Playable Media

Playable Media, Winter 12

CMPS 290J / DANM 250D
Winter 2012
Meetings: T 2:00-3:45pm (seminar), Th 2:00-5:00pm (workshop) in Digital Arts Research Center room 206


  • Game Design Workshop (2nd ed) by Tracy Fullerton
  • De Profundis (2nd ed) by Michal Oracz
  • Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald
  • Break Every Rule by Carole Maso
  • Toward the Design of a Computer-Based Interactive Fantasy System by Brenda Laurel
  • Cybertext by Espen Aarseth
  • Hamlet on the Holodeck by Janet Murray
  • First Person by Wardrip-Fruin and Harrigan
  • Second Person by Harrigan and Wardrip-Fruin
  • Expressive Processing by Wardrip-Fruin

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 2 or 3 students (depending on course size) will each present a playable prototype, which the class will then play and critique (more on this below). Seminar meetings will be discussions of major texts in game studies and related topics.
  • Grading. 30% of each student's grade is determined by participation in group critiques and discussions (including agenda items). Beyond this, participation in course game is worth 10% and work on prototypes is worth 60%. Failure to fully participate in both elements of the class will make it impossible to pass.


  • De Profundis. We will be playing a version of Michal Oracz's De Profundis together for the length of the quarter. The details will be determined during the first week of class.
  • Playable prototypes. Each student will present one or two playable prototypes, depending on course size, which the group will play and critique. If possible, prototypes should allow all course members to play (e.g., by distributing software before class and asking us to bring laptops, by creating multiple copies of a paper prototype, etc).
    • 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.
    • Prototypes that will be particularly time consuming to play should be made available one week before the meeting at which they will be discussed, with a request to the class to play before the class meeting.
    • Prototypes must engage an element of the course focus (e.g., the relationship between games and fiction) 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.
    • In addition to the prototype itself, each student must submit a ~500 word summary of the steps undertaken to produce it. This should be submitted by email before the class meeting at which the prototype will be discussed.
    • Each student will present a significant revision of a prototype presented earlier in the class, responding meaningfully to group feedback, during the final week of the course.
  • 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), 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.

Instructors and Assistants