Game Analysis and Design ♟️

Professor Hlas
hlascs (@) uwec.edu
Student drop-ins / Zoom appointments

Getting a game design from 95% to 100% done takes as long as it does to get from 0% to 95% done. Brian Henk

Course Information

Section 501 meets Mondays from 3 to 5:45pm

Games have been a part of human culture for over 5000 years and have been used as a tool for recreation as well as for teaching and learning. As such, games are worthy of scholarly analysis. Unfortunately, little scholarly work has been done with this medium. This course is an attempt to view games through a scholarly lens by analyzing the experience of a game.

Questions that will guide our analysis include:

  1. What is fun?
  2. Is fun a necessary component of a game?
  3. What makes one game fun and another not?

As students complete requirements to graduate with University Honors, they:

Specific learning outcomes for this course include:

This course helps students meet the following Liberal Education Learning Outcomes (as assessed by final project):

Course structure 🏗️

Course materials 📚

Jesse Schell's book The art of game design: A book of lenses (2014) is widely considered one of the best books on game design. Most weeks will have an option to read a chapter from this book, which is highly recommended. A handy resource is his deck of game design lenses (website, cards, iOS, Android).

Raph Koster is best known for his work on the massive multiplayer online game Star Wars Galaxies. His book, A theory of fun for game design (2013) makes important connections between games and fun that other books overlook. I found this book made much more sense when I read it twice, first reading the cartoons to give me an overview of his argument, then going back to read the text for the details.

(optional) It may be helpful to bring paper crafting supplies like markers or scissors on playtesting days. Such materials will be helpful for fixing things or making changes during the playtest.

Other resources

If you think your game needs to look nice, it probably means it's just not good enough yet. Focus on the game. Bruno Faidutti

Grading

Experience points (XP) are gained for clearly communicating ideas and reflecting on the iterative design process.

Weekly writing assignments 📝 9 × 8 XP

There will be readings and videos for each week's topic. Most of these weeks require a written assignment requiring you to integrate and apply the various ideas within the readings.

Rules instructor 10 XP

One time during the semester you will need to learn an assigned game and teach it to your fellow classmates. To learn a game I recommend: read the rules, try playing a solo game, read rules again or watch a video that explains the game, try playing a real game, read the rules again, create your own rules summary to remember important rules.

Roll-and-write design project 12 XP

A practice design project that has specific constraints to prepare you for the game design project.

Game design project 16 + 22 XP

In teams of 1-3, students will iteratively design a game idea of their own choosing. Students will be graded on communication of ideas, not game quality. Specifically, students will individually submit a reflection after each playtest. Further, students groups will submit a design diary with group and individual parts for the final project.

You've achieved perfection in design, not when you have nothing more to add, but when you have nothing more to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupry

Tips for a successful semester 👍

The course schedule is your friend. I continually update it to make sure it is always as current as possible. All class activities, handouts, and daily recommendations should be listed. If something is missing or unclear, please let me know so I can make improvements for the benefit of everyone in the class.

Mathematics is a form of abstract thinking that is better learned through active participation. In one study (2019), students were either taught via lecture or through active learning. Students in the lecture class felt like they learned more, but they actually scored lower than the active learning group. Active learning means that class will often begin with a challenging problem. During class the students and the instructor will work together to solve the problem(s) and hopefully learn some mathematics along the way (2019, 2017, 2014, 2006).

When solving problems do not expect perfection. Problems are designed to be challenging, because if they are not, then any opportunity for learning is lost. Speaking of learning, we will try to avoid tricks/shortcuts as these often distract us from the mathematics and create extra work.

After each class, educational research recommends we reflect on what was learned. One way to review is to rewrite class notes. For a specific note-taking suggestion, please see the Feyneman's Notebook Method that encourages rewriting a day's lesson with a one-page restriction. Hand-written notes also lead to more brain activity than other methods (2021, 2020, 2011).

Another method for review is to focus on activities with immediate feedback. For example, WeBWorK, flash cards, study groups and practice testing all have elements of formative feedback that is immediate (2013a*, 2013b, 2008, 2006, 2017). When working with practice problems like WeBWorK, it may be more helpful to try problems before class discussion because this will help guide learning (2021, 2014).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

When/how is the professor available outside of class?

Email is the best way to reach me. I typically respond within 24 hours, but I do not check email in the evenings or on Saturdays.

My student drop-in schedule and sign-up for Zoom appointments are posted at https://math.hlasnet.com/officehours

What is the attendance policy?

A record of attendance is required by the University to maintain accurate class rosters. Attendance is not graded but poor attendance may impact participation in group activities (e.g., taking a group quiz individually).

If you are absent, please check the course schedule then meet with the instructor via drop-in hours, Zoom, or email to make sure you are caught up. Graded work that occurs during an authorized absence (school functions, emergencies or illness) may be made up for full credit. Other absences may complete graded assignments late for 90% credit or early for full credit. Late work is expected to be completed within two weeks of the return date or by the last day of classes, whichever occurs first. In situations where a makeup cannot occur, the final exam score may be used as a proxy for a missing assignment. Students missing a week or more of class should contact the Dean of Students Office to get extra support.

What if I am stressed out?

College can be hard. Everyone can benefit from placing their personal well-being as a top priority throughout the semester. Should you want some emotional support for any reason, you can access free counseling services (even one short session to problem-solve solutions) from the UWEC Counseling Services on campus. They provide a variety of online and in-person services, including some virtual wellness workshops. Call them at 836-5521, stop by Old Library room 2122, or check out the website to make an appointment: https://www.uwec.edu/counseling-services/

Students also have FREE access to UW System Mental Health Support through Mantra health – a telehealth service available 24/7 days a week (call or text: 888-531-2142 or go online at: app.mantrahealth.com; sign up using your UWEC email address). You can also reach out to the WI-branch of the national crisis/emotional support text line by texting "HOPELINE" to 741 741 or use the national suicide prevention lifeline: 988 Please use these resources to support your mental well-being and success as a Blugold!

What if the math class is too easy or too difficult?

The Department of Mathematics also allows students within entry-level mathematics courses (i.e., 010, 020, 104, 109, 112, 114, or 246) to move up to a higher numbered course during the first two weeks of a semester or move down during the first three weeks. Please contact the instructor for more details.

How does grading work?

Final scores (rounded up to the nearest whole number) are compared to the grading scale given in the syllabus to determine a final grade. Individual scores or grades will not be modified because they represent a student's progress in the class throughout the semester. If there is a mistake in scoring, please contact the instructor as soon as possible to get the error fixed.

Midterm grades do not have a score table so are based on the percentage of points completed at the time of midterm submission.

Note: I dislike the University's scale of "F" because I have never once felt that a student has "failed" a class. Instead, I prefer to think of this as a "not pass" where insufficient evidence has been demonstrated by a student to move on to the next level.

What if I need accommodations (like extra time on tests)?

Any student who is in need of classroom accommodations should contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office in Centennial Hall 2106 at the beginning of the semester.

What else do I need to know?