Game Design
Winter 20102

The information presented in this syllabus is subject to expansion, change, or adjustment during the quarter.


Name: Christopher A. Egert
Office: Bldg. 70, Room 2005
475 - 4873
caeics (*at*) rit.edu

Office Hours:

Office hours are by appointment

Course Text and Materials

• All readings will be either on file with the Wallace Library, provided as handouts, or distributed as web URLS.

Important RIT Deadlines

Last day of add/drop is Monday, December 5, 2010. Last day to withdraw with a grade of "W" is Friday, February 4, 2011. The deadline for withdrawing from a course with a W grade is the end of the 8th week of the quarter.

NOTE: IGM department policy states that a student has one quarter to challenge any grade. After that, grades cannot be challenged.

Course Description

In this course, students will examine technical requirements for the creation of computer games based on previously developed design artifacts. They will create a design document consistent with current industry practices, building upon a written script, related materials and prototype and will present the draft design documents for critique.

Prerequisite Courses

4085-728 Interactive Narrative.

Course Goals and Objectives

General Course Goals
Students will be able to create, analyze, and critique all the elements of a computer game’s design as expressed in a Game Design document consistent with current industry standards. They will be able to recognize, understand, integrate, and organize the game’s narrative content, logical design, architecture, objects and more.

Specific Objectives (Learning Outcomes)

Students will be able to describe and critique the different types of game genres with an emphasis on design requirements.   Outcome assessed through critical writings and classroom discussion.

Students will be able to identify, describe and differentiate between the different aspects of the design document in the game development and design process and will be assessed through critical writings and classroom discussions.

Students will be able to create a game design document that meets industry practices and encompasses the wide range of materials inherent in computer game development and design. Outcome assessed through the final design document.

Course Organization

Daily Assignments and Participation
In each class, students will be given readings and homework assignments. It is expected that students will complete students before the next class. In many cases, assignments will provide the appropriate framework for class discussion. Each class session, the instructor will assign specific readings to teams of students, and each team will lead the discussion of their target readings. Therefore, assignments will have a direct impact upon the participation grade.

Game Design Document
Students will be required to develop a complete game design treatment. Although game design documents will be discussed early in the quarter, the game design document assignment will persist throughout the course. Students will be expected to incorporate lessons from the course into the final document. As the game design document assignment is a major portion of the grade, the work should reflect an appropriate amount of effort. At the instructor’s discretion, several checkpoints may be set throughout the course of the quarter to ensure an appropriate level of quality in the document.


The grading scale used along with the grading criteria is as follows:

Component Weight
Assignments and Participation 60
Design Document 40
Range Grade
>= 90.0% A
>= 80.0% & < 90% B
>= 70.0 % & < 80.0% C
>= 65.0 % & < 70.0% D
< 65.0% F

Course Schedule

Quarter Long Science Fiction Reading for Game Design Document

  • Asimov / Sliverman – The Positronic Man
  • Williamson – The Humanoids

Review Article from History and Critical Analysis

  • Flanagan – Board Games (from Critical Play)

Day 01 – Nature of Media, Play, and Fun

  • McLuhan – The Medium is the Message (from Understanding Media)
  • McLuhan – Media Hot and Cold (from Understanding Media)
  • Huizinga – Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon (from Homo Ludens)
  • Kostner – A Theory of Fun
  • Castronova – A Theory of Fun (from Exodus to the Virtual World)
  • Castronova – In Search of an Understanding of Fun and Games (from Exodus to the Virtual World)
  • Norman – Fun and Games (from Emotional Design)
  • Freeman – Techniques for Creating Fun (from Creating Emotion in Games)

Day 02 – Games and Gameplay

  • McLuhan – Games (from Understanding Media)
  • Caillois – The Classification of Games (from Man, Play, and Games)
  • Crawford – Play (from Chris Crawford on Game Design)
  • Nardi – Play as Aesthetic Experience (from My Life as a Night Elf Priest)
  • Flanagan – Designing for Critical Play (from Critical Play)
  • Adams/Rollings – Creative and Expressive Play (from Fundamentals of Game Design)
  • Adams/Rollings – Gameplay (from Fundamentals of Game Design)

Day 03 – Interactivity, Identity, Agency, and Presence

  • Crawford – Exactly what is Interactivity? (from The Art of Interactive Design)
  • Laurel – Interactivity and Human Action (from Computers as Theatre) (excerpt)
  • Barfield, Zeltzer, Sheridan, and Slater – Presence and Performance in Virtual Environments (from Virtual Environments and Advanced Interface Design)
  • Ryan -  From Immersion to Interactivity (from Narrative as Virtual Reality)
  • Turkle – Aspects of the Self (from Life on the Screen)
  • Rokeby – Transforming Mirrors: Subjectivity and Control in Interactive Media (from Critical Issues in Electronic Media)
  • Flanagan – Hyperbodies, Hyperknowledge : Women in Games, Women in Cyberpunk, and Strategies of Resistance (from Reload - Rethinking Women + Cyberculture)
  • Rackham – Safety of Skin (from Re:skin)

Day 04 – Game Design Fundamentals

  • Adams/Rollings – Games and Video Games (from Fundamentals of Game Design)
  • Co – Defining the Game (from Level Design for Games)
  • Adams/Rollings – Creating the User Experience (from Level Design for Games)
  • Caillois – Competition and Change (from Man, Play, and Games)
  • DeKoven – Keep it Going (from The Well-Played Game)
  • DeKoven – Changing the Game (from The Well-Played Game)
  • Nardi – Work, Play, and the Magic Circle (from My Life and a Night Elf Priest)
  • Crawford – Common Mistakes (on Game Design) (from Chris Crawford on Game Design)

Day 05 – Documenting Design

  • Moore – The Game Design Document (from Game Design and Development: Introduction to the Game Industry)
  • Moore – Technical Review (from Game Design and Development: Introduction to the Game Industry)
  • Saltzman – Creating Characters, Storyboarding, and Design Documents (from Game Creation and Careers)
  • Saltzman – Master Design Document Template (from Game Creation and Careers)

Day 06 – Semiotics, Ideograms, and their Relation to Game Design

  • Chandler – Semiotics: The Basics (Introduction, pg. 1-121)
  • Lindley – The Semiotics of Time Structure in Ludic Space as a Foundation of Analysis and Design (J. Computer Game Research)
  • McDaniel, Vick, Jacobs, Telep – Cardboard Semiotics: Reconfigurable Symbols as a Means for Narrative Prototyping in Game Design (from ACM Sandbox)
  • Vick, McDaniel, and Jacobs – Using Semiotic Grammars for the Rapid Design of Evolving Video Game Mechanics (from ACM Sandbox)
  • Eisenstein – The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram

Day 07 – Transmedia

  • Creators of Transmedia Stories interviews - http://narrativedesign.org/category/creators-of-transmedia-stories/
  • Thon – Computer Games, Fictional Worlds, and Transmedia Storytelling: A Narratological Perspective (from Philosophy of Computer Games Conference)
  • Jenkins – Searching for the Origami Unicorn: The Matrix and Transmedia Storytelling (from Convergence Culture)
  • Moore – The Basic Idea: Thinking about Comics (from Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics)
  • Johnson – Television (from Everything Bad is Good for You)

Day 08 – Narrative and Drama

  • Neitzel – Narrativity in Computer Games (from Handbook of Computer Game Studies)
  • Krzywinska – Arachne Challenges: The Spinning Out of Long Narrative in World of Warcraft and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (from Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives)
  • Glassner – Branching and Hypertext Narratives (from Interactive Storytelling)
  • Rhizomes vs. Trees (unknown)
  • Calvino – If on a winter’s night a traveler (exerpt)
  • Glassner – Common Pitfalls (from Interactive Storytelling)
  • Laurel – Dramatic Foundations Part I : Elements of Qualitative Structure (from Computers as Theatre)
  • Laurel – Dramatic Foundations Part II : Orchestrating Action (from Computers as Theatre)

Day 09 - Plot

  • Brooks – Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative
  • Glassner – Plot (from Interactive Storytelling)
  • Moore – The Details: Plot and Script (from Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics)
  • Freeman – Plot Interesting Techniques (from Creating Emotions in Games)
  • Freeman – Plot Deepening Techniques (from Creating Emotions in Games)

Day 10 – Storytelling and Storytelling Structures for Games

  • Adams/Rollings – Storytelling and Narrative (from Fundamentals of Game Design)
  • Glassner – Structures (from Interactive Storytelling)
  • Miller – Structures in Interactive Media (from Digital Storytelling)
  • Moore – Reaching the Reader: Structure, Pacing, Story Telling (from Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics)
  • Juul – Games telling Stories? (from Handbook of Computer Game Studies)
  • Krawczyk/Novak – Game Storytelling Devices (from Game Story and Character Development)
  • Miller – Old Tools/New Tools (Digital Storytelling)
  • Perlin – Can There Be a Form between a Game and a Story? (from First Person)
  • Jenkins – Game Design as Narrative Architecture (from First Person)

Day 11 – Space, Place, and Worlds

  • Harrison/Dourish - Re-Placing-ing Space: The Role of Place and Space in Collaborative Systems (ACM CSCW)
  • Dourish – Re-Spacing Place: “Place” and “Space” Ten Years On (ACM CSCW)
  • Huber – Epic Spatialitites: The Production of Space in Final Fantasy Games
  • Murray – From Additive to Expressive Form (from Hamlet on the Holodeck)
  • Glassner – Story Environments (from Interactive Storytelling)
  • Moore – World Building: Place and Personality (from Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics)
  • Adams/Rollings – Game Worlds (from Fundamentals of Game Design)
  • Bogost – Complex Worlds (from Unit Operations)
  • Freeman – World Induction Techniques (from Creating Emotion in Games)

Day 12 – Level Design

  • Co – Brainstorming your Level Ideas (from Level Design for Games)
  • Co – Designing with a Diagram (from Level Design for Games)
  • Saltzman – Level Design (from Game Creation and Careers)
  • Saltzman – Puzzle Design (from Game Creation and Careers)
  • Saltzman – Mission Design (from Game Creation and Careers)

Day 13 – Challenge, Reward, and Balance

  • Crawford – Challenge (from Chris Crawford on Game Design)
  • Co – Enemies and Obstacles: Choosing your Challenges (from Level Design for Games)
  • Rollings/Morris – Game Balance (from Game Architecture and Design)
  • [Website for Level-based Game Mechanics]

Day 14 – Character

  • Jenkins – Death-Defying Superheroes (from Evocative Objects)
  • Glassner – Character (from Interactive Storytelling)
  • Adams/Rollings – Character Development (from Fundamentals of Game Design)
  • Krawczyk/Novak – Character Types (from Game Story and Character Development)
  • Isbister – The Body (from Better Game Characters by Design)
  • Isbister – Player Characters (from Better Game Characters by Design)
  • Isbister – Non-player Characters (from Better Game Characters by Design)

Day 15 – Character Techniques

  • Krawczyk/Novak – Creating Compelling Characters (from Game Story and Character Development)
  • Miller – Characters, Dialogue and Emotions (from Digital Storytelling: A Creator’s Guide to Interactive Entertainment)
  • Freeman – Emotionally Complex Moments and Situations (from Creating Emotion in Games)
  • Freeman – First-Person Character Arc Techniques (from Creating Emotion in Games)
  • Freeman – First-Person Deepening Techniques (from Creating Emotion in Games)
  • Freeman – Revealing Complex Characters through their Actions (from Creating Emotion in Games)
  • Freeman – Enhancing Emotional Depth through Symbols (from Creating Emotion in Games)
  • Phelps – PVP and the Honorable Enemy (from Corante Got Game? Blog)

Day 16 – Audio Design

  • Saltzman – Sound Engineering (from Game Creation and Careers)
  • Saltzman – Music and Games (from Game Creation and Careers)
  • [Video on Cinematic and Game Audio]

Day 17 – Interface Design

  • Flanagan – Reskinning the Everyday (from Re:skin)
  • Manovich – The Interface (from The Language of New Media)
  • Saunders/Novak – Goals and Considerations (from Game Interface Design)
  • Juul – Return to Player Space: The Success of Mimetic Interface Games (from A Casual Revolution)
  • Beechler – A Taxonomy Analysis of Game Interface (partial – MS Capstone RIT)

Day 18 – Gender and Game Design

  • Wegenstein – Shooting up Heroines (from reload: rethinking women + cyberculture)
  • Brunner/Bennett/Honey – Girl Games and Technological Desire (from From Barbie to Mortal Kombat)
  • Subrahmanyam and Greenfield – Computer Games for Girls: What Makes Them Play? (from From Barbie to Mortal Kombat)
  • Cassell/Jenkins – Chess for Girls? Feminism and Computer Games (from From Barbie to Mortal Kombat)
  • Denner/Campe – What Games Made by Girls Can Tell Us (from Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat)
  • Jenkins/Cassell – From Quake Grrls to Desperate Housewives: A Decade of Gender and Computer Games (from Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat)
  • Ray – Stimulation and Entertainment (from Gender Inclusive Game Design)

Day 19 – Designing Games with Values, Games for Change

  • Frasca – Videogames of the Oppressed: Critical Thinking, Education, Tolerance, and other Trivial Issues (from First Person)
  • Bogost/Frasca – Video Games Go to Washington: The Story Behind The Howard Dean Iowa Game (from Second Person)
  • Flanagan and Nissenbaum – Design Heuristics for Activist Games (from Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat)
  • Flanagan – Critical Computer Games (from Critical Play)

Day 20 – Designing for Player Communities

  • DeKoven – The Fun Community (from The Well-Played Game)
  • Fine – Game Structure (from Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing Games as Social Worlds)
  • Juul – Social Meaning and Social Goals (from A Casual Revolution)
  • Pearce – Communities of Play: The Social Construction of Identity in Persistent Online Game Worlds (from Second Person)
  • Taylor – Social Play in Persistent Environments (from Play Between Worlds)

Academic dishonesty is misrepresenting someone else's work as your own. Academic dishonesty is a serious matter, and can result in an automatic F for the course. Please review the IGM department's policy on cheating, located online at http://igm.rit.edu.
If, during the quarter, you ever have any questions about what does or does not constitute academic dishonesty, please come and talk to me.


Any or all of the previous information is subject to change or adjustment during the quarter.

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