the game. And you have to take into account feelings of frustration or joy that certain elements generate. 

Just as a game level designer must be mindful of how the landscape impacts player behavior, so must the copywriter as the cultural landscape evolves and affects consumer sentiments and attitudes. They must understand what drives people and their desires, what makes experiences enjoyable, where the fun is. It’s an ongoing study of human behavior.

One thing I love about game level design is how it incorporates lessons and philosophies from other artistic disciplines like architecture, interior design and theme park design. Basic art principles like color theory, contrast and proportion all apply, as you are ultimately creating a visual experience and helping guide people through it in a way that is approachable and rewarding. 

Right now, I gravitate toward multiplayer games with integrity—that is, games with simple rules, yet incredible depth and enduring gameplay. Think of chess—a game that has remained unchanged for hundreds of years and yet to this day is still often recommended as a game to learn, no matter your discipline. I like designing for games with chess-like qualities.

Level design has also improved my process as a writer. Working more spatially has taught me that you don’t have to have an idea all planned out to make it work— you can achieve your goals with something ugly and then turn it into something beautiful. In the past, my approach to writing was like trying to create the blueprint for an entire building before building it—now it’s more like I build some good scaffolding and work out the details as I go. In game design, we call this a “blockout”—similar to a wireframe for a website. It allows you to iterate on the flow of a level without having to waste time fixing the art. I’ve learned to approach writing in a similar way. I’m reminded of the old saying, “say it straight, then say it great.” It’s funny how things you already knew, when demonstrated in new ways, can give you an even greater sense of knowing.

Q: What’s inspiring you today in your work or personal projects? 

A: A lot of the work I’m doing for the agency involves travel and inspiring people to go on journeys across the world. For me personally, I spend more time creating worlds than travelling ours, although I do like to get out and see something new from time to time to rejuvenate and get a new perspective. A lot of the journeys I embark on are endeavors, whether it’s a new skill I’m developing or a new body of knowledge I’m immersing myself into. I’m constantly trying to develop my framework of reality and my role within it. I try to bring that sense of wonder and curiosity into the work I do.

Another big hobby of mine is music—I’ve played guitar since I was 16. It’s another amazing outlet for me and allows me to express ideas that words simply can’t describe. And it’s also made me a better writer in many ways. It’s taught me to hear the music in words—the rhythms, the harmonies, the motifs. So, I make sure to pick up my guitar often. It just might produce an energy that makes its way into a piece of writing.

Q: Where can we check out your personal work?  

A: I’ve always had an attraction to game design but only in the last two years have devoted a lot of time and energy to it. I’m slowly but surely developing a portfolio of work. The game I’m focused on right now is Counter-Strike, which is a multiplayer, tactical, first-person shooter and one of the most popular e-sports in the world. It has a huge international competitive scene with million-dollar prize pools, big-brand sponsors like Red Bull and Audi, and teams backed by investors like Shaq and Magic Johnson. On top of that, one of the biggest incentives for designing for this game is that the developers have actually created a path for community level designers to get their maps officially into the game, which needless to say is the dream.

You can read my blogs on level development as well as find links to download my maps here: 

https://linktr.ee/kokop3ll1

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