Game Design

ARTS 4510 sections 01 & 02
4 Credits
Fall 2012
Wednesdays  2 - 5:50PM
VAST Studio, Sage 2411
Prerequisites: Part of GSAS Core (see Elizabeth Large largee@rpi.edu

or permission of instructor)

from Zineth
created in EGD Spring 2012

©2012 Arcane Kids - Tom Astle, Jacob Knipfing, Russell Honor, Tom Lanciani, Evan Gonzalez, Dan

Spaulding, and Sylvia Forrest


Kathleen Ruiz
Associate Professor of Integrated Arts
email: ruiz@rpi.edu  
phone: 518-276-2539
office: West Hall 314c
office hours: Thursdays 1:30 to 3:30 by appointment
(please use sign up board on office door WH 314c)

Student Mentor:

Dan Spaulding:

email: spauld2@rpi.edu



Required Events
Drop Box Information


Course Topics

EMAC Thesis Students: A B C
Conferences and Groups

Experimental Game Design is a studio arts course focusing on the creation of innovative workable game prototypes using a variety of multimedia approaches, methodologies and materials. Games are analyzed as cultural artifacts reflecting behavior, social formation, and the representation of gender, ethnicity and identity.


Factors in game design including flow, game theory, and game play gestalt are taken into consideration. The aesthetics of game design including character development, level design, game play experience, and delivery systems are covered as students create various game assignments. Alternate gaming paradigms such as first person actor type games, social dynamics simulation, complex scenario planning, non-violent problem solving, blended reality, abstract play, and emerging forms are encouraged.

Primary to this course is the formation of interdisciplinary collaborative teams consisting of talents from visual and sound artists, programmers, cognitive scientists, designers, engineers, IT professionals and others. Elements of successful collaboration are covered and camaraderie of invention is encouraged.

The final project, which is the main focus of the course, is a purposeful work which shows depth and quality of ideation, innovation and interaction. The game must be functional and must be accompanied by a completed, well-articulated game design document which includes: Model Game Design Document

Course Objectives/Outcomes:
1. Upon successful completion of the course students will have the ability to explore new approaches to the concept of “game” & “play” and start to define alternate paradigms within this emerging expressive form as demonstrated in the individual and team based Indy Game short study project.

2. Upon successful completion of the course students will develop one or more of the following skills: design, art making, game programming, or engineering strategies which merge concept, process and form - encouraging approaches that are at once inquisitive, analytical, creative, experimental and articulate.

Upon successful completion of the course students will be able to create an archeological, socio-cultural and ethical overview of their own history of game and toy preferences.

4. Upon successful completion of the course, students will demonstrate the ability to work together in trans-disciplinary teams to conceptualize, design, produce and express ideas through game or virtual environments projects.

5. Students will examine the work of several artists, theoreticians, and institutions who engage in game creation.

6. Upon successful completion of the course students will have experience in creating a detailed game design document, summation overview, and poster. 

7. Upon successful completion of the course  students will have the ability to successfully articulate informed ideas relating to the representation of gender, race, and behavior in games and simulations and an increased awareness of games as cultural and aesthetic artifacts as demonstrated in class discussions and critiques and in short written reaction papers to relevant readings and events.

Course Assessment/Measures:  Assignments:
please see assignments website for more detail
1. Personal Game Archeology & Analysis due Aug 29
2. Indy Game #1 Individual  due Sept 5
Readings: due Sept 5
* Play as Design by Brenda Laurel Play as Design by Eric Zimmerman
* Ernest Adams Design Philosophy
* Experimental gameplay project - How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days
*create a short, one page, printed reaction paper to each of the above
Readings: due Sept 12
* From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games by Ed Halter
* Baudrillard and Hollywood: subverting the mechanism of control and The Matrix by Jim Rovira
* The Oxymoron of Virtual Violence, J. Baudrillard
*create a short, one page, printed reaction paper to each of the above
Optional Extra Credit Readings for Masters and Ph.D. Students:

Homo Ludens: A study of the Play Element in Culture by Johan Huizinga
* Man, Play, and Games by Roger Caillois
3. & 4. Indy Game #2 Team Based due Sept 19
Readings: due Sept 19
* Lenoir-Lowood_TheatersOfWar
*create a short, one page, printed reaction paper for the above
Optional Extra Credit Readings for Masters and Ph.D. Students:
* Origins of FPS by Galloway
5. Final Project: Experimental Game Trajectory: working with permanent teams
due Sept 26: Prototype 1 Concepts  Informal presentation
Readings:  reaction papers due Oct 3
 * Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered PlaySpaces by Henry Jenkins
*create a short, one page, printed reaction paper
6. Phase I Proposal & Formal Group Presentation due Oct 3
Readings: reaction papers due Oct 10
* Adams and Rollings The Level Design Process
*create a short, one page, printed reaction paper for each
Optional Extra Credit Readings for Masters and Ph.D. Students:
* The Construction of Experience: Interface as Content David Rokeby
*Everything But the Words: A Dramatic Writing Primer for Gamers
by Hal Barwood
* Storytelling in Action by Bob Bates

7. Phase II Reiteration Informal presentation due Oct 10
Midterm assessments
Readings: Related final project research readings in the history, theory, ethics, philosophy, practice, and technical research as determined by your team and the instructor. Please list all research readings in your evolving game design document.
8. Phase III Game Prototype & Formal Group Presentation due Oct 17
9. Phase IV Game Content & Informal team meetings with Game Industry Experts due Oct 24
10. Phase V Refinement & Formal Group Presentation due Oct 31
11. Phase VI Further Refinement & Informal Group Presentation due Nov 7
 12. Phase VII & Formal Group Presentation due Nov 14
14. Phase VIII Project Pre-Reviews & Informal Group Presentation due Nov 28 (second to last class)
15. Phase IX Perfected Game Festival-Ready Games, Formal Group Presentation due Dec 5  LAST CLASS  All perfected work due this day. NO EXCEPTIONS.


Evaluation: Students must demonstrate satisfactory achievement of course objectives through fulfillment of course projects and by contributing to class discussions and critiques.
15% Short studies (5% each x 3)
65% Final Project with Final Game Design Document: incremental evaluation over 10 due dates, each 6.5%
10% Participation in class 
10% reaction papers

Letter grade equivalents for the course are as follows: A=4.0, A-=3.67, B+=3.33 B=3.0, B-= 2.67, C+= 2.33, C=2.0 C-= 1.67, D+=1.33, D=1.0, F=0.0

Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.


Class Attendance Policy

As an enrolled student, you have made a commitment to this class and your attendance is a significant part of that commitment. Attendance will be taken at every class. An absence is considered excused if the student has informed the course instructor by phone, email or in person before the beginning of the class and the excuse is considered reasonable by the instructor.

Late Policy:
All students are required to be on time and in attendance for each and every class. Students arriving to class more than 10 minutes late may be counted as absent.  Two (2) unexcused absences will result in a reduction of one entire letter grade. 


Adherence to deadlines is expected. It is the individual student's responsibility to keep track of deadlines and to present the work to the class and instructor on the specified dates. 15% per day will be subtracted from late assignments.


If you are concerned about your creative trajectory or your grade at any point during the semester, please do not hesitate to contact your Instructor and schedule an appointment during office hours.


Academic Honesty:

Statement On Academic Integrity

Class Specific

Collaboration and discussion about class projects is actively encouraged, and is in no way considered cheating. This is a studio course, and personal ownership of information is not deemed to be appropriate. Original images/game designs are required except where indicated otherwise. Projects are expected to reflect personal endeavor, but may also be collaborative in nature when the nature of the collaboration is clearly indicated.


Academic Integrity

Student-teacher relationships are built on trust. For example, students must trust that teachers have made appropriate decisions about the structure and content of the courses they teach, and teachers must trust that the assignments that students turn in are their own. Acts, which violate this trust, undermine the educational process. The Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities defines various forms of Academic Dishonesty and you should make yourself familiar with these. In this class, all assignments that are turned in for a grade must represent the student’s own work. In cases where help was received, or teamwork was allowed, a notation on the assignment should indicate your collaboration. Submission of any assignment that is in violation of this policy will result in a penalty of a grade of F given for failure in the course and also further disciplinary action as outlined in the Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities.


Addressing Academic Dishonesty at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Intellectual integrity is critical to the foundation of all academic work. Academic dishonesty, therefore, is considered a serious matter and will be addressed as such. As defined in the current Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities, examples of academic dishonesty include, but are not limited to: academic fraud, collaboration, copying, cribbing, fabrication, plagiarism, sabotage, and substitution. Additionally, attempts to commit academic dishonesty, or to assist in the commission or attempt of such an act, are also violations of the academic dishonesty policy. If found in violation of the academic dishonesty policy, students may be subject to two types of penalties. The instructor administers an academic (grade) penalty of F, and the student may also enter the Institute judicial process and be subject to such additional sanctions as: warning, probation, suspension, expulsion, and alternative actions as defined in the current Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities.


Required Materials

• An active RCS account.

• Approximately 10  to 15 dvds

• Other materials on a project basis

You may be making a number of digital prints/manifestations of your work on and off campus. The costs of digital printing vary, but be prepared to incur at least $25 in fabrication/material costs.


Electronic Communication

Email: All students are expected to have an active electronic mail account, and should check mail at least four times a week for class information. Some essential class information is communicated by email only.  


Work Habits

Always back-up your work frequently; that is, every time you make something you think is worth keeping.  Systems crash when least expected and you could lose all your work.   It is a good idea to make three backups (on different media), as storage media are sometimes unstable. Always save onto your own media or into your account as files left on hard drives will be removed.


Also, please keep in mind the highly addictive aspects of working with computers. Many people lose track of time and later wonder why they have severe back, neck and eye problems.  It is a good idea to take a rest every 15 to 20 minutes.  Look up or beyond your computer or, better still, at a long distance to relax your eyes.  Take a walk or stretch.  Fatigue can lead to frustration. Stay in touch with your body's needs.


Try not to harm or deface any equipment in any way or lose files and folders belonging to our class or other classes. 


For problems in the studio please be specific in your email and contact: hasshelp@rpi.edu

HASS Information Services assistance: http://www.hass.rpi.edu/pl/helpdesk

Please follow the guidelines for working in each studio very carefully, as you will be held personally responsible for problems you incur. At all times please keep the lab clean after each use.

Overview of Game Design Document:
Title of the Game, Artist Statement/Philosophy/The WHY Factor (why create this game? why would someone want to play it?), Predecessors or previous games/ distinctive factors in this genre, Target Audience, Introduction & Story, Immediate and long term projected socio/cultural project impact, Delivery System & Requirements, Interface, User Interaction, The World Layout, Level Design, Visualization (characters, flow charts), Music/ Sound Design, Rules and Game play (Setup, Scoring (if applicable)), Program Structure, Technical Specs (such as Physics, Rendering Systems, Lighting Models), Implementation, Production Timeframe, Research, References and other Features Unique to the Project.

Background needed:
Students entering the course should have a basic general awareness of contemporary socio-cultural issues, have some exposure to interactive digital simulation, and possess the ability for personal expression using any one or combinations of the following: media applications, drawing, music composition, programming, visual art, design, or narration. Students entering this course have had varied backgrounds coming from Arts, Communication & Media, Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Engineering, IT and other areas.

Technical Skills Covered:
Concept development and storyboarding, game design, art, elements of interactivity, multimedia game play experience, and delivery systems.

Suggested further readings:

Wardrip-Fruin, Noah   and Pat Harrigan, Editors. First Person: New Media as Story, Performance and Game http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=9908

Laurel, Brenda and Zimmermanm, Eric, editors.  Play as Design

Halter, Ed.  From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games


Huizinga, Johan. Homo Ludens: A study of the Play Element in Culture


Caillois, Roger. Man, Play, and Games


Schell, Jesse. The Art of Game Design


Lenoir-Lowood. Theaters Of War


Adams, Ernest. Fundamentals of Game Design, Second Edition


Jenkins, Henry.  Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered PlaySpaces


Baudrillard, Jean. Passwords


(There are many other evolving relevant titles of interest.  Please ask the instructor.)