Project 2: Design Games

September 3, 2012


Strategic thinking is essential to the development of a design idea. Through the development of a conceptual infrastructure of a game – rules, constraints, kit of parts – one can establish various possibilities of play as ways of solving problems and designing open-ended interactive experiences.

Contrary to a common definition of “play,” that suggests limitless freedom, in order to evaluate and successfully perform a game must have rules and limitations. Players not only play by the rules, but the rules are embedded within the game itself. Often this relationship is explicitly manifest within the gameplay objects and the field or playing environment.

However, too many rules and constraints may result in unsuccessful gameplay – stalemates, confusion, and frustration. Too few rules results in anarchy. Successful games balance freedom and constraints and engage the players to develop and personalize their strategies within the frameworks of the game.


This project asks the student to first analyze existing games, design and construct a game to be played by two players, and to create a “mapping” of the gameplay.

  1. Analyze existing games through drawings and diagrams. These modes of analysis, while they may not directly apply to the design of a game in part two of the project, will enable the student to understand the ways in which a game is developed and how rules and constraints are balanced with freedoms of play and how these rules are formalized.
  2. Designing a game in groups of two, testing the game, and constructing the game within a bounded space.
  3. Representing the game. The games will be documented through two dimensional spatial mappings. These mappings should reveal the rules of the game and explore scenarios of gameplay.

Download the project brief as .pdf file.

Part One: Game Analysis

What are the role of rules or constraints of a game and what amount of constraint enables or encourages play? How can one begin to understand the underlying structure of games through diagrams and drawings?

Part One: Objectives

  1. To understand the rules of a game.
  2. To understand the relationship between game objects – kit-of-parts – and associated rules of the game. For example, in chess there are six types of pieces each with its own rules of movement, while in the game “go” or checkers, there is only one type of piece.
  3. To inquire into the relationship between game objects and game environment and how the environment describes a structure for gameplay. For example, in chess the grid of the board constrains the movements of the pieces, while in a game like Jenga there is no board but a three dimensional grid structure and the laws of gravity that constrain and inform gameplay.
  4. Analyze a minimum of three games, producing drawings and diagrams on A3 paper.

Part One: Constraints

  1. Games should be tangible physical artifacts.
  2. Card games are not permitted for this project.

Part One:Deliverables

  1. A3 Drawings and diagrams for a minimum of three games. The number of A3 sheets used to analyze a game is not limited, but one should consider how sequence and order can be established in the use of multiple sheets of A3 paper.
  2. Bring the selected games to studio.

Part Two: Design Game Prototype

After analyzing existing games and developing an understanding of relationships between constraints and game structure, students are challenged to develop their own game working in groups of two.

Part Two: Objectives

  1. To develop a game to be played by two and only two players.
  2. Design and fabricate a “kit-of-parts” for the game, where the parts are manipulated in order to facilitate and demonstrate the rules and strategies of the game.
  3. To demonstrate, or “play,” the game. A good game allows for a potentially infinite number of variations in how it is played. In part three of this project, students will be challenged to investigate several specific strategies in depth.
  4. To develop an understanding of the relationship between rules of a game and gameplay.
  5. To develop an understanding of formal relationships relative to a structure and strategy of a game.
  6. Inquire into the relationship between an “environment” and game “objects.” One could consider this relationship in a variety of ways: whether the relationship is defined as object to field, part to whole, or as all emergent field.

Part Two: Constraints

  1. The game must be designed to be self containing for storage and transport by a single person.
  2. The materials used for the game prototype are limited to chipboard (Chan Oy) and balsa wood members (square section from 0.25-1.50 cm).

Part Two:Deliverables

  1. One game prototype for each group of two students and all process models.
  2. Photographic documentation of the prototype in a minimum of three states of game play. Minimum of three photographs printed on A4 paper.

Part Three: Representing the Game

After analyzing existing games and developing an understanding of relationships between constraints and game structure, students are challenged to develop their own game working in groups of two.

Part Three: Objectives

  1. To draw the transformation of the game in space and time.
  2. To reveal the rules of the game through the drawings.
  3. To demonstrate the act of play and the spatial implications of the players of the game.

Part Three: Constraints

  1. Drawings are to be made on A2 scale opaque paper with pencil. The number of A2 sheets used is unlimited.
  2. Drawings are to be constructed using a pencil, ruler, and compass.

Part Three: Deliverables

  1. Drawing of 3 stages of the game. For example one could show the setup, in play, and endgame.
  2. One composite drawing for each group of two students.