This morning in my game programming class, we started a short unit on game design. I brought in some prototyping materials and gave the students ten minutes to whip up a board game in the roll-and-move genre. This was inspired by Ian Schreiber's Game Design Concepts Level 1 activity and its primary purpose is to get students over the invisible barrier, "what if I cannot make a game?"
To explain what "design" is, I had started with a brief presentation of design thinking. Once I got the students started with the activity, I decided to sketch out a game as well. Glancing at the chalkboard, it struck me that the design thinking cycle could be modeled as a board game, so I made this:
- Empathy: an audience
- Identify: a problem
- Ideate: a solution
- Build: a prototype
- Test: a strategy
Each player starts at Empathy. Each turn, you roll a die and move that many spaces along the cycle. Grab a blank card and write down something that happens in that phase, using the caption to guide you. For example, my first turn, I rolled a three, and ended up on Build, so I made a build card, "Sketch." Then I rolled a two, putting me on Empathy, so I made an empathy card called, "Elderly." As soon as there is at least one card for each category, that player takes one card at random from each category and has to make narrative that explains how these five things fit together. I didn't get far enough in my own design process to decide on an initial scoring or elimination process, but I imagined that the other players would somehow score the story, and there would be a time or point threshold to trigger the end of the game.
That's it. A ten-minute game, most obviously inspired by design thinking, 1000 Blank White Cards, and Dixit. Is it fun? No, not really. You fly around the board and are forced to invent artifacts separated from any context, so you can only be very generic. Is it good? No, not really. It completely misses the point of design thinking, that you have to go through each phase to get to the next. So, why write it up here? It was actually a fun thought experiment. I used this ten-minute design exercise at the AIM conference a week ago, but I did not actually participate, I just observed. It was much more fun to actually get in and do it. I also enabled me then to present my flawed game design first, demonstrating the importance of metacognition, specifically learning from the process rather than judging the artifact too harshly.