Game Design Concepts

For the past few weeks, I’ve been participating in a free online course on game design. The Game Design Concepts course is taught by Ian Schreiber, co-author of Challenges for Game Designers.

The basic point of the book and the course is that too many people are intimidated when it comes to learning how to design a video game. Schools claim that they would love to teach game design but cannot afford enough computers. Schreiber and Brenda Brathwaite argue that teaching game design does not require expensive hardware, software, programming experience, or any technology one would normally associate with video games. Game design can be done with inexpensive pen-and-paper, dice, index cards, and coins.

The blog is freely available, so you don’t have to be one of the 1400+ participants to read it. People have taken advantage of the class wiki in order to translate the course into multiple languages, making it more accessible! The forum is great for discussing the course topics with other students and getting feedback on assignments and ideas.

From day one, we’ve been designing and prototyping games. A number of the reading assignments outside of the book were familiar to me, such as Greg Costikyan’s article on a a common vocabulary for game designers and Dough Church’s Formal Abstract Design Tools, but when all of them are put together in the context of this course, the readings provided fresh insight, especially since they were immediately applicable to an assignment.

Most recently an assignment asked us to take a video game that did not already have a board game adaptation and create one. The exercise was in determining the mechanics that were key to the game, which should help when you go from a paper prototype to a video game, too. I chose Yars’ Revenge, and while I haven’t played my assignment, the feedback I received on the rules was quite positive. Quite a few of the submitted game rules looked fantastic. One of my favorites was based on Flatspace.

The class continues until August, and it’s definitely fun and practical. I would highly recommend it to any indie game developer. Is anyone else currently participating in it?

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