This page focuses on the course CMS.608/CMS.864 Game Design as it was taught by Philip Tan and Richard Eberhardt in Spring 2014.
Students in this course learn the discipline of game design, with an emphasis on iteration. We focus on the design of board and card games because they are quick to develop and are easy to change based on tester feedback, helping students to understand why design iteration is important and how it is useful. The course also provides students with a historical overview of how and why games have been made and played through the ages, with a focus on the advent of industrialized game development over the past 150 years. The course is organized around a series of team projects, supported by lab time, workshops, lectures, readings, and discussions.
The primary goal is for students to gain an understanding of the discipline of game design: what practices are part of game design, why they are important, and how they are useful for the development of games and other activities. Students also practice other skills important for game development, particularly those required for working in teams, such as management, communication, and organization.
Common next courses include other game development courses taught at MIT, most of which feature video game design as the course work, including CMS.611 Creating Videogames and 11.127 Computer Games and Simulations for Investigation and Education. Non-digital game courses include CMS.617 Advanced Game Studio and CMS.615 Games for Social Change.
This course helps prepare students for design careers, especially careers which involve user experience design, such as game development. Students who take this course are often considering game development as a career option, be it working for a large game studio or publisher, starting their own company, or applying game design principles to other disciplines.
In the following pages, Philip Tan and Richard Eberhardt describe various aspects of how they teach CMS.608 Game Design.
One subject in Comparative Media Studies or permission of instructor.
The students' grades were based on the following activities:
Philip Tan and Rik Eberhardt describe their strategies for assessing learning in the Assessment Design section of "This Course at MIT."
3/8 Sophomores, 1/4 Juniors, 1/4 Seniors, 1/8 Graduate students
Many Electrical Engineering and Computer Science majors, a few math majors, and students from mechanical engineering, biology, chemical engineering, management, and the humanities.
Most of the students had an interest in games when they started the course – some in video games, some in board and tabletop games. Their interests tended to be narrow and focused on particular genres or styles of games.
Enrollment for the course is limited to about twenty-five students. The cap is largely due to the capacity and features of the room we are normally able to secure for the class. The class requires a lot of flat surfaces and movable tables. We also need the classroom to be close to the Game Lab because of the large amount of materials we bring from the lab for each class session, such as multiple boxes of prototyping supplies (paper, markers, index cards, counters, etc.) and copies of board games.
The ideal size for the course is about 20 students – any larger and we lose the seminar feel of the course, requiring breakout sessions to make sure everyone contributes to discussions.
During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:
MIT Game Lab Research Scientist Philip Tan was the lead instructor for this course. He has been teaching game design for 10 years at MIT. Philip was responsible for selecting the readings and facilitating most lectures and discussions. Instructors shared responsibility for grading and assessment.
Rik Eberhardt, MIT Game Lab Studio Manager, assisted Philip during this current captured year. Rik was responsible for managing in-class lab sessions, during which students played both commercial off-the-shelf games and conducted playtests of their own games. Instructors shared responsibility for grading and assessment.