Teaching: Game Design


Growing up I dreamed of making a computer game..  Back when we were kids, my brother and I coded from scratch a DOS version of Nintendo’s Metroid … Recently I was able to find an early version, and run it using DOSBox.  Woot!  How cool would it be to make another game, this time with my kids?  Heck yeah it would!

The Plan: Keep it Simple

So here’s the plan.  Teach and learn with my kids how to make a game.  I have several nefarious plans brewing in the back of my mind to use this as an opportunity to teach them programming, engineering methods, and state machines.  We’ll see what happens.  First and foremost is the basis of any good game — creative writing.

Creative Writing?

I’m an Engineer.  Yeah, that’s one of those “technical” fields.  Good engineers get paid to solve hard problems.  Even better engineers can also communicate effectively.  I’m hoping that my kids and I can learn to do the latter… together.

Making a game is about a lot of things … game mechanics are important, but story content is crucial.  Great CGI with no story is meh.  A text-based game with riveting content is enthralling.

Interactive Fiction for the Win!

Remember “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories?   I do.  Good story content.  The reader/player got to choose their next move.   Today that story format is called “Interactive Fiction.”  And that’s where our classes begin.

We’re going to use Interactive Fiction to teach creative-writing, coding, typing, problem-solving, collaboration, and communication.  Too good to be true?  No way!

Class Content

Our class content leverages Twine, an open-source tool for creating IF stories.

Additional Resources

  • Emily Short’s Interactive Storytelling, essays and reviews on narrative in games and new media.
  • Interactive Fiction In The iOS Age, an article on IF then and today.
  • Inform, a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language.
  • Twine, an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.
  • IFComp, the Interactive Fiction Competition, an annual celebration of new, text-driven digital games and stories from independent creators.
  • scratch.mit.edu, scratch is a free programming language and online community where you can create your own interactive stories, games, and animations.
  • flowlab.io, create your own online & iPhone games.
  • gethopscotch.com, similar to Scratch but for iPad.
  • GameMakerV8, a slightly older but less restrictive ‘lite’ version, for free.
  • The Evolved Gamer, education through gaming and game creation.

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