Tuesday evening was the semester final for Game Studies. Seven student teams presented the games they designed as part of the course, four tabletop games and three computer games. It was quite impressive to see how these students took what they learned in the class, began with a game concept halfway through the semester, and completed with the games they presented to the reviewing panel. For just a couple months of project work, the students really did develop some solid game prototypes. Quite a few plan to continue iterating and polishing their games with hopes to pursue publishing them.
Now that the course is over, Dr. Jon Denning and I have begun the process of reflecting upon how to move forward with this course. And we do plan to move forward with the course. We received some very positive feedback from the students and faculty who assisted with reviewing the final presentations.
“I would describe this course as a study in what makes games tick. The ideas behind them, the work that goes into them, what makes a good game a good game.”
“Designing a game is hard, but very rewarding. Games are an important part of our lives, and anyone can benefit from understanding more about why we play games and what makes a great experience.“
“…this class isn’t a class that is purely about making games and is instead more about understanding the systems involved in games.”
As Dr. Denning and I have chatted during the final weeks of the course and listened to feedback from the students, we have determined some topics we want to take a second look at in the next revision of this course.
- Critical Analysis – We want to spend more in-class time working together as a group analyzing games. The individual game analysis labs went well, but we feel more group time working together as a class on the critical analysis of a game and flow charting its systems would benefit the students.
- Iterative Design – Earlier in the semester we want to discuss in greater depth prototyping, play testing and iterative design. The students learned quite a bit about the process, but more emphasis and experience earlier in the course we feel could really enhance the games they develop. Understanding and experiencing iterative design will also help with projects in other courses the students take at the University.
- Example Games – We want to look back at the games we used for the game analysis labs. While some of the games were great and taught the students a lot about systems and game design, others did not work as well in a classroom setting because of complexity and time involved. We will reviewing all the lab notes and comments from the students, determining what games to keep as part of the course and then looking for other games to replace the ones that just did not function well in the course.
Both Dr. Denning and I really enjoyed teaching this course. It was challenging teaching this the first time around, but we learned along side the students. These inaugural students were very open with their feedback throughout the course and really showed us the challenges, benefits and joy of taking a Game Studies course.
Personally, I have been really impacted by this course as well. I have loved games since childhood, but this is the first time I have spent four months devoted to the study and understanding of games, including their underlying theories, systems, mechanics, industry and community. I have such a greater understanding of the complexity and depth of games, which has increased my respect for game designers and publishers immensely. Teaching this course has also given me the opportunity to spend time with some very passionate and talented students. This course was an elective, so the students taking it were in it voluntarily, and each one has an interest and passion for games. They challenge me to be a better professor as I developed and taught this course.
If you have taught a similar course, we would love to hear about your experiences once it was completed. What did you learn? What did you change in the course?