Game Design

A place to learn about how to teach game design. If you aren’t a gamer yourself, you definitely want to review this section, but even if you are a gamer, there’s plenty of helpful hints about how to teach game design and ensure it is a productive learning activity for students. Recommended for everyone.

  • GD0 - Introduction to Game Design

    Michael Gi introduces us to Game Design

  • GD1 - So you want to be a Game Designer?

    Micheal Gi talks about what it means to be a game designer. He specifically focuses on some of the challenges and what makes the job difficult. He talks about how game designers need the skills of communication, systems thinking and creativity.


    Here’s a an additional video about being a game designer created by Extra Credits, that you may want to play for your students.

    Finally, an activity is presented in the video for a creative thinking exercise that puts students in the seat of a game designer.

    Designing outside the box  (PDF 260k)

  • GD2 - How to play as a designer rather than a player

    Amanda Kirk talks about an approach to play games with the critical lens of a game designer.

    This video mainly talks about an activity that youth can do this get in a game designer mindset. The activity is described in the video- an abbreviated version of the activity is given in the lesson plan below.

    Think like game designer (PDF 163kb)

  • GD3 - The role of playtesting

    Playtesting is a process that game designers use to test a game in progress by letting other people play the game and getting their honest feedback.

    This video discusses the role of playtesting in the game design process, and how to conduct a good playtest.

    To run a successful playtest:

    1. Figure out what you are trying to learn. Make sure you are ready to change your game based on what playtesters say.
    2. Set up the game and explain the rules
    3. Once the gameplay starts, stop talking and just listen and observe.
    4. Take lots of notes.
    5. After the play is over, ask questions.
    6. Share notes on playtesting as a group to see if everyone has similar observations.
    7. Then think about what in the game caused what you observed.
    8. Then, only at the end, think about changes to your game.

    The main goal is to not get defensive or to try to explain your design to the players, or to try to prove that your game is awesome. You want to encourage critical feedback from your playtesters.

    The lesson plan below gives a simple activity in which students can get more familiar with the playtesting process by designing and testing multiple versions of a simple game we all know: musical chairs. The activity allows students to really focus on the act of giving and receiving playtesting feedback on their game mods.

    Modding Musical Chairs (PDF 406kb)

  • GD4 - A five-part game design framework

    Part 1

    This video discusses a five part framework that you can use to help your students more productively design games. This framework helps build a common vocabulary so that you can more easily talk to them about the parts of their game during a game jam and have more specific conversations about their game design.

    • Goal – How you win the game
    • Space – Where you play the game
    • Components – All the pieces, or nouns, of the game
    • Mechanics – Actions you do in the game, or the verbs of the game
    • Rules – Things you can and can’t do in a game

    The following activity makes strong use of the five fold framework and is great to use to introduce the framework.

    Hack Tic Tac Toe (PDF 222kb)

    Part 2

    This video offers a second perspective on using the same five-part framework.

    The following activity makes strong use of the five fold framework and is great to use to introduce the framework.

    You are the game (PDF 220kb)

  • GD5 - THE MDA Framework

  • GD6 - Games as complex systems

    This video dissects how to think about games as complex systems in order to aid your game design. It talks about the idea of a systems diagram, and shows how games can be represented in such diagrams. There are four main ideas discussed in such diagrams:

    • Stocks – “Stuff.” Somewhat analogous to components.
    • Flows – Relationships between your stocks.
    • Gates – But conditions onto flows (“if this happens, then that happens”)
    • Sources and Sinks – Where new stuff appears or disappears from your system.

    A lesson plan is given below for students to make a systems diagram for a game. If students are designing a complex systems game, maybe a simulation game or a game with a lot of interacting components, this activity may help the game designers on the team think through the design

    Make a system flow diagram (PDF 258kb)

  • GD7 - Player Psychology

    Part 1

    A brief look at the importance of skill and challenges are in game design.

    Part 2

    A brief explanation of creating player agency or how they make meaningful choices.

    Part 3

    A very brief look at achieving flow in your design and understanding player engagement and how to manage the balance.