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This intensive two-day workshop will explore the day-to-day craft of game design through hands-on activities, group discussion, analysis and critique. Attendees will immerse themselves in the iterative process of refining a game design and discover design concepts that will help them think more clearly about their designs and make better games. The workshop presents a formal approach to game design in which games are viewed as systems and analyzed in terms of their mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics. Before game designers can even begin to design a game, they need to understand their aesthetic goals. In other words, they need to enumerate all the kinds of "fun" that they hope the game will provide its users. They can formalize their understanding of their game's aesthetic goals by formulating an aesthetic model for each goal; a formal description of the goal that identifies its criteria for success and possible modes of failure. The workshop will present a handful of aesthetic models as examples and encourage attendees to formulate their own. During the game design exercises, attendees will use aesthetic models as a yardstick to measure their progress throughout the design process. Working in small groups, attendees will be given specific games to play and will analyze them in terms of aesthetic goals and models. Several different games will be explored and common game design themes will be identified as different groups share their results. For each game that they analyze, attendees will be presented with a concrete design exercise to undertake. An exercise might involve adding a new feature, accommodating a new goal or requirement, or fixing a design flaw. These exercises will challenge attendees to analyze and identify the design principles at work in a game, and to think flexibly and creatively while working within design constraints. They will serve as a starting point for discussing how the iterative design applies to games in digital and non-digital media. In addition to these analysis-and-revision exercises, attendees will gain further practical experience working with these models through brief collaborative design projects, brainstorming sessions, critical analysis and discussion.
Game designers and programmers will leave this workshop with new abstract tools for analyzing and improving their own game designs, a deeper understanding of iterative design, and other lessons that emerge from the small group discussions with their peers.