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board game design class

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catsmcganny
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Joined: 11/13/2008

Hi everyone

I've only found this site recently, although I've been creating board games for 5 or six years (unpublished). It's refreshing to find that there are many others who enjoy the same hobby! This site is a great resource.

I teach orchestra at a school for gifted kids (6-7-8th grade) and have the opportunity to teach one class every nine weeks of my choosing - I write up the curriculum and the kids choose my class from a list of about 25 others. In the past few years one that always draws lots of kids is my Axis and Allies class. Basically, we spend about 30% of the class learning about the war and the rules of the game, and the rest playing in groups - eventually forming a lite tournament. Aside from grading them on a history/rules quiz, their final project is to produce a creative writing assignment or develop a new piece for the game, using techs that were actually used at the time and balancing them out in game terms.

I am planning on offering a new class next nine weeks, called 'Board Game Design Shop'. The idea is to take them from an idea and produce a working prototype at the end. Some ideas are to have them all bring in a game from home and classify them in many categories (difficulty, target age, genre, etc.) and to develop their own personal criteria for what makes a game FUN (analysis), write a rudimentary rule book with objective/pieces needed/etc. (design), create the pieces and board (development), playtest in various groups (evaluate), and revise, revise, revise until theirs is a finished product they can be proud of.

I am looking to all of you for additional ideas or approaches that would make this a little more structured.. I'm worried that 2 or 3 weeks in a row of "ok, get to work" isn't enough to keep them on a timeline. Any help?

Thanks a whole heck of a lot
Tom Dinardis

SVan
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Joined: 10/02/2008
board game design class

I wish this was a class I could have had when I was in school. Other than Creative Writing there was rarely a class I thought let me put my creative juices to work.

There is a journal at this site that lets you jot down various ideas in there and basically show the game being built from start to finish; I think that would be a nice thing to have, maybe 5 to 10 minutes at the beginning of class to write down any ideas they have in their journals.

I don't know what else to suggest. It sounds like you have it thought out very well. Good luck in it!

-Steve

Anonymous
board game design class

Someone either DID, or I talked to them ABOUT having a session at GenCon a few years ago called "Iron Game Design"

The idea was that we'd provide a box of bits. Everyone would get identical bits. You'd have 2 hours to design a game and at the end, we'd all play them and vote on who's was the best.

How about starting with something like that?

Tyler

Anonymous
board game design class

Well I'm a bit envious that I never had a class like this. I think this is a create idea - I know I always had the most fun in the creative classes (art, photogrpahy, etc.)

As far as a suggestion. I recommend having the students do critiques of the different games, sort of like what we do here in GDW. THey could have a deadline to get a prototype game together and then the class could spend 1 or 2 classes playing the different games. At the end the class could either do an oral critique (always in constructive terms) or you could turn it into a writing project where they have to turn in a critique form for the game. This gets the kids to thinking critically not only about their own game, but other games too, and works on skills for writing, handing out differing or constructive comments that the receipient may not want to hear. This is always tough and a class like this could be a great way to teach it.

I hope you class is a success.

- Geoff

Dralius
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Joined: 07/26/2008
board game design class

Your idea sounds great.

I would suggest that you break the students into teams. Then set the criteria for the game. Including age range, # of players, length of rules, time to play and even theme if you like. Much like many of the game design competitions. Give them the first week or so to have a basic frame work of the game and then some development time. You will of corse need to track the progress. Then at the end allow time to have the students play-test one of the other groups games and write up a critique of it including suggestions on how to improve the game as a final paper.

You can lecture every day on a different sort of game and it's pros/cons to fuel their imagination if it is not already on fire.

catsmcganny
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Joined: 11/13/2008
board game design class

These are all great ideas - thanks for the help. I especially like the idea of starting with the 'box of bits'. This gets them thinking of simple systems without getting caught up in too many rules, complicated graphics, too grand a scope, etc. I speculate that they otherwise might have the same problems I had when designing my first game...too much stuff and too many rules. Especially since most of these kids will be thinking in terms of video games, where the computer handles all the record keeping.

I had already planned to have them playtest each other throughout, filling out critiques.

-Tom

Anonymous
games designclass

Hi!

I'm very intrested in the classes you were talking about. We are now working on multilateralexchange (4 countries) with youngsters. Our goal is to make a boardgame, with the theme: humanrigths and democracy.
So my questions are: did you gave the classes , how did it go, and what methods did you use?
I'm very intrested to hear everything about it!
If you think it's easier to use your mail then this forum feel free to email to dutchguyfromthebeach@yahoo.com (this is my puiblic one, that's why the name!)

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
board game design class

Please post it here in the forums so it can help other people, too! :)

-- Matthew

catsmcganny
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Joined: 11/13/2008
board game design class

Hi again

Wow, it's been awhile since my first post :oops:

I've instructed the 'board game design shop' class 3 times now, and have taken many suggestions from you all, so thanks.

A syllabus has been written to keep them on track and a grading rubric for the final project is handed out on the first day. We do the 'box-of-bits' idea for the first two weeks as an introduction. They are broken into random teams of 4 and are all given an envelope with the same number of abstract pieces (jenga blocks, dice, black and white glass beads, one sheet of cardstock paper, pencils, mini-notebook) and are told that they must create a game..
1. using ALL of the pieces in the envelope somehow, and only those pieces
2. for 2-6 players thats playable in one hour or less
3. follows one of these themes/settings (i let them roll a die) outer space, under the sea, wild west, zoo, jungle, or nuclear war. At the end of 2 weeks, we playtest each others games and vote on them based on the criteria given and 'fun-factor'. Some of these are pretty creative, and some are... not. All students are highly engaged throughout this exercise, tho, so I may have them do this twice in the future with some variants.

The next week I have them bring in the rarest game they have at their house and give a 5 minute presentation to the class on how it works and what are it's strengths and weaknesses. We then as a class brainstorm as many games we can think of, write them on the board, and categorize them into genres. I have them come up with their own philosophy of what makes a game fun to play, then go thru the games listed on the board and rate them using their criteria. I do talk about the design process, and how it should progress from the initial analysis phase to design, development, and finally quality presentation, with formative evaluation each step of the way.

The next week I bring in 4 or 5 of my more polished games, including first drafts, and talk about the entire creation process and how the game evolves (sometimes changes entirely) as it is made. A lot of time is spent on how to write a decent rulebook, as technical writing is not one of most 6th graders' strong points. I am dealing with gifted kids, however, so they are quick to absorb a lot of concepts that might be lost on the average 11-13 year old. My warning of 'don't worry about fancy graphics until the end' usually goes unheeded, and most of them want to make a grand scale tactical wargame in a fantasy or modern military setting, which is daunting. These kids grew up with Playstation (shit i'm getting old!) and like to give each piece 14 stats with numbers like 850 health. I try to warn them of the record keeping nightmare that was my first game, created in 1996 and based loosely on Ultima IV (interesting side note - Richard Garriot, creator of the Ultima series went to this very same school)

The class is 1 1/2 hours MWF, and includes 20 or so 6th, 7th, and 8th grade kids (this is often a problem - some are Way more mature than others). The biggest problem I've faced is only having two computers to use in my room, and only one that's internet ready. I use MS Publisher for layouts of boards and cards, and it's often easier for me to have them bring me a list of what they want and I create it with their input. Otherwise, it's question after question from across the room. A weekly journal is kept and handed in from each group plotting their progress. In it I have them answer questions like "what was created this week", "what was fixed/changed", and "who in your group was responsible for what this week?"

Some groups turn in final projects that are masterpieces and have gone thru extensive playtesting and revisions, and other groups are extremely lazy and i have to light continuous fires under their bums. I try to help the ones that are really involved the most - they'll get the most out of it. These open-ended projects are difficult to force down the throat of the apathetic.

I will definately offer this class in the future and look forward to any other ideas anyone can offer. Thanks for your interest.

-Tom

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
board game design class

Thanks so much for the update. The class sounds great, and I really envy your students!

Congratulations on doing such a cool thing!

-- Matthew

Anonymous
board game design class

This sounds great.

I am the Director of Game Art and Design at The Art Institute of California-Los Angeles. We have developed a very similar class here, and it's one of my favorites. I would like to recommend to you the text that we use. It's called Game Design Worksop and has some great lessons and exercises. But I completely agree with the direction you've chosen, it sounds comparable to our college level course. I wouldn't mind getting some of yourt best students if they plan to pursue an education in game design.

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