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Game Design

Welcome to Game Design! In this course we will explore what makes something a game, different games throughout history, and even design your own game.

Days with an asterisk (*) mean you have something to print.

Materials Needed for this Course

  • paper and pencil
  • 2 six-sided dice
  • a standard deck of playing cards

Day 1*

1. Watch the video “What is a game?”
2. Print page 1 of the PDF and use the video to answer the questions.

Day 2

1. Watch the video “Ancient Games.”
2. Learn the basic rules of Go.
3. Try playing Go. See if you can win a match. (You can use the smallest board to start.)

Day 3*

1. Today we’re going to watch some videos from Coursera. You will need to create a free account and log in to view Coursera content. Create your account and log in before you move to step 2. (You may need to enroll in the course to access some videos. If so, choose the option “Audit this course” and you can still watch all the videos for free.)
2. Watch the Introduction to Game Design ‘Welcome’ video.
3. Watch the video “Elements of Game Design.”
4. Print page 1 of the PDF and answer the questions.

Day 4

1. Let’s jump right in with your first game! You are going to design a simple one-player game on a single sheet of paper. Aside from a player token, you are not allowed to use any equipment except two six-sided dice. (You are not required to use dice at all, or you could only use one. It’s your game!) Watch this video for more details about your assignment.
2. Watch the video about making a simple game and brainstorming.
3. Today choose an idea or concept for your game. You can take notes about gameplay if you like. Your game will need to be complete and ready to play on Day 7.

Day 5

1. Watch the video about the “Game Design Document.”
2. Create a game design document for your game. For such a simple game, it should be fairly short and basically include the rules of the game. Title your document with the name of your game.
3. Begin creating your game. It will need to be complete enough to be tested tomorrow, but it doesn’t need to be completely finished.

Day 6

1. Watch the video about feedback.
2. Today, have someone else in your house test out your game and provide feedback on it. Consider whether any of their feedback can be used to improve your game.

Day 7

1. Your game should be complete and ready to play. Test it out yourself, and then have at least one (preferably two) other people play it and provide feedback.
2. As a reminder, your game should:

  • Be for a single player
  • Fit on a single sheet of paper
  • Have instructions somewhere on the paper
  • Use no more equipment than two six-sided dice

3. Save your game in a notebook or portfolio.

Day 8

1. Today watch the introduction to rules.
2. Watch the video about balance.
3. Choose a game you haven’t played before and play it for a little while. Which elements provide balance in the game?

Day 9

1. Watch the video “What Are Rules?”
2. Play Pong. Read the “About Pong” section below the game. Although the game of Pong is very intuitive (meaning it’s easy for the player to figure out the rules without reading them) the game itself is governed by more rules than you might expect.

Day 10

1. Watch the video “Breaking the Rules.”
2. Watch the video “Learning the Rules.”
3. The rules of the game can make or break it. Think about a simple deck of cards. How many games can you play with it? The only difference between these games are the rules you use to play with the cards. Play at least two different card games. Notice how the gameplay experience changes with each game even though the materials are the same.

Day 11

1. Today read “How to Make Your Own Card Game.”
2. Design a game that can be played with nothing but a standard deck of playing cards. It can be single player or multi-player. Your objective can be to get all the cards, get rid of all the cards, get all the cards of one suit, acquire all the face cards, or something else you decide. Gameplay can be fast, slow, competitive, cooperative, involve math and strategy or only chance. Create the rules of your game and then test it out. Remember to name your game and save the rules.

Day 12

1. Watch the video “Introduction to Story.”
2. Watch the video about the purpose of stories in games.
3. We’re going to be working on another paper-based game. If you want, you can keep your idea from your first game. If you prefer, you can start with a new one! The big difference this time around is that we’re going to spend some time developing the story. What is the story of your game? How could it affect the goals and gameplay? Brainstorm some ideas for your game, and write down at least a basic idea of the game story. If you’re working with a new idea, create a new story document and give it a title. If you’re revamping your old game, create a new document with the same title plus “version 2.”

Day 13

1. Watch the game story homework video. How does the story of your game affect its mechanics?
2. The game you are going to create this time needs to be a multiplayer game. That means you must consider whether your game is competitive (and if so, how will one player win) or cooperative (if so, what goal will the players work together to achieve). Your game can also be larger in scale this time around. You will be allowed to use up to 4 sheets of paper to create a larger board, and will be allowed to incorporate other elements such as cards, other board tokens besides the player tokens, counters, etc. Be thoughtful in which elements you choose to add. More complicated isn’t necessarily better!
3. How does being a multiplayer game affect the story you wrote yesterday? It’s all right if you need to make changes. Today, decide how players can win the game. Write it down in your game design document.

Day 14

1. Begin creating a mock-up of your game. For the mock-up, don’t worry about presentation or art, just try and create the elements you will need to test your game.

Day 15

1. Continue working on your game mock-up.

Day 16

1. Complete your game mock-up today.
2. Playtest your game with at least one other person. Take notes on what you can do to make the game more balanced or interesting. Collect feedback from the other player.

Day 17

1. Carefully evaluate your board game. What changes should you make to improve gameplay or balance? Are there any rules that need to be changed or clarified? What feedback did you receive that you can incorporate into the game? Create a detailed plan. Tomorrow you are going to begin creating a final version, so make sure you’ve considered any details you need to change and added them to your game design document.

Day 18

1. Today you’re going to begin making your final version of this board game. Don’t worry about art being perfect, but your game needs to be neat, legible, and colored where appropriate. Do not present a final version in pencil. Remember, you are allowed to use:

  • Up to 4 sheets of paper or cardstock
  • Up to 2 six-sided dice
  • Additional components such as cards, tokens, or counters

2. You will have four class days to create your game (complete and ready to play on Day 21), and it needs to reflect that time in your finished product.

Day 19

1. Continue working on your game.

Day 20

1. Continue working on your game.

Day 21

1. Finish making your game.
2. Play your game with at least one other person.