Lectures‎ > ‎Week 1: May 30-June 5‎ > ‎

03-Introduction to games

Preparation/Homework for this lecture

  1. Read AGD: Chapter 3, 4, 5 and 6. 
    1. Deliverable: Write a blog post explaining and reflecting on one or two ideas that impressed you from the reading. Add a link to the post to your homework log. Blog site is here: http://iceland.cs.brandeis.edu/jbsblog2011
    2. Deliverable: Also comment on 3 students' posts
  2. Read the Scrum Handbook (it's not long). Additional reading Sutherland's Scrum Handbook.This one is much longer. You can skim it.
    1. Deliverable: Do some googling for critiques of Scrum (not everyone loves it :) and write a blog post with your reflections on Scrum pro and con.
  3. Continue working on PA-1. It will be due on Monday morning.

Discussion About Games

  • Get into groups of 4 people, for 15 minutes
    • build a mind map of game design concepts, any way you see fit. 
    • A good way to start is to write down concepts that you think are important to game design, and to try to connect them together.
    • Discussion: Each team shows and talks over their mindmap
Thinking about games

  • (Step outside mindset of the Incubator products)
  • This is a course on Mobile Games (duh)
  • What kinds of games are we thinking about?
    • We cast a wide net: both 'computer games' and mobile apps with game characteristics.
    • If you think about just about any (modern) app, it has some degree of gaming features
    • If you want to make an impact on the world, you want your app to be adopted, used, shared

So, what is a game?

  • Note, these are things we know intuitively yet are hard to explain. 
    • A Game is something you play. Discussion: examples?
    • A Toy is something you play withDiscussion: examples?
    • A good toy is something that is fun to play with. 
    • So, what is fun? (Serious) Discussion?
      • Let's actually make a list
      • >>> Fun is pleasure with surprises.
      • Describe a fun experience that is completely devoid of surprises.
  • So, what is the difference between a game and a puzzle? 
    • Is tic tac toe a game or puzzle?
    • Is a rubik's cube a game or a puzzle?
    • Discussion: Why

Qualities of a game

  1. Games are entered willfully (Discussion: What is a game like activity that you don't enter in willfully?)
  2. Games have goals (Discussion: What is the goal of a player in a Tennis a game? What if I don't keep score?)
  3. Games have conflict (Discussion: What is the conflict when playing Solitaire?)
  4. Games have rules (Discussion: What are the rules of improvisational theatre?)
  5. Games can be won or lost (Discussion: Who is the winner or loser when working on a puzzle?)
  6. Games are interactive (Discussion: What is a game who's unit of interaction takes weeks?)
  7. Games have a challenge (Discussion: Can you think of a game where there is no challenge?)
  8. Games create their own internal value (Discussion: What does this mean?)
  9. Games engage players (Discussion: Can you think of any 'game' that doesn't engage all it's players?)
  10. Games are closed, formal systems (Discussion: How about a game where players can add or change rules?)
  • How can we use this list of qualities when creating games?

What is a game?

"A game is a problem solving activity approached with a playful attitude" 
  • Remember that our attention for these courses are focused more broadly, on games and game-like applications
  • Conversely that no matter the domain of interest, thinking about it as a game can yield interesting insights
  • Break into 4 groups:
    • Each group, consider one of these apps and activities
    • Decide whether each of these is a game or not, and what qualities and aspects it has and does not have.
    • Suggest a change to make it more game like and what effect this change would have
    • Any other reflections?
  • List of apps or activities to consider:
    • Facebook
    • Attending this JBS
    • LinkedIn
    • Applying to college or grad school
    • Google.com
    • Twitter
    • Getting around - driving a car, walking, bicycling

"Elemental Tetrad" : Four Basic Elements of Every Game

  1. Mechanics: The procedures, rules, goals, etc of the game
    1. Note how a movie has the other three elements - aesthetics, technology and story, but still, it's not a game
  2. Story: The context to make emotional sense out of the mechanics
    1. It is the sequence of events that unfold in the game
    2. Without that player cannot make meaning out of the mechanics
    3. Story is analogous to the 'metaphor' in a user interface
  3. Aesthetics
    1. How the game looks, sounds, smells? and feels
    2. Without this it is more difficult to make the story come alive
  4. Technology
    1. The "physical" building blocks of the game
    2. Some things can be done, others cannot
  • Depending on the game, some elements may be more important than others
  • So: If you want to improve your game, look at these elements and ask yourself, 
    • which one needs to be strengthened?
    • are they in harmony?
    • are they in balance?
  • Discussion
    • Break into a different 4 groups, and dissect a favorite videogame using the Lens of the Elemental Tetrad
    • Present your findings

What makes an activity Fun/Pleasure/Enjoyable

  • It includes the following
    • DIscovery
    • Surprise
    • Problem Solving
    • Not too frustrating
    • Commitment to a person, character, thing
    • Escape from reality
    • Social Engagement
    • Humor
    • Learning
    • Creation


  • Final brainstorm on Product ideas. Prioritization
  • Once final groups are selected
  • Break up into groups
    • Talk, brainstorm about the product. Start working with your team on a game brief which will grow to 2-5 pages in Google Docs. Imagine you are writing this for someone else, 2 to 5 pages. Answer these questions and any others that are needed.
    • Here is a sample outline or questions to answer in a design brief. Use it as a guide.
    • Deliverable: Post a link to the google doc in the blog.
  • Begin your project on www.pivotaltracker.com
    • Deliverable: Post a link to that project in the blog
  • We start next week!
  • Review homework for Monday's class