Game Design

ARTS 4510
section 01 CRN: 35670 & section 02 CRN: 37771
Spring 2013 Wednesdays  2 - 5:50PM
VAST Studio, Sage 2411
4 Credits

Prerequisites: Part of GSAS Core
(see GSAS student councelor or permission of instructor)

from Butterfly Dream  created in EGD

© 2006 Team One: Brian Quinn, Justin Slowik, Erin Spencer, Cory Anderson,

Jessica Janus, Ryan Shoop


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

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.  Primary to this course is the formation of trans-disciplinary collaborative teams doing groundbreaking work that spans across a variety of genres. Alternate gaming paradigms and emerging forms and interfaces are encouraged.


Starting with creating an archeological, socio-cultural and ethical overview of their own history of game and toy preferences, students then create a short individual game project followed by a short temporary team project. The final project teams are then formulated for the remainder of the semester. 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 fully functional and must be accompanied by a completed, well-articulated game design document which includes: Model Game Design Document


Social action simulation, art games, applied or serious games, indy games, complex scenario planning, problem solving, blended reality, educational games, abstract play, and other forms have been created in the course. Factors in game design including flow 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 developed as students create the various game assignments. 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.


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 projects.

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

week 1. Personal Game Archeology & Analysis due Jan 23

week 2. Indy Game #1 Individual  due Jan 30
Readings: due Jan 30
* 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, printed reaction paper to each of the above

Optional Extra Credit Readings for Masters and Ph.D. Students:
* Learning to Play or Playing to Learn - A Critical Account of the Models of Communication Informing Educational Research on Computer Gameplay by Hans Christian Arnseth

Readings: due Feb 6
* 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, Jean Baudrillard
* create a short 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

week 3. & 4. Indy Game #2 Team Based due Feb 13
Readings: due Feb 13
* Lenoir-Lowood_TheatersOfWar
*create a short printed reaction paper

Optional Extra Credit Readings for Masters and Ph.D. Students:
* Origins of FPS by Galloway

Final Project Experimental Game Trajectory
working with permanent teams
from this point out

week 5. Prototype 1 Concepts  Informal presentation due Feb 20
Readings:  reaction papers due Feb 20
 * Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered PlaySpaces by Henry Jenkins
* create a short printed reaction paper

Optional Extra Credit Readings for Masters and Ph.D. Students:
A Game of One’s Own: Towards a New Gendered Poetics of Digital Space by Tracy Fullerton, Jacquelyn Ford Morie, and Celia Pearce

week 6. Phase I Proposal & Formal Group Presentation due Feb 27
Readings: reaction papers due Feb 27
* Adams and Rollings The Level Design Process
* create a short printed reaction paper

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
* The Rhetoric of Video Games by Ian Bogost
* Materials for an exploratory theory of the network society by Manuel Castells
* Delightful Identification & Persuasion: Towards an Analytical and Applied Rhetoric of Digital Games by
Steffen P. Walz

week 7. Phase II Reiteration Informal presentation due March 6
Midterm assessments

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, game & cinema research in your evolving game design document.

week 8. Off for Spring Break
(enjoy, but work on project: Gamefest is early this semester, April 26-27)

week 9. Phase III Game Prototype & Formal Group Presentation due March 20

week 10. Phase IV Content & Informal Presentations with Industry Experts due March 27

week 11. Phase V Refinement & Formal Group Presentation due April 3
(order all gear for Gamefest, start prep)

week 12. Phase VI Further Refinement & Informal Group Presentation due April 10

week 13. Phase VII & Formal Group Presentation due April17

week 14. Phase VIII Perfected, Game Festival-Ready Games due April 24
full prep for Gamefest: posters printed, GDD printed, Game Overview printed

GAMEFEST Saturday, April 26  & 27 attendance is required

week 15. (second to last class) Decompression due May 1 

week 16. Phase IX Formal Group Presentation May 8 
LAST CLASS  All fully 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 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 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.


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 game design, art and design, programming and production are required. 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, a 60 GB usb drive and or high capacity external hard drive will be necessary to back up and archive your work

• 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 or software 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 and sanitary.

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


Nitsche, Michael. Video Game Spaces. Image, Play, and Structure in 3D Worlds


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.)