Rapid Prototype Suggested Scenarios

Four suggested scenarios

Here are four “Games 4 Change” – style scenarios, drawn largely from my experience and inquiries from NGOs, NFPs, and so forth. For your second game-design experiment (which you’ll do with one or more partners, ideally, this week), please choose one that you didn’t already use on Tuesday. Feel free to invent your own, especially if it is particular to your experience or your profession, etc.

  1. Dept. of Motor Vehicles; “We want to provide clients with a simple single-player game to distract them while they wait for service at the DMV. The game should help them see that mass transit is sometimes the best option for travel.” Adults, 21-48.
  1. Humane Society; “We want to steer families away from buying expensive pure-bred pets from breeders. Instead, we encourage them to adopt pets in need from their local shelter.” Children, 8-14.

  2. IT Department; “We want to encourage our users to avoid using common passwords like “password”, “1234”, and so on.” Employees.

  3. Dept. of Public Safety; “We want to show people just how dangerous it is to text and drive.” Young adults, 15-24.

Compressed Game Design Scenario

On Tuesday, 31 October, we spent our time together working through one of several possible rapid-prototype game development scenarios.  I’ve asked you to compile your notes from that session, dump them into a single PDF file, and forward them to me.  I’ve also asked you to pick another one of the scenarios, below, and work through the exercise a second time (again, sending me your notes on the session  when finished).

Compressed Rapid-Prototyping Game Dev Sessions

Note that following each phase is a lightning note-making phase; the notes you make during this phase are important to carrying through on ideas conceived under pressure.

Brainstorm (mental & physical)

6 mins

Evaluate problem, consider approaches

Outline specifics of your approach

Identify mechanics you will draw on

Identify the “argument” the game will be making

Identify how that argument is made

Copy ideas that you’re keeping to “next phase” poster

Rapid prototyping 1 (physical)

8 mins

Situate your ideas on a board;

Instantiate concepts via material means;

Sketch out more clearly how play will proceed (best done from Player’s point of view).

Staged play-through

7 mins

From the point of view of the game itself:   Work through the game from start to finish. You will have to skip over repetitions of action, multiple rounds, etc.

Designers should demand, repeatedly:  But why would a player do this? But what is the motivation to do so?

Advocate for the player, always.  Be Skeptical.

Rapid prototyping 2

5 mins

Working from these notes, try to identify and eliminate at least two major issues;If there is time, commit to writing out the rules for a new player.

Experimental play-through

9 mins

One member of the group should play the game “naively,” as if she were unaware of the rules.  Members of the group should “instruct her” as the game progresses.

Once player knows the rules, make a good-faith effort to follow them;

Make careful notes about confusion, impasses, etc.

Rapid prototype 3

4 mins

Work from your notes to eliminate glitches;

From previous rounds’ experience, work to streamline the game; (e.g., eliminate at least one mechanic, at least one set of choices, etc.)

Advocate for players.  Ask about motivation.

Final in-group play-through

6 mins

Clean things up for presentation to others.  Look for unexpected glitches.


Final Report

Your final report to me (or to your CEO, etc.)  should include the following (particulars matter here, as does confidence.  If you don’t know some of these particulars, you should invent them with conviction).

  • Game title

  • Physical appearance of game

  • Sketch of gameboard;

  • Dimensions of game components.  If you are using cards, for example, provide at least 5 “typical” text blocks from each set of cards, etc.

  • Draft of instructions to player — these should be as SHORT as possible, but as EXPLICIT as you can manage.  Write, re-write, cut-down, economize, streamline, and then shorten even more.  Ideally?  Ideally your instructions will fit on a single 3×5 index card.  One side.

  • Show us where the rules reside (on the cards, on the board, etc.)

Game design documents

This week, we talked at some length about the “game design document,” a kind of loose rubric around which games are often (but not always) designed, funded, and built.

For next week, please think about the game you have been working towards — it may be the one you prototyped in C3 or Pico8, or it may be a different set of ideas that you’ve been kicking around.

In either case, prepare a one-to-two page “game design document” that features the information classically delivered on the first one or two pages, the “Game Overview.”  These pages might include, for example:

  1.  Your game colorfully, meaningfully described in no more than 5 sentences.  In other words, this is the “elevator pitch” for your game;
  2. A short, evocative list of sources, influences, and major competitors;
  3. A brief explanation of your target audience/market, together with insights as to how/why this game will appeal to her;
  4. Condensed description of important game mechanics/core game play.

This is, in effect, the “executive overview” of your game design document, and it should be assembled with care.  You should be able to explain or justify every sentence that appears therein.

Remember:  There is no single Game Design Document; rather, it is a genre of document that illuminates game-designer and game-publisher culture in interesting ways.  Even so, it can be very (very!) useful to force yourself to reduce your game to a coherent set of sentences.  As we’ve seen, gameplay almost always exceeds the grasp of language.

To that end, it is worth noting that these documents seem to gain greater purchase in the industry on a yearly basis.  Here is an outline, for example, for a game design document intended for a US national STEM Game Design contest (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, areas of study that American public education has been focused on for nearly a decade now):  StemChallenge.org

For consideration:
Pierre (Game design document)

Generic game design document

Arcana Project game design document