I wish to unleash the hordes of middle school game designs upon you.
Every semester I am fortunate to teach board game design to my middle school students in our gifted class. The whole semester is all about board games and culminates with each student designing their own full prototype and writing a full ruleset. This semester, I have 24 designs to proudly present.
Thanks everyone for all your support. Tomorrow is our last day in class, so we're pretty much done here. We got 180 thumbs (yes!) for the post overall, plus many more sprinkled below. Hilariously enough, last semester's class clocked out at 182. Not that the kids have noticed, of course.
Thanks again to everyone who commented, thumbed, or just offered more mental encouragement. It's been a great semester. See you in December!
I am always tweaking how I teach game design, but this year I had a transformative moment. I went to the Midwest Education Technology Conference (www.metcconference.org) and I went to a session on creating fast prototypes. Since the creation of the prototype is always challenging to do quickly, I went. I am so glad I did!
The presenter did a shortened version of the Stanford d.school's Virtual Crash Course in design. We were paired up and followed a process of interviewing each other and developing the basis of an idea, then finally created prototypes using everyday materials like foil and popsicle sticks. The process was fun, but what really stuck with me was the d.school's design principles:
Bias towards action
Collaborate across boundaries
Focus on human values
Be mindful of process
Prototype towards a solution
Show, don't tell
I really thought about the process--what was effective, and what really wasn't. Prototyping and working with materials is effective because you can think of 500 ideas but only by actually trying them out can you see if they work or not. So I knew I wanted to keep that, obviously, but also to make it better.
I realized that I had my students spend so. much. time. writing about what they wanted to do with their games--writing about how to apply mechanics, researching their themes and writing down information that might be helpful, writing about different objectives, writing about different victory conditions. I realized that I needed to keep the written components about mechanics and theme, but objectives and victory conditions could wait. The reality is that most often, what my students wrote about ahead of always changed for objectives and victory conditions. So I decided to just focus on theme and mechanics because the objectives and victory conditions tend to develop more organically--they naturally arise as students work on the prototype.
So, we started prototyping weeks earlier than before, and now at the end of the semester, it was absolutely worth it. Because we focused just on theme and mechanics, students had a lot of flexibility to play around and try different ideas. Rarely students change theme, but adding or subtracting mechanics happens frequently. By committing to less on paper, they were able to try more ideas. The prototypes have seen a lot more physical development and play testing and I think the students liked it much better. I had two students who actually took my class twice, and they said that while they learned a lot the first time that they could apply, really it was the emphasis on prototyping that made their games better.
(This happens to me so much, Little Miss Best Intentions finally sees another way is better, and I'm just glad the nice folks at Stanford are kind enough to share their materials. (http://dschool.stanford.edu)
So, I have 24 Boss Level prototypes to share with everyone. As always, I am eternally surprised by the creativity and difficult choices my students make in developing their prototypes. A mountain of work in a semester, and these fantastic students deserve every bit of credit you can sling their way.
For their blurbs below, they had to provide the following information:
1. Provide a short Description:
2. Describe the gameplay—what do players do on their turns, how do the components of the game interact with each other?
3. Why did you choose this theme?
4. Game Mechanics: what are they and how are they used?
5. How do players win and how the game ends?
6. WHY IS YOUR GAME AWESOME AND AMAZING?
I will be adding pictures to each student's blurb as they submit them to me. They are working on the final, pretty versions and rules this week.
Please feel free to thumb and comment on games you like. My students definitely pay attention to this. You can thumb all of them (please try to make it through all of them, if you do) or just thumb the ones you like. Or none of them. However, the thumbs are the easiest way for my students to see that others are paying attention.
Special thanks to two fabulous local game designers for coming in to my classes to talk to each one about their games and to answer questions. Thanks to my soulmate, Spin Monkeys and thanks to my great friend
aaron belmerAaron BelmerUnited States
My classes and I am better for knowing both of you.
I created a Meta Geeklist for all my former posts about my students' work. You can subscribe to it, if you'd like to see what we've done and get updates on future posts. http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/156902/meta-geeklist-f...
Also, I have a website where I am putting all my game design materials. Please note I am a lot behind, but my goal for summer is to push out all the materials I've been updating this semester, so take a look at http://www.kathleenmercury.com. I welcome collaboration, comments, and suggestions.
Thanks so much for supporting my students and their work!
- [+] Dice rolls