Playable Media

Playable Media, Winter 15
CMPS 290J / DANM 250D
Meetings: T 10:00-11:45am (seminar), Th 9:00am-12:00pm (workshop) in Digital Arts Research Center room 206 


  • Game Design Workshop, 3rd Ed, Tracy Fullerton
  • Half-Real, Jesper Juul
  • A Game Design Vocabulary, Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark
  • More TBD


  • TBD

General Course Notes

Course structure:

Meeting types. We will meet twice a week. Once will be a workshop meeting and once will be a seminar meeting. During the workshop meeting we will critique the playable prototypes of two students (more on this below). Seminar meetings will be discussions of games and other playable experiences, texts in game studies, and related topics.

Grading. 40% of each student's grade is determined by participation in group critiques and discussions (including agenda items) while work on prototypes is worth 60%. Failure to fully participate in both elements of the class will make it impossible to pass.


Playable prototypes. Each student will present a playable prototype which the group will play and critique. All prototypes should be made available to the class for a week before critique, to give time for sustained engagement. Software should be distributed digitally. Other forms can be made available in other ways, for example making multiple copies of physical materials available in rooms to which class members have access. If the prototype's medium makes these kinds of availability impossible, other solutions can be found -- but please discuss beforehand.

Prototypes may be in any medium -- whatever is best for the ideas your prototype explores. This includes live actors and "Wizard of Oz" interfaces, software for desktop or handheld devices, interactive installations, or board/card game elements. But cross-platform software is the assumed default (other options should be discussed prior).

Prototypes must engage an element of the course focus (e.g., politics expressed through gameplay) meaningfully.

If your work on your prototype is less effort than it would take for you to write a research paper, you need to do more before presenting it to the course. This could mean developing more elements, developing a series of prototypes, doing more playtesting and revision, etc.

Each student will present a significant revision of their prototype, responding meaningfully to group feedback, during the final meeting of the course.

In addition to the prototype itself, each student will make a progress presentation. For the students in the first critique slots these will be on progress since critique. For students in later slots these will present progress on the prototype before critique, which should include a complete working framework and content outline, a week before the project is distributed. The presentation should take approximately 10 minutes, should be completely prepared ahead of time, and should take the form of slides and/or video (with a live demo an optional addition).

Agenda items. At the beginning of each seminar meeting we will build an agenda, which will drive the discussion for the remainder of our meeting. Each student will bring at least one "agenda item" -- a particular idea they wish to discuss. This idea must be grounded in at least one specific page reference (to a reading for that week) or moment from a game (ideally with an illustrative screenshot to show), should be expressed in a few words during the agenda-building process, and should be expanded into a larger idea when it becomes the active topic in the seminar discussion. Agenda items form an important part of the participation requirement, while also broadening who determines what we will discuss.

Crits. Each student is expected to deeply engage the pieces being critiqued before the day they are critiqued. This includes writing a thoughtful, detailed response email to each person whose work is being critiqued, sent before the class meeting at which it is critiqued. (I appreciate it if students copy me on these messages, but I do not require it.) It also includes coming prepared with a short (one minute) summary of these thoughts, which each student will offer before the more general critique discussion.


If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please get an Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and submit it to me in person outside of class (e.g., office hours) within the first two weeks of the quarter. Contact DRC at 459-2089 (voice), 459-4806 (TTY), or for more information on the requirements and/or process.


Instructors and Assistants