CMS.608 | Spring 2014 | Undergraduate

Game Design


Course Meeting Times

Seminars: 2 sessions / week, 3 hours / session


One subject in Comparative Media Studies or permission of instructor.

Course Description

This course is built around practical instruction in the design and analysis of non­digital games. It provides students the texts, tools, references, and historical context to analyze and compare game designs across a variety of genres. In teams, students design, develop, and thoroughly test their original games to better understand the interaction and evolution of game rules. Covers various genres and types of games, including sports, game shows, games of chance, card games, schoolyard games, board games, and role­playing games.

Class Requirements and Grading

Course grade will be determined by attendance, preparedness, and participation in class (25%) and three team projects (25% each). For each project, all members of a team will receive the same grade. If you have difficulty working with teammates, please inform the instructor as soon as possible. As long as each game project meets the basic parameters of each assignment, grading will be based exclusively on clarity of written rules and adherence to the Written Rules Style Guide (PDF) (5%), adherence and rigorous use of the iterative design process (10%), and responsiveness to tester and faculty feedback from week to week (10%). Grades will not be determined by the quality or “fun” of your games. Therefore, deadlines are fixed and extensions will not be granted. Last-minute heroics will neither be necessary nor useful.

Because this class emphasizes participation and teamwork, and because you will have to play many games with your classmates, the instructor reserves the right to warn and dock the participation grade of any student who engages in antisocial or disruptive behavior. Regular and consistent class attendance is mandatory. You may lose a full letter grade if you miss more than more than 3 classes without justification and prior approval from the instructor. However, this class promises to be lenient on absences due to illness and discourages working while you are sick, as long as you inform the instructor before missing a class. Meeting up with classmates in person when you may have a contagious illness is particularly discouraged!

The class involves lab sessions in which students will play a prescribed set of games relevant to the course. Board games and card games are also available for students to check out from the course instructors for a week. Students enrolling for graduate credit (CMS.864) are required to learn the rules of the prescribed games ahead of each lab session and be ready to teach the games to the rest of the class. All students (CMS.608 or CMS.864) should be studying the rules of as many games as possible to gain more insight as to how to present rules in a clear and concise manner.

While this class does not emphasize essay writing, game rules and text are expected to be clear, spell­checked, and demonstrate a high proficiency in written English. Consult the Written Rules Style Guide (PDF) for more information.

Suggested Textbooks

The class uses a few selected readings from the following books, which are highly recommended for anybody interested in game design. You are not required to purchase any of these books.

Brathwaite, Brenda, and Ian Schreiber. Challenges for Game Designers: Non­digital Exercises for Video Game Designers. Cengage Learning, 2008. ISBN: 9781584505808.

Fullerton, Tracy. Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games. 2nd ed. CRC Press, 2008. ISBN: 9780240809748. [Preview with Google Books]

Buy at MIT Press Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780262240451.

Costikyan, Greg, and Drew Davidson, eds. Tabletop Analog Game Design., 2011. ISBN: 9781257870608.

Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism—use of another’s intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the CMS Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else’s work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student’s own work.

Intellectual Property

All original intellectual property for game designs created by a team will be jointly owned by all the members of the team.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2014
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Audio
Design Assignments with Examples
Instructor Insights