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Syllabus for round 4: Rapid Physical Game Design & Prototyping, and Interaction and Collaboration




Round 4 will meet in conjunction with Interaction & Collaboration, and participants are expected to be enrolled in both experiences. We will convene Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 am - 12:00 pm. Participants will engage in collaborative design and development for both experiences.



  • To explore the creation of games through experimentation.
  • To protoype 5 games in 6 weeks. Players will make a new game each week for the first 6 weeks of the course. Each new game will be made in response to formal and conceptual parameters or challenges detailed below.
  • To prototype a 6th game during the remaining 4 weeks of class. This game will be of greater ambition, depth, and complexity.
  • To combine and recombine in collaborations to create these game prototypes.
  • To explore and learn about how to be an effective and productive collaborator through experimentation and guidance by instructors.
  • To document and disseminate our observations and games through this wiki. Each player will document their games by uploading their rule sets and material parameters to pages that link off of their respective Players pages. Each Player is charged with becoming a reflective player. Players should record their observations and comments on games they have played inside and outside of the lab and then share these observations verbally and online through the comments capability of the wiki. It is the responsibility of each respective Player to document the feedback they receive and include it on the page for their game(s).


Methods and Assessment

  1. Games are experiential in nature and can only be assessed by and through play.
    1. Players will gather in the lab for collaborative assessment twice a week.
    2. Designers are not allowed to play their own game for purposes of assessment.
  2. Participating game designers agree to be listed on the Players page.
  3. Participating game designers agree to be open to constructive comments and critiques by the other participating designers.
  4. All participants agree that constructive comments and critiques are meant to:
    1. help improve the gameplay of a designer's game,
    2. share a player's reflections of gameplay and engagement,
    3. contribute to the building of critical vocabularies for game design.
  5. Game names and rules remain the property of the their respective participating designers who are the definitive arbiter of those rules.
  6. participating game designers agree to allow us to publish their games and rules on TakeTurns wiki and will receive proper credit for their creations.
  7. Players will play reflectively
  8. Players will be assumed to be playing to win, unless they proclaim their intention to do otherwise
  9. Non-players will actively observe games as they are played
  10. Players and non-players will offer observations and constructive critiques to the designer
  11. Designers, players and non-players will record their observations in their notebooks and upload them as comments to the TakeTurns wiki
  12. Role(s) of the player:
    1. play to win
    2. play to draw
    3. play to lose
    4. play to spoil
    5. play "against the text"
    6. all these imply an ethic of competition
  13. We will engage in collaborative design & development
  14. We will combine and recombine collaborative groupings with each of the first five challenges/projects
  15. Players agree to document the composition of their collaborative groups and to credit their playtesters via the online Collaboration Matrix (read only version)
  16. Players agree to document and assess the efforts of their collaborators anonymously via the online Collaboration Journal
  17. Players agree to collaborate with no fewer than five other Players by week six



  • there exist two primary levels of difficulty for a designer:
  1. is it fun for me?
  2. is it fun for someone else?
  • the latter is particularly hard for a designer to achieve, even within the industry
  • there are imperfect ways to measure "goodness" in game design:
  1. willingness of someone to play through to the end
  2. willingness of someone to play again
  3. willingness of someone to introduce the game to someone else
  • there exists room to improve on these



  1. Yourself
  2. Your laptop equipped with Processing
  3. game bits/tokens/props of sundry shapes and sizes



  1. Lessons in Collaboration: How To Make A Partnership Work. National Center for Technology Innovation. October 2005.
  2. Frye & Reas, ed. Processing. MIT Media Lab.
  3. Open Processing Community.
  4. Bill Buxton and Sketch-a-Move  : example of a theoretical idea sketch, getting your ideas out into the world.
  5. Steamboat Willie 
  6. George Carlin on Football and Baseball 
  7. 4kcompetition
  8. Work In Progress Bibliography 1
  9. Work In Progress Bibliography 2


Challenges for round four, 2012.03-2012.06

Formal constraints are traction — Bill Depper

  1. Create a game that makes use of two bodies, a single mechanic, and a spatial envelope of 8 x 8 x 8 feet. The mechanic and dynamic must be non-agressive. Collaborate with two others to create this game, to form a group of three people.
  2. Form a five (5) person collaborative group. Create a game that involves four humans interacting and playing within an 8 x 8 x 8 foot bounding cube. Gameplay may involve two (2) props of the same kind, but which cannot be the object or goal of the game. The game should be self-evaluating, that is to say it should require no referee to judge end states. The temporal envelope should be carved into 30-second increments/events.
  3. Form a four (4) person collaborative  group. Create a game that involves five (5) bodies/players, all with equivalent roles, all interacting within a 16 x 16 x 8 foot maximum spatial envelope. Gameplay may involve a number of props -- limited only by practicality -- of no more than two (2) kinds. The maximum temporal envelope will be 15 minutes for a game to play to completion.
  4. Form a collaborative group of five. Design an eight player game that will take place in two non-contiguous spaces of 8' x 16' x 8' each. Line of sight between the two spaces is optional. Players must remain within the space where they begin the game for the entire run of play. Two non-player runners can be enlisted to communicate between the spaces. Gameplay must be continuous, simultaneous. The activities in each space must affect or influence each other. Props may not be used as projectiles, nor as semaphores. The temporal envelope for setup, play, teardown, and reset of the space cannot exceed 30 minutes.
  5. Bonus Challenge: Self-organize into collaborative groups. Create a game of "telephone" played as though all of the players are mimes.
  6. Final Challenge: Collaborative groups of 5 will be formed through a draft process coordinated by the game masters, Depper and Fajardo. The Conceptual Constraint: games created must engage the idea of either "otherness" or "loss", or both for a Plus One (+1) bonus. The Formal Constraints: games created must employ the Kinect sensor and a projection in ways that are responsive to activities by humans in physical space. Games created have to run without errors for the final presentation. Games must honor a 45 minute temporal envelope, inclusive of setup, gameplay, teardown, and reset of the play space. A +1 bonus will be awarded for: Use of Twitter Library for spectator participation for either judging or for altering the game experience (e.g. change level based on hash-tag); Ambient lighting shift using the DMX protocols; Ambitious projections that make use of the Matrox Triple Head; Networking of non-contiguous spaces. A -1 penalty will be assessed for: game mechanics that look or play like a known game; turn based game play; the creation of a game for less than 3 players. A -9001 penalty will be assessed for disintegration of collaborative group. Play nice, share your toys. 


Additional Challenge for Graduate Students

Graduate students enrolled are required to complete an additional challenge. They must read and lead a seminar session on the following:

  1. Burroughs, Edgar Rice. The game of Jetan in The Chessmen of Mars.
  2. Wallace, David Foster. The game of Eschaton in Infinite Jest.
  3. Watterson, Bill. The collected writings on Calvin Ball from Calvin & Hobbes.
  4. Massumi, Brian. The analysis of soccer from Parables For The Virtual.


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