ARTM2215 Experimental Game Design

Experimental Game Design: Creating Meaningful Play Experiences will explore the design of games, the work of artists who create innovative games, and the ways in which games are media for artistic expression. Class time will include discussions, play tests, and studio time to assess and analyze commercial and artistic games, explore history-making innovations, and discover the meaning of play through making. Students will be guided to devise unique rules of play and gaming mechanics, and will explore connections between play and communication. Students will also create a series of original, handmade board games culminating in the design of a final board or hypertext game using studio and digital art techniques. Note: This is not a course in computer programming but in the creative processes behind the development of great games.


  • Develop ideas / concepts / and messages for games and or interactive experiences;
  • Effectively communicate the rules of play for their designed game;
  • Effectively create playable paper prototypes;
  • Engage in critical and analytical play testing, thinking and writing pertinent to the design of games, and interaction design as a whole;
  • Demonstrate knowledge about the concepts, history, terminology and issues related to games and meaningful play experiences

Skills to be Mastered

  1. Table top game design & development
    • Writing explicit rules
    • Utilize game pieces to create implicit rules
    • Understand the basics of probabilities and statistics
    • Understand basic game mechanics
  2. Crafting, Prototyping & play-testing
    • Utilize found materials and drawing to craft game worlds
    • Implement play-testing using paper prototypes to test the playability of new games
  3. Critical thinking, problem solving, aesthetics & playability
    • Apply game design principles in developing and evaluating games
    • Give and receive criticism that improves the game play, interactivity and aesthetics of a game/ interactive experience, and that respects the dignity of players, clients and colleagues

Required Class Texts and Materials

  • Sketchbook
  • Pens, Colored Pencils
  • Game Materials
    • Dice – Multiple 6-sided dice
    • Poker Chips – White to be used as game pieces
    • Paper – Various sizes and colors
    • Notecards – 3×5
    • Tokens – Glass beads, beans checkers
    • Timer  – Egg timer
    • Storage box – A tackle or art box to carry supplies
  • Selinker, Mike. Kobold Guide to Board Game Design, Open Design LLC, 2011 ISBN-10: 1936781042

Suggested Texts

  • Eric Zimmerman, Katie Salen. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, MIT Press, 2003
  • Flanagan, Mary. Critical Play Radical Game Design, MIT Press, 2009
  • Bogost, Ian. Persuasive Games: The expressive power of videogames, MIT Press, 2007
  • Hofer, Margaret K. The Games We Played: The golden age of board and table games, Princeton Architectural Press, 2003

Projects & Grading

Game Ideas 15% – For 5 weeks students must come to class and present 2 ideas for discussion and post 5 total ideas ideas to the class site for review.

Game Prototyping / Play testing 25% – students must prototype and play test their top 3 ideas

Game Development 35% – students must develop their most successful  prototype into a polished and fully realized game

Student Presentations 15% – each student must pick one game to research, then do a 10 to 15 minute presentation on it’s game play, i.e. rules, mechanics, learning curve, fun factor, narrative etc. as well as the game’s history and evolution

Critique and Participation 10% – each student will be expected to participate in discussions, play tests and critiques.

Games to play and analyze

Collaborative Games

  • Pandemic
  • Forbidden Island
  • Hanabi

2 Player Strategy

  • Chess
  • Hive
  • Nowhere to Go
  • Hawaiian Checkers

Tile laying

  • Carcassonne
  • NanoBot


  • Wits & Wagers
  • Camel Cup

Resource gathering & trading

  • Settlers of Catan
  • Bonanza


  • Tsuro
  • Tokaido
  • Takenoko
  • Root

Card Games

  • Flux
  • Munchkin
  • Munchkin Gloom
  • Dominion
  • Citadels
  • Love Letter

Artistic and Meaningful

  • Train, Síochán leat (The Irish Game)
  • Crossing the Bridge, Observance
  • Last Resort, Argument
  • Crosser, La Migra
  • Passage
  • Graveyard