Finally the big day came and my game design course students presented their game projects in class. Some were really cool, some still needed some work, but when considered that we had only six weeks during a very very hot summer time, then its really nice what my students put together.
A quick post-mortem
What went right:
Rapid prototyping and iterative design turned out the be fruitful and prevented right from the start that students got into some sort of “writers blog”. Actually any sort of writing has been kept to the minimum during the process, so that student developed the habit to “show it”, rather than to “talk about it”. I only asked for a one page high-concept in the first lecture which was assigned for the next day. I quickly read through these and asked everyone to bring a paper prototype of their game idea for the coming week, so that we immediately could start discussing systems and mechanics on what they had brought to class. Those who couldn’t nail it down within the first two lessons were asked to go for a simple racing game design, an idea which I am Brenda Brathwaite very thankful for. Combined with a grading system that put emphasis on attendance to game testing sessions, it “forced” student to stay focused throughout the six weeks they had. Despite the quick prototyping and the limited time that students had, it was amazing to see how much the initial ideas transformed and developed into totally different games.
What went wrong:
I was surprised to realize that all student projects required still more testing and design iterations. The theory/practice ratio of lecture hours was approximately 1:1, but I urgently need to find ways to create a ratio of at least 1:2 in favor of practice. This simply means that I have to deliver the theory more compact, with simpler to understand examples from games.
Another weakness was that I had not developed any effective measures in monitoring the progress of the iterations in detail. Students (although they were asked to do so) rarely ever kept lists of the changes they made to the game and how these altered the behavior of the game and the status of the players. Often memorizing was my only way to follow the change in projects. This definitely calls for the development of a formal method to standardize the ways in which testing results and change in the designs are logged. This log must become part of the grading in order be taken serious by the students.
Most of the students totally skipped the reading assignments. I had to reduce the number of articles due to problems they had with the english language. Students had huge difficulties in understanding the texts and therefore only learned something from the summaries I made in class. This is sad because they really miss the chance to know about some of the coolest articles on game design that you can find out there. I’m also a bit of the Old School and I strongly believe that reading is an essential part of the educational process. However, I must come up with ways that make it easier for students to read what I told them to read.
Despite the many “wrongs”, I’m happy with how the summer school went and I’m looking forward for the coming semester. Hopefully another game design course, more projects, more game discussions, more fun! It’s just phantastic to be in midst of it.