CMS.608 | Fall 2010 | Undergraduate

Game Design

Study Materials

Readings are taken from the course text and other sources, listed by session in the table below. Lab sessions also include a list of games that may be played in class. All assignments must be turned in at the beginning of class.

[CGD] = Brathwaite, Brenda, and Ian Schreiber. Challenges for Game Designers: Non-Digital Exercises for Video Game Designers. Boston, MA: Charles River Media/Course Technology, 2009. ISBN: 9781584505808.

1 Introductions and basic terminology  
2 Iterative Design

[CGD] Chapter 1

Zimmerman, Eric. “Play as Research: The Iterative Design Process.” July 8, 2003.



Uno, Mattel, 1971.

Pit, Winning Moves, 1904.

Fluxx, Looney Labs, 1997.

Falling, Titanic Games, 1998.

Chez Geek, Steve Jackson Games, 1999.


Where do ideas for games come from?

Core dynamics, MDA, verbs

[CGD] Chapter 2

Hunicke, Robin, Marc LeBlanc, and Robert Zubek. “MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research.” In Proceedings of the Challenges in Game AI Workshop at the 19th National Conference on Artificial Intelligence. San Jose, CA: AAAI Press, 2004. (PDF)

Church, Doug. “Formal Abstract Design Tools.” Gamasutra, July 16 1999.



Guest Lecture, Sara Verrilli, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

Fullerton, Tracy. “Playtesting.” Chapter 8 in Game Design Workshop. Boston, MA: Morgan Kaufmann, 2008. ISBN: 9780240809748.

Assignment 1 (Card Game) Brainstorming and Team Formation

Guest Lecture, Abe Stein, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

Osborn, Alex F. “Creative Collaboration by Groups.” Chapter 12 in Applied Imagination. New York, NY: Scribner, 1953. ISBN: 9780930222734.


_Incan Gol_d, Gryphon Games, 2006.

Saboteur, Z-Man Games, 2004.

Crunch, Exile Game Studio, 2009.

Chrononauts, Looney Labs, 2000.

6 The Social Function of Games

Church, Doug. “Formal Abstract Design Tools.” Gamasutra, July 16, 1999.

Caillois, Roger. “The Social Function of Games.” Chapter 3 in Man, Play, and Games. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780240809748.

7 Chance, Probability, Alea

[CGD] Chapter 5

Caillois, Roger. “Competition and Chance.” Chapter 8 in Man, Play and Games. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780252070334.

8 Strategy, Skill, and Chance, Part 1

[CGD] Chapter 6

Buy at MIT Press Poundstone, William. “Game Theory.” The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology. Edited by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. ISBN:9780262195362.


Munchkin, Steve Jackson Games, 2001.

Bohnanza, Rio Grande Games, 1997.

Bang!, Da Vinci, 2002.

Lunch Money, Atlas, 1996.

9 Strategy, Skill, and Chance, Part 2 [CGD] Chapters 7 and 8
10 Assignment 1 Internal Playtest  
11 Adding and Subtracting Mechanics

[CGD] Chapter 14

Juul, Jesper. “The Open and The Closed: Games of Emergence and Games of Progression.” In Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings. Edited by Frans Mäyrä. Tampere, Finland: Tampere University Press, 2002.


San Juan, Rio Grande Games, 2004.

Race for the Galaxy, Rio Grande Games, 2007.

Dominion, Rio Grande Games, 2008.

Naval Battles: World War II on the High Seas, Mayfair Games, 2004.

12 Knowing Your Players

[CGD] Chapter 11

Bartle, Richard. “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players Who Suit MUDs.” April 1996.

13 Assignment 1 Playtest with GAMBIT Staff  
14 Learning an Unfamiliar Genre

[CGD] Chapter 12


Carcassonne, Rio Grande Games, 2000.

Blokus, Mattel, 2000.

Flibbix, Merillian Games, 2008.

Stratego, Milton Bradley, 1947.

Ticket to Ride, Days of Wonder, 2004.

Excape, Rio Grande Games, 1998.

15 Holiday – No Class Leacock, Matt. “Cooperation and Engagement: What Can Board Games Teach Us?” April 30, 2008. YouTube. Accessed on March 7, 2011.
16 Assignment 1 Showcase  
17 Game Bits

[CGD] Chapter 4

Norman, Donald. “The Psychopathology of Everyday Things.” and “Knowing What To Do.” Chapters 1 and 4 in The Design of Everyday Things. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2002. ISBN: 9780465067107.


Thurn and Taxis, Rio Grande Games, 2006.

The Settlers of Catan, Mayfair Games, 1995.

Ad Astra, Fantasy Flight Games, 2009.

Roll Through The Ages, Gryphon Games, 2009.

Scrabble, Hasbro, 1948.


18 Puzzles

[CGD] Chapter 3

Kim, Scott. “What is a Puzzle?”


Abstraction and Simulation

Assignment 2 (Board Game) Team Formation

Starr, Paul. “Seductions of Sim; Policy as a Simulation Game.” The American Prospect, March 21, 1994.
20 What is Intellectual Property?

[CGD] Chapter 9


Endeavor, Z-Man Games, 2009.

Pandemic, Z-Man Games, 2008.

Scotland Yard, Ravensburger, 1983.

Mob City, Van der Veer Games, 2005.

Container, Valley Games, Inc., 2007.


Games as Teaching Tools

Guest Panel, Konstantin Mitgutsch, Dan Roy, Scot Osterweil, Education Arcade/Learning Games Network

[CGD] Chapters 18 and 19
22 Assignment 2 Internal Playtest  

Creating Sequels

Guest Lecture, Sara Verrilli, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

[CGD] Chapter 10


Battlestar Galactica, Fantasy Flight Games, 2008.

Brass, FRED Distribution, 2007.

Puerto Rico, Rio Grande Games, 2002.

Thebes, Queen/Rio Grande Games, 2007.

Chinatown, Alea, 1999.

24 Assignment 2 Playtest with GAMBIT Staff  

“Fiction and Stories in Games.”

Guest Lecture, Clara Fernandez-Vara, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

Johnson, Soren. “Theme Is Not Meaning.” Part I, Part II. Designer Notes, June 2010.

Buy at MIT Press Juul, Jesper. “Fiction.” Chapter 4 in Half-Real. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780262101103.

26 Heavyweights


Agricola, Z-Man Games, 2007.

Le Havre, Lookout Games, 2008.

Power Grid, Rio Grande Games, 2004.

Cosmic Encounter, Fantasy Flight Games, 2008.

Caylus, Rio Grande Games, 2005.


Games As Art

Guest Lecture, Abe Stein, Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab

[CGD] Chapter 17

Frasca, Gonzalo. “Videogames Of The Oppressed.” Electronic Book Review, June 24, 2004.

28 Guest Lecture, Scott Nicholson, Library Game Lab, Syracuse University Have games ready for playtesting!
29 Assignment 2 Showcase  

Clients for Assignment 3 (Game for a Client) Visit

Guest Lecture, Cezar Cimpeanu and James Cartreine

Rueve, Marie, and Randon S. Welton. “Violence and Mental Illness.” Psychiatry 5 (May 2008): 34-48.

Schwartz, Thomas L., and Tricia L. Park. “Assaults by Patients on Psychiatric Residents: A Survey and Training Recommendations.” Psychiatric Services 50 (March 1999): 381-383.

Ogloff, James R. P., and Michael Daffern. “The Dynamic Appraisal of Situational Aggression: An Instrument to Assess Risk for Imminent Aggression in Psychiatric Inpatients.” Behavioral Sciences and the Law 24 (2006): 799-813.

Antonius, Daniel, et al. “Psychiatric Assessment of Aggressive Patients: A Violent Attack on a Resident.” American Journal of Psychiatry 167 (March 2010): 253-259.

DSM-IV Criteria for Substance Use Disorders. “Schizophrenia.” DSM-IV-TR #295.1-295.3, 295.90.

31 Assignment 3 Brainstorming and Team Formation  
32 Live Action Games  

Ethics in Games

Guest Lecture, Mia Consalvo, Comparative Media Studies

Buy at MIT Press Sicart, Miguel. “The Ethics of Game Design.” Chapter 7 in The Ethics of Computer Games. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780262012652.
34 Assignment 3 Group Work  
35 Assignment 3 Internal Playtest  
36 Assignment 3 Group Work  
37 Assignment 3 Playtest with GAMBIT Staff  
38 Assignment 3 Group Work  
39 Assignment 3 Showcase  

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2010
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Audio
Projects with Examples