Robin Hunicke

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Robin Hunicke
Robin Hunicke at the 2018 GDC Awards (40916176642).jpg
Hunicke hosting the 2018 Game Developers Conference Awards
Born (1973-03-15) March 15, 1973 (age 45) [1]
Residence San Francisco, California, U.S.
Occupation Executive Producer
Known for Funomena
Electronic Arts
Notable work
MySims , Boom Blox , Journey , Wattam

Robin Hunicke ( /ˈhʌnɪki/ ; born March 15, 1973) [1] is an American video game designer and producer. She is a professor of game design at UC Santa Cruz and the co-founder of Funomena.

A video game producer is the person in charge of overseeing development of a video game.


Hunicke began her career at Electronic Arts where she worked on multiple games including MySims as Lead Designer and Boom Blox and its sequel as a Producer. After leaving EA, she was hired by thatgamecompany where she produced Journey, an online cooperative game for the PlayStation 3. After its completion, Hunicke joined Tiny Speck to develop the social MMORPG Glitch , teaming with Katamari Damacy creator and personal friend Keita Takahashi. Prior to the release of Glitch , Hunicke left Tiny Speck to co-found Funomena together with Martin Middleton, former teammate and engineer at thatgamecompany. In October 2012, Funomena announced their first project: "to build a game that takes data from a pedometer and does something fun with it." [2] They have since announced two new games, Wattam (directed by Keita Takahashi) and Luna, "a tactile puzzle game set in a vibrant and sculptural story-book world", both of which are currently in development and executive produced by Hunicke. [3]

Electronic Arts American interactive entertainment company

Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) is an American video game company headquartered in Redwood City, California. It is the second-largest gaming company in the Americas and Europe by revenue and market capitalization after Activision Blizzard and ahead of Take-Two Interactive and Ubisoft as of March 2018.

<i>MySims</i> 2007 video game

MySims is a video game developed by EA Redwood Shores and published by Electronic Arts as a spin-off to Maxis' The Sims franchise for the Nintendo DS and Wii in 2007, re-released for Microsoft Windows and mobile phone in 2008.

<i>Boom Blox</i> video game

Boom Blox is a puzzle video game for the Wii console, mobile devices and N-Gage 2.0 developed by EA Los Angeles in conjunction with film director Steven Spielberg. The game was released on May 6, 2008, in North America and on May 9, 2008, in Europe. The N-Gage version of the game was released on December 3, 2008.

Hunicke is recognized in the industry for her support of independent game development, experimentation in game design, research in dynamic difficulty adjustment, and the advocacy of women within the games industry. [4]

An indie game is a video game that is most often created without the financial support of a publisher, although some games funded by a publisher are still considered independent. These games often focus on innovation and rely on digital distribution. Indie gaming saw a rise in mainstream popularity in the latter half of the 2000s, primarily due to new online distribution methods and widely available video game development tools.

Dynamic game difficulty balancing (DGDB), also known as dynamic difficulty adjustment (DDA) or dynamic game balancing (DGB), is the process of automatically changing parameters, scenarios, and behaviors in a video game in real-time, based on the player's ability, in order to avoid making the player bored or frustrated. However, letting AI players break the rules to which players are bound can cause the AI to cheat—for example, AI players might be given unlimited speed in racing games to stay near the human player. The goal of dynamic difficulty balancing is to keep the user interested from the beginning to the end, providing a good level of challenge.

Early life and education

Hunicke was born on March 15, 1973 in Albany, New York. She holds a B.A. degree from the University of Chicago and is finishing a PhD in Artificial Intelligence with a focus on Games and Game Design from Northwestern University. [5]

Albany, New York Capital of New York

Albany is the capital of the U.S. state of New York and the seat of Albany County. Albany is located on the west bank of the Hudson River approximately 10 miles (16 km) south of its confluence with the Mohawk River and approximately 135 miles (220 km) north of New York City.

A Bachelor of Arts is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, sciences, or both. Bachelor of Arts programs generally take three to four years depending on the country, institution, and specific specializations, majors, or minors. The word baccalaureus should not be confused with baccalaureatus, which refers to the one- to two-year postgraduate Bachelor of Arts with Honors degree in some countries.

University of Chicago Private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. The university is composed of an undergraduate college, various graduate programs and interdisciplinary committees organized into five academic research divisions and seven professional schools. Beyond the arts and sciences, Chicago is also well known for its professional schools, which include the Pritzker School of Medicine, the Booth School of Business, the Law School, the School of Social Service Administration, the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, the Divinity School and the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. The university holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.


Electronic Arts

Hunicke began her work with Electronic Arts at Maxis, where she became a designer for The Sims 2: Open for Business after meeting famed game designer and Sims director Will Wright. Following her work on The Sims 2, Hunicke went on to become the lead designer for MySims on the Nintendo Wii, and later, was a producer for Boom Blox and its sequel, Boom Blox: Bash Party . [6] [7] [8]

Maxis US video game developer

Maxis is an American video game developer and a division of Electronic Arts (EA). The studio was founded in 1987 by Will Wright and Jeff Braun, and acquired by EA in 1997. Maxis is best known for its simulation games, including The Sims.

<i>The Sims 2: Open for Business</i> video game

The Sims 2: Open for Business is the third expansion pack for The Sims 2, released on March 3, 2006, which allows Sims to run a home or community lot based business. Aspyr released a port of the game for Mac OS X on September 4, 2006. Although it is not a direct reimagining of Open for Business, The Sims 3: Ambitions introduces a related theme of following playable sims to work and creating salable items using numerous skills.

Will Wright (game designer) American video game designer and entrepreneur

William Ralph Wright is an American video game designer and co-founder of the former game development company Maxis, and then part of Electronic Arts (EA). In April 2009, he left EA to run Stupid Fun Club Camp, an entertainment think tank in which Wright and EA are principal shareholders.


Hunicke in 2009 Robinhunicke at thatgamecompany photoshoot, August 2009.jpg
Hunicke in 2009

Following her work at Electronic Arts, Hunicke joined thatgamecompany as producer. [9] She joined the team in the early conceptual stages for the studio's third project Journey, a multiplayer cooperative adventure game released in early 2012. [10] [11]

Thatgamecompany video game development studio

Thatgamecompany, LLC is an American independent video game development company founded by University of Southern California students Jenova Chen and Kellee Santiago in 2006. The company was a developer for Sony Computer Entertainment, contracted to create three downloadable games for the PlayStation 3's PlayStation Network service, and has since secured independent funding. The first of their games is a remake of Chen's award-winning Flash title Flow, with enhanced visuals and sound, added multiplayer modes and compatibility with the PlayStation 3's motion sensitive controller. The title was released on the PlayStation Store in 2007. The company's second PlayStation 3 game, Flower, was released on the PlayStation Store in 2009, and their third game, Journey, was released in March 2012 on the PlayStation Store. Their fourth game, Sky, is planned for a 2018 release, with a timed exclusive on iOS devices.

<i>Journey</i> (2012 video game) 2012 video game

Journey is an indie adventure game developed by Thatgamecompany and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was released for the PlayStation 3 via PlayStation Network in March 2012 and ported to PlayStation 4 in July 2015.

Tiny Speck

After the release of Journey, Hunicke left thatgamecompany to join Tiny Speck to continue development of their social MMORPG Glitch . [12]


Prior to the release of Glitch , Hunicke left Tiny Speck to co-found Funomena together with Martin Middleton. They announced their first project in October 2012: "to build a game that takes data from a pedometer and does something fun with it." [2] Their first video game is Luna, a VR-focused art game [13] which is described as "a tactile puzzle game set in a vibrant and sculptural story-book world". [3] They are currently developing Wattam , a spiritual successor of Bandai Namco's Katamari series directed by its creator, Keita Takahashi. [14]

Conferences and events

Hunicke contributes to various video game industry conferences and events throughout the year. She is an organizer of the annual Game Design Workshop at the Game Developer's Conference, where she helps organize the event and teaches with designers Doug Church, Marc LeBlanc, Frank Lantz, Stone Librande, Clint Hocking and others. [15] Hunicke is also an organizer of the Experimental Gameplay Sessions at GDC with Jonathan Blow, Doug Church, and Chris Hecker. [16] Many successful games have made their first public appearance at the session, including Jonathan Blow's Braid and Valve's Portal . [17] Hunicke is also an organizer of IndieCade, an annual festival dedicated to independent game development. [18]

Hunicke is a founding member of the IGDA Education SIG, has participated in the Indie Game Jam, helps with the Global Game Jam, teaches at UCSC, and is a judge for the Independent Games Festival. [19] [20]


In her studies, Hunicke researches dynamic difficulty adjustment. She is also interested in how "the notions of fate, meaning, and consequence can be communicated via video games". [21]

MDA framework

From 2001 to 2004, [22] Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubeck created the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics framework to focus and improve game analysis. The framework categorizes the many aspects of a game as Mechanics, Dynamics, or Aesthetics, and outlines the inverse perspectives of designer and player. From the perspective of the designer, the Mechanics generate Dynamics which generate Aesthetics. From the perspective of the player, the player experiences the game through the Aesthetics, which are provided by Dynamics that emerge from the game mechanics.

Awards and recognition

On May 21, 2008, Hunicke was chosen for Gamasutra's "Gamasutra 20", "honoring the Top 20 women working in the video game industry". In 2009, Microsoft awarded Hunicke the Women in Gaming Award for Design. She also earned a spot on the Hot 100 Game Developers of 2009 list by Edge Magazine. [19] [23] [24]

To date, the various titles Hunicke has worked on have garnered awards, such as the "Online Innovation Award" for Journey at the Game Developers Choice Online Awards [25] and a BAFTA award for "Best Casual Game of 2008" for Boom Blox. [26]

She's a contest judge in Will Wright's Proxi art challenge. [27]

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