Archives for category: How I Teach Game Design.

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defining game design + writing the rules of Pac-Man
+ understanding “formalism”

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student work from the Pac-Man rules exercise

 

What is Game Design?

I’m four posts deep into this series and before I go any further, I wanted to address a basic question: What exactly is game design anyway? Since these little essays are about learning game design, it seems appropriate to ask.

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designing meaningful choices + an exercise in fixing a “broken” game

The Game Modification assignment

In the last post of this series, I discussed some of the principles of iteration. The Tic-Tac-Toe exercise is a good way to get a beginning sense of the game design process, but iterative design really kicks in only when students get take-home assignments that they need to evolve over a longer period of time.

The assignment below is the first take-home project I give to students. It’s a 1-week project, which means the week after I assign it, students bring their finished games into class to share with everyone else.

RSP: Crossfire! by Craig Donahue, Andrew Jajja, Lyle Sterne, John Xiao

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how and why to iterate + a game modification exercise

Iterative design

In the syllabus I shared in my last How I Teach Game Design post, graded assignments are given out on one week, and then one or two or three weeks later, they are due. So what happens in-between, during the actual work time? The answer is: the iterative design process.

Iterative design means a process focused on playtesting. You produce a playable prototype of a game as quickly as possible, then playtest the prototype, and you decide how to evolve the game based on the experience of the playtest. One way of understanding iterative design would be its opposite: a designer who works out all of the details of a game in advance, and creates a final set of rules and other materials without ever actually playing the game.

Of course, this caricature is absurd: no game designer I know has ever released a game without playtesting it. But I do have a particularly strong emphasis on iterative design in my teaching and my creative practice as a designer. The game designer Kevin Cancienne once called me a “playtesting fundamentalist’ – and perhaps he’s right. (So much for my stance against fundamentalism.)

What’s the big deal about iteration? The behavior of complex, interactive systems – like games – is incredibly difficult to predict. You generally cannot know exactly what players are going to do once they start playing your game. The only way to find out is to actually build some primitive version of your game, have people play it, and see what happens. Each time you playtest, you find out what does and doesn’t work, make some adjustments, and then play again. That’s why it is called the iterative process – you create successive versions, or iterations, of your game as you go. Read the rest of this entry »

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an introduction, first principles, a rant against design fundamentalism, and a syllabus

Bona fides

Why should you read some blog post about how someone teaches? I started out wanting to write a series of essays in order to share my teaching techniques – syllabi and readings, concepts and methods, exercises and assignments. However, early on in the process I realized that I was not just writing about how to teach game design. These short pieces are really about how to learn game design.

So don’t let the name fool you. These little essays I call How I Teach Game Design are not just for teachers. They are for working game designers, design students, game players, critics and researchers – anyone who wants to better understand the process of game design. And furthermore, you certainly don’t have to be in a classroom to make use of them: nothing is stopping you from applying these concepts to your current project or trying out some of the exercises with your friends or office-mates.

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