Factors Impacting Teaching

In this section, Philip Tan and Richard Eberhardt discuss factors that have shaped how they teach the course. 

Student Background

Students typically bring a good mix of academic backgrounds to this course. Some students usually have a better grasp of probability and statistics, while others have a stronger grounding in pyschology or design. We see this as beneficial, as it provides opportunties for students to teach each other when we address areas in which they have particular expertise. This semester, the mix included graduate students from the Sloan School of Management and Comparative Media Studies/Writing. We also had undergraduates from Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Mathematics, and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

[We] show students that the practice of game design is a discipline of its own.

—Philip Tan and Richard Eberhardt

Since Sloan graduate students have started taking this course, we’ve seen more student teams interested in continuing to develop their game designs for commercial publication after the semester is over. We have added topics to the course to address this interest, usually by inviting professional game designers to class to talk about how the manufacturing and business sides of tabletop games work. We also support students in submitting their games to festivals and competitions. Boston also has an excellent professional game design and development networking scene, and we encourage students to take their games to the Game Maker’s Guild and Boston Indies meetups for further testing and feedback from professionals.


Most student feedback we receive asks for more time within class periods to work on design projects. We need to balance this request with the time it takes for students to play the exemplar games – we currently have no other way to ensure that students gain the experience of playing games they might otherwise be unable to access. In the future, we are looking into giving students better access to our library of games. As it is, we have started to allow students in the class to borrow games on their own for further study, but we would not be able to completely replace in-class play with loans.

Our Experience and Research

We learned this material by practicing, reading, and interacting with professionals at conferences and networking events. We try to bring this spirit into the classroom to show students that the practice of game design is a discipline of its own. We have kept abreast of research into project-based and constructivist approaches to learning. In particular, we include time for debriefing and reflecting after periods of making and creating both during class and in the student assignments.

Teaching other Courses

The deliverables we ask of students in this course have changed over the years based on our experiences teaching CMS.611J/6.073 Creating Videogames. In particular, we have devised ways of gaining better insight into the students’ design practices by asking them to report their design iterations through a changelog (which resemble software release notes) and through a written postmortem (which doubles duty as a means for personal reflection on the students’ own learning).