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Game Design Major

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bwtyler
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Hello everyone,

I am obviously very new to these forums, so I hope this is an appropriate place for this post. I am a professor at a small public liberal arts college. We are currently in the process of designing a bachelors degree program and major/minor in game studies & design. While it will obviously include classes on video game design, we also want to offer a sequence and classes on board game design. I would love to get some input from designers on what types of classes (and content) you feel would be truly beneficial, or that you would have benefited from if given the opportunity to take in college.

Possible examples include a business class where you discuss copyright issues, English classes on creative writing, history classes and how they can influence board game design, art classes on graphic design, mathematics (probability/game theory), etc.

Any suggestions or input will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks very much in advance!

Redcap
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I got my BS in math education

I got my BS in math education and took a lot of math classes. Combinatorics, statistics, calculus, etc... I thought one of the most useful math classes I took; however, was math history. We learned about where many of the mathematical ideas came from, why they were important, and what the world was like before they were discovered. It opened my eyes so much and has been helpful ever since.

If I was going into a boardgame major, I would like to take a class on the history of and cultural influences on boardgames. For example there is a very big difference between European games and American games, and I would like to see historically where these differences came from and what these differences are.

As far as the business side to boardgames, classes on producing a finished product. That means look at costs of manufacturing 100, 1000, 10000 games. Common packaging sizes, card sizes, things of that nature. How most games are distributed, things of that nature.

Dralius
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bwtyler wrote:Possible

bwtyler wrote:
Possible examples include a business class where you discuss copyright issues, English classes on creative writing, history classes and how they can influence board game design, art classes on graphic design, mathematics (probability/game theory), etc.

Any suggestions or input will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks very much in advance!

I would also include Technical Writing. Rules sets as well as design documents need to be concise & organized so they impart both mood and information without the reader becoming frustrated or loosing interest.

RacNRoll Gaming
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Curriculum

Definitely need to include classes on...

Marketing (crafted for the board game market)

Graphic Design (not so in dept as an art major would have but enough for them to be able to express what it is they want from their designers)

Business Law (contracts, liability, copyrights..etc)

Playtesting (which I think is the hardest part for people who want to design games who have never done it before)

Black Canyon
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More ideas

I second the Technical Writing course.

One thing to consider (for everyone here) is that game design and graphic design are totally separate fields. Although many game designers could benefit from basic knowledge on page layout, package design, or color theory, I don't believe those kinds of courses should be included in a game design curriculum. A successful game designer needs to focus on game design and theory. Let the art and design students learn their trade and hopefully both will find each other in the professional world.

Have you heard of the book, "Rules of Play" by Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman? It's a game theory text book published by MIT Press. I think it would definitely work well in some of your courses.

larienna
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I would add Game design

I would add Game design theory. There is a lot of book about it. (for ex: "Game design workshop" and the "Art of game design")

Computer software: Knowing how to use for example: Inkscape/illustrator, Gimp/Photoshop and Scribus/Indesign for the graphic design of the game and the rule layout.

Computer project management: Have some idea how managing a computer software development works. Knows about iterations, debugging, etc. They might not need to learn programming logic.

Graphic design theory: The is some theory behind graphic design which talks about the best layout of object, how to chose colors, etc.

Psychology: There is probably a branch of psychology that could be better applied to games which could turn around the studying of experiences and feelings of players.

History of games: Get a general knowledge of what has been done in the past. Highlight innovative design or design revolutions. (Ex: the arrival of collectible card games)

Probability math: Like somebody suggested, I second this Idea.

That is all I can think of so far.

InvisibleJon
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Recommended Texts:

The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses: http://www.amazon.com/Art-Game-Design-book-lenses/dp/0123694965
Patterns in Game Design: http://www.amazon.com/Patterns-Game-Design-Development/dp/1584503548/ref...

I've read both of these and was very, very impressed. Patterns in Game Design is a particularly potent game development and brainstorming tool.

I've also read the very popular "Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals," but was not tremendously impressed. However, it may offer more to beginning game designers (since I found a lot of it to be a repeat of concepts I already understood): http://www.amazon.com/Rules-Play-Game-Design-Fundamentals/dp/0262240459/...

simons
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Capstone class

First off, I would definitely recommend probability math. After that, I feel like the classes that helped me the most during college have been computer programming ones, because they taught me the basics of how to run a computer simulation. I'm not sure how useful the mathematical topic "game theory" is, though I suppose there are elements in it that would be useful to know (such as what is a Nash Equilibrium, and why that makes for a particularly dull game). Maybe something in critical analysis of games (which might fall under playtesting)? Otherwise, it depends on the kind of game you're doing. I have a wargame with a deep story, that has benefitted from conversations with friends about history; I have a popcorn-level game about escaping from a spaceship, that has hardly (if at all) used anything I learned in school. (For the record, neither published yet, but *fingers crossed* maybe some day)

The thing I would put as a requirements is some kind of a capstone project, where students are required to design a game from scratch, and do as much with it in a year as the possibly can. Give them an advisor to monitor their progress, and probably find ways to set up playtests (perhaps with the other students). Once they get their game really solid, they are required to market it to board game companies, enter it into game design contests, or even try to self-publish it (although, realistically this might take more than a year). Give them a chance to get away from the theory, and maybe finish their college career with a title already under their belt.

bwtyler
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Joined: 08/08/2010
Thanks everyone!

Thank you all so very much for all the thoughtful replies.

For the courses specifically on board games, I originally envisioned it as a 2 semester sequence. It would include discussing various board games (as well as different types by culture), their mechanics & learning curve, who they appeal to, and what makes them 'different' or interesting. Throughout the two semesters, students would also work in teams to develop a board game. They would develop a set of rules, write up a rule-book, decide who to market it to, basically create a rough draft of board game. Playtesting was something that had not occurred to me, so it would also included in the second semester. At the end of the year, the students would present their games, as a team, and discuss the various aspects of their game mentioned above.

We've also considered history classes that discuss how to construct historical based games, which I don't think I had mentioned.

As someone who will be building this curriculum, I know quite a bit about board games, but will not claim to be an expert. I am a math professor, so some of the items (like probability) are pretty easy for me to see, but some of the other aspects I'm pretty ignorant of. I will buy the books you've mentioned and read them. If you think they are worth reading, then they should help me tremendously.

Again, thanks for the responses everyone, I sincerely appreciate it!

Jonsan
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I liked the books Challenges

I liked the books Challenges for Game Designers and A Theory of Fun For Game Design. The former is a text book for game design, and the latter is a good philosophical treatise on how games should be evaluated and what responsibilities game designers have as stewards of an emerging art.

larienna
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Play testing is very

Play testing is very important, because it allows the designer to pass through each iteration over and over. It allow to analyze what goes wrong and what should I do to solve the problem. It allows to set objectives on what needs to be tested.

Game design is like a puzzle where nobody has a solution. You need to create a solution.

simons
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Playtesting

Depending on when they start actually designing their game, you might playtesting to start semester 1. It shouldn't take a full semester to create a first draft of the rules, whereas it could realistically take more than a semester to tinker with the game until it works. It depends on when you'll actually have them start (i.e. if they'll spend 3/4 of the first semester discussing ideas, then they might not have time to playtest). And honestly, technical writing is important, but I feel like that's something that is overkill for the first draft rule book, and might be better for later iterations (after they stop scrapping half the rules every game). If anything, seeing what happens when you have an ill-written rule book might be a good learning experience.

And this might be a silly question, but if people are going to go and work for the gaming industry, what skills are people looking for on a resume? The comment I've always heard is they want to see a technical (math/science/engineering) major, and a vast know of the games that are currently out there right now. Does anyone have experience with this?

Out of curiosity, can I ask what school you teach at?

truekid games
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If you're looking for reading

If you're looking for reading material in particular, i've got a list:
http://www.truekidgames.com/DesignEducation.html

You'll notice I generally specify whether a particular source is business or design specific, because to me, the skillsets are pretty easy to split between the two.

for instance- marketing, illustration (box cover, thematic elements), business law, and learning things like how to run a large scale print operation, are certainly useful on the business end, but have very little to do with the design itself.

probability, graphic design (for usability), and iterative playtesting are clearly useful skills when designing games, but are only tangentially related to actually getting a product in someone's hands.

bwtyler
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Joined: 08/08/2010
Thank you for the additional

Thank you for the additional references everyone. I'm learning a great deal from all the books and information you're giving me.

To answer your question simons, I teach at The University of Montevallo. We're Alabama's public liberal arts university, just south of Birmingham. We are a relatively small school of about 3,000 students. Since we will be designing our degree from a liberal arts standpoint, we'd like to include classes from several subjects and make it very inter-disciplinary. While most of our major will focus on video games, I thought incorporating (at least) a sequence of two classes on board games would be very reasonable and different from many other degree programs. Working as a team to develop a product that requires a solid foundation in writing, math, art, and perhaps business, psychology/sociology, and history seems like a good opportunity for students. It also doesn't require a background in computer programming, which will make it more accessible to students early on, or as part of a minor in game design or studies. The way we see it is that students could major in art, history, math, English, business, etc. and minor in game design. These different combinations could give them a distinct (but hopefully appropriate) education in preparing for a career in the game industry. Majoring in game design and minoring in one or more of those fields could likewise make for an interesting degree.

Another reason why I think it would work well in a major (even if it is primarily a video game design major), is that many of the concepts used to design board games can carry over to designing some computer games (at least the way I see it). Since we're building the program from the ground up, we have a great deal of flexibility in terms of how to incorporate classes together.

Thank you again for all the input so far. All of your advice so far has been incredibly valuable.

red hare
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Joined: 11/09/2009
go team work!

What I'd say about your curriculum is this: everyone wants to bring their idea to life, but you can learn as much, if not more, by being part of a team that brings another person's idea to reality.

From my experience in editing and instructional design and teaching, along with my education at a small liberal arts college similar to the one you have described, I'd suggest that students have the opportunity to take one of their game ideas from concept to prototype, as has been said by another poster, but they should also have experience performing the many roles in that process.

It's invaluable for a person to know what it's like being the cog in the wheel, to sort of speak, in a creative team. They should know what it's like to be the graphic designer, the technical writer, the marketing guy, the project manager, etc. on a project that may not be their own idea. I can't speak for working for a board game company, but these kinds of experiences will develop game design skills, team work, responsibility, and communication skills that are necessary in the real world.

What film, animation, and theater classes do to develop their students is have semester-long or half-semester long projects in which a student is responsible for his/ her own project, but then is also required to help classmates with theirs.

So for example, a student will spend half a semester working on his brainchild, "The War of 1812: The Year the World Stood Still" and sign up other students to design the art, write the rulebook, assemble a handful of prototypes, coordinate playtesting, or put the game online as a POD/ print and play, etc. At the same time, he might write the rulebook for Chris's game "How to Marry an Ogre" and do the art design for Beth's game "Rampage!" So the student learns how to work with others and perform the many tasks involved in the process of game design. The key being that game design is a process done over an extended period of time often by many different people, much like how a movie gets made.

And, of course, tell the students to have fun :)

SiddGames
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Jonsan wrote:I liked the

Jonsan wrote:
I liked the books Challenges for Game Designers and ...

The author of this book, Ian Schreiber, offered free online course in board game design last year. You can find his blog here: http://gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com/

It uses that book as the course text, supplemented by the blog posts in a series of 20 "lectures" if you will.

Dralius
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more links

Dr Lewis Pulsipher

http://pulsiphergames.com

has quite a bit of information on his site you might find usefull. You may have to dig to find it, it's not the best site to navigate.

heavyrocks
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I agree with most of the

I agree with most of the suggestions above, but the one i see missing is:

GEOMETRY

You can't make a board game with just squares, that's boring, and it gets way more complicated when you go beyond the friendly right angle.

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