Make Cycle #3: Level Up Your Game Design!

We’d love to give a roaring, standing ovation for the University of Illinois Writing Project for empowering us to consider the ways in which we identify and represent ourselves and the contexts in which we live, adapt and thrive. Even more, it’s been fascinating to see how remediation and experimentation on a single topic can generate new insights and meaning.

Let’s dive deeper into the ways in which we analyze, deconstruct and change complex systems. What are the variables in our every day and cosmic equation? How can we tackle complex local and global issues, which may be quick to identify but hard to solve? By using a different lens to analyze a situation, can we create discussion and empower action?

11220096_10152875450066994_334593595157978326_nGame design from C:\DAGS Game Jam image by Christina Cantrill, CC-BY

For this Make Cycle, we invite you to use game design to analyze, remediate, and reflect on complex systems. Last week, we noticed “the affordances and constraints that each medium offers (for and against) our purposes”. This week, let’s discuss what systems we see – and what happens when we change up the rules a bit.

You may ask – why game design?

The systems within which we operate can be difficult to understand – and even more so, difficult to discuss. Games – in all their forms – are engaging tools for experimentation. As dynamic and interactive works of art, games can inspire us to tackle and engage with complexity. Plus, games, and the ways in which they are designed, enable us to experiment and have fun with failure: the ability to try, fail, and try again is a powerful tool.

Games align with the spirit of the CLMOOC because they are active experiences. Like many things in civil society, every game has rules, players, and interesting choices you are “allowed” to take.

A game in which the player performs simple actions or activities simply to further a story is passive; however, if the player is presented with choices which meaningfully impact the future events in the game, these choices become “interesting” and active.

clmooc2via The Institute of Play. Read more of their deconstruction of Oregon Trail…

Make with Me

For this Make Cycle, we would love for you to start with thinking about your favorite game (in any shape or form!) and reconstructing it using one or more different media. A good way to start can be answering these questions:

  • What are the rules of the game?
  • What are the actions (or verbs) you are allowed to take in the game?
  • Is there a “win” state? If so, how do you achieve it?

Game design is a creative process – anything goes. Help us learn how to play your favorite game, or create a new game we can play together! You can start with a drawing, create a flip book, and move to video. You can also take household items and turn them into playing pieces, transforming your kitchen table (or house!) into a game board!

DarrowPage1Page one of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing by Charles Darrow for a patent on the board game Monopoly, filed and granted in 1935. Public Domain. 

Over the course of the Make Cycle, we’d love to see how you level up or progress through your game. What actions can you take to move forward?

Don’t forget: as the game designer, you have the power to change the system, and you don’t have to do it alone! If you were to change a rule, how would that impact the actions you could take in the game? What would happen if you played with multiple people? Perhaps your fellow CLMOOCers can play with you!

We also invite you to think about how you can also use your new game design skills to translate, analyze and change a complex issue. For instance, if you were to deconstruct the California Water Crisis

  • Who would be the key characters you could play?
  • What are 1-3 actions each character type could do in the game?
  • What are the potential outcomes?

You can start with a character, such as a farmer trying to conserve water but still grow crops. How many other participants play other characters, like policymakers or residents? If you were to change a rule, how would that change the game?

As with the previous make cycles, we hope that you will be inspired to explore a new medium, and create new understanding about what it means to analyze (and change!) a system.

DoubleDutchBAInside games and outside games count all the same. Children “skipping” double dutch in Buenos Aires, via Drdisque, CC BY 2.0

Check Out These Resources

There’s plenty of ways to start thinking about meaningful game design. Here are some ideas:

Glasslab Games:

Institute of Play:

Other how-to/guides:

A few digital tools to consider:

Remembering games:

Books you might want to check out:

Places to Share

Live Events

  • Join our Make With Me live broadcast with chat on Tuesday, July 7th at 7p EDT/4p PDT/11p UTC live streamed with a synchronous chat here at CLMOOC. This session will also be recorded so you can watch the archive later.
  • We will be hosting a Twitter Chat for Make Cycle #1 on Thursday, July 9th at 7p EDT/4p PDT/11p UTC with the #clmooc hashtag

Need More Information?

Finally …

As fellow game designers, we can’t wait to make with you!

Paula Escuadra, Evan Rushton, and Lori Stone
GlassLab, Inc.



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