Playable Media

Playable Media, Winter 14
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 (2nd ed) by Tracy Fullerton
  • Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald
  • 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 major 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 (as is often required for narrative pieces of the sort created for this class). 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., narrative/ludic structure, interactive characters) 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.
  • 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.


Instructors and Assistants