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Game Design Curriculum Whitepaper 1.1

Authors:
Game Design Curriculum White Paper 1.1
project: Curriculum Design for Skills in Game Design
Poznań 2017
edited by Michał Mochocki, PhD
Table of Contents
page 1 What is this about?
page 2 Introduction
- Michał Mochocki
page 4 Chapter 1: Game Design Core Curriculum (ver. 1.0)
- Michał Mochocki
page 17 Chapter 2: Example: Game Studies & Design B.A. for Humanities
- Michał Mochocki, Piotr Milewski
page 25 Chapter 3: Feedback to Chapter 2
from students employed in games
- Mateusz Makowski, Urszula Chmielewska, Iza Dankowska, Patryk
Kanarkiewicz, Marcin Szypura, Paulina Michałowska
project under the auspices of
What is this about?
The curriculum design
project aims to develop efficient higher-ed programmes in
game design in collaboration with the game industry and academia.
It explores the possibility of creating a universal game design core curriculum,
flexible enough to be either a component of 3- and 4-year degrees or the core of 1- or
2-year programmes. Its focus on game designer’s versatile skillset should make it
applicable to technical, artistic, management, education, and humanities-based ones.
This white paper completes the first stage of the project, including:
1. the first version of the game design core curriculum
2. the development of a sample B.A. degree in game design for the Humanities
3. new round of feedback from stakeholders
Who is behind it?
It is a non-profit academic project run by the Games Research Association of Poland
and endorsed by Game Industry Conference. The project is based on 5 years of
experience with GAMEDEC: Game Studies & Design at Kazimierz Wielki University
(UKW) in Bydgoszcz, launched in 2013 and led until 2016 by Dr. MichałMochocki,
Assistant Professor at UKW and Head of GRAP Bydgoszcz. The sample B.A. programme
(Chapter 2) is co-authored by Dr. Mochocki and Piotr Milewski, M.A. Senior Lecturer at
UKW and member of GRAP Bydgoszcz. The included feedback (Chapter 3) comes from a
team of Gamedec.UKW students who found employment in games, now being able to
assess games-ed programmes from both perspectives.
How can you get involved?
This document opens the new stage of the project: collection of feedback from game dev
professionals, higher-ed staff and other interested parties. If you are or have been:
game industry professionals
teaching staff or curriculum designers in game-related programmes
other stakeholders with relevant experience
please feel kindly invited to give your feedback to any or all chapters - particularly
Chapter 1 (pp. 4-16). The survey is not anonymous (we need to identify respondents
as people with relevant expertise), but your responses can be anonymised. Please
contact michal.mochocki@gmail.com for the link to the online feedback form.
In the long run, the project is open for collaboration in design and implementation of
new curricula. Depending on the needs and commitments of interested stakeholders, it
may be small-scale and informal or become the basis for grant applications (e.g.
Erasmus+). Either way, the general idea behind this project is to share the intellectual
outputs as open resources.
1
Introduction
I’ve heard a much-telling anecdote about game design. It tells of a casual conversation
among Polish video game dev veterans, creme-de-la-creme
developers and CEOs:
“Can we find 100 top-class programmers in Poland that could equal top-class
programmers in the world?”
“Sure, more than a hundred!”
“How about game artists?”
“Sure, easily.”
“And designers?”
An awkward silence ensues.
Then someone suggests: “Ten?”
Another: “Yeah? Name them.
They collectively manage to name seven.
*****
It’s just a story I heard at Huuuge Party Summit 2016, and I won’t vouch for its accuracy.
But such stories circulate. I’ve been collecting them since 2012, when I came upon the
crazy idea to launch a game design programme (!) at a state-(under)funded university
(!!) at the Department of Humanities (!!!). As stories have it, Polish designers had once
been massively underappreciated (money- and prestige-wise), and either moved
abroad or changed profession. Now the situation is better, but it will take long to
recover from the losses. Many small studios cannot afford to hire designers (or to hire
enough), with design being done by programmers, artists, producers, or collectively by
all. On the other hand, large companies employ teams of designers with
sub-specialisations: gameplay, narrative, quest, etc. And they’d love to hire more.
In the State of Polish Video Game Industry 2017 we read that 23% of surveyed
companies (regardless of their size) report shortages of designers on the job market (p.
78). Of course, it’s much less than the demand for programmers (shortage reported by
62% companies) or animators (40%), and slightly less than for graphic designers
(27%). But it is still a remarkable number. If 23% of Polish game studios are willing to
hire designers, then it’s not a bad choice for a career.
What about demand for career-oriented education?
2
Surprisingly - in demand for gamedev-focused education, game design may be number
one. The very top of the list. This is not to say it’s more important than art and
programming, or that designers are the most needed on the job market. It’s because
professional education for coders and artists - who are in highest demand - already is
widely available.
The 2017 report (p. 91-94) lists no fewer than 40 different video game programmes
(full-time, part-time and post-grad) focused on IT skills or digital art or both; yet only 8
of them mention game design as a component. In the Humanities sector, there is English
Studies with game design (University of Silesia), and Popular Literature and Game
World Creation (University of Zielona Góra) - both with modules of narrative-focused
game design . And there is GAMEDEC: Game Studies & Design at Kazimierz Wielki
1
University: the only degree in Poland to choose game design as the core (not a
subcomponent) of its curriculum.
Also, let’s not forget about the hundreds of general IT and Art degrees that do not
specialise in games but still teach the essential skills. And does any of the standard
disciplines teach skills essential for game design? None - or few, depending on what
skills you find essential. As quoted in the SPVGI 2017 report, Mikołaj Pawłowski
(Juggler Games) says education of designers is “the biggest challenge faced by Polish
education in terms of the video games industry” (p. 78). With a curriculum design
project started by this publication, we are saying: Let’s rise up to the challenge!
Michał Mochocki, GRAP Bydgoszcz
michal.mochocki@gmail.com
1 The report also mentions a post-grad programme in Historical Didactic Games - Creation of Computer
and Board Games at the Pedagogical University of Kraków, but I could only find it on an archived page
from 2013.
3
1. Game Design Core Curriculum (ver 1.0)
Is game design teachable? Isn’t it a creative art that simply needs talent and practice?
Yes and no. It’s collaborative, so it can hardly be self-taught at home: it needs teams and
community as a learning environment. It’s a craft with so many aspects (see 1.1) that
beginners can surely use some structured introduction. Finally, it’s based on a mixed
skillset (see 1.2), and these specific skills are
teachable. Question is: how should they be
taught for maximum efficiency? Of course, they can - and should! - all be gradually
developed in the practice of making games. But in what environments? Under whose
guidance?
Skill-building is a long and complex process, which may be greatly enhanced by expert
guidance and purposeful scaffolding. I have no doubt that the best instructors to the
technical and business aspects of game development are game dev professionals. Yet,
they are not (typically) professional teachers of soft or creative skills. Nor are they
curriculum designers who could efficiently scaffold a long-term learning programme. In
the area of teaching skills to young people, it is the education industry (“skill dev”) that
has the necessary expertise.
Let me state it clearly: curriculum-based education should not be seen as an alternative
to real game dev experience - but a valuable addition to it. What I’m looking for is the
combined power of game dev practice and skill dev practice that will help the
designer master the skills faster and cheaper. About game dev practice I will not
speak: it is not my role to lecture to the industry on how to organise job practice in the
companies. My focus is on skill dev: this part of the learning process that can be directed
by edu-institutions as support to (or preparation for) real work in the industry.
Especially on the way from beginner to junior, and from junior to regular.
That’s the idea behind the Universal Game Design Core Curriculum (see 1.3): find the
optimal structure for a 4-semester learning process, which could be universally used
either on its own or as a component of larger edu-programmes (anywhere from
post-grads to full degrees) in a variety of disciplines.
Let’s first consider what skills comprise the game designer’s skillset.
4
1.1. Aspects of Game Design
IGDA Curriculum Framework (2008) provides a very detailed list of what game design
includes:
Understanding the atomic parts of games (game objects, setting, rules...)
Play mechanics (game rules, core mechanics, game theory, balance)
Approaches to game design (top-down, bottom-up, player experience)
Boardgame and roleplaying design (wargames, RPG, CCG, probability)
Ideas (idea generation, evaluating game concepts)
Fun (kinds of fun, why people play)
Abstract design elements (feedback systems, emergent complexity)
Psychological design considerations (flow, conditioning, addiction, diversity)
Interface design (HCI, UI, user task modeling, hardware constraints)
Iterative design (create, test, change, repeat)
Serious game design (education, therapy, simulation, activism, assessment)
Spatial design (gameplay spaces, interactive worlds)
Task design (action and interaction, feedback)
Design integration
Control schemes
Custom tool use
Training (tutorials, feedback)
Game tuning
Game player analysis
Play testing
Prototyping
Game design documentation
Content design
That’s not all details yet, more can be found in the IGDA document (p. 12-18). It is a
good display of the complexity and multi-faceted nature of game design. But it is too
large for convenient use, and puts it all in one basket: skills + knowledge + processes +
game components. Let’s focus on what employers are most interested in: skills .
2
2 To be precise (a bow to educators who are reading this), I should rather say skills and attitudes, in line
with the KSA model: knowledge + skills + attitudes/abilities. But game dev professionals are not
well-versed in the language of educational theory, and they frequently put skills and attitudes together.
5
1.2. Game Designer’s Skillset
In the SPVGI 2017 report, Fig. 3.22 (p. 81) shows “What is most important when hiring
employees?” The answer is: skills 93%, experience 47%, the interview 42%. The
figures might come as a surprise, with skills (93%) valued twice as much as game dev
experience (47%). So, what would be the essential game designer’s skillset?
Jesse Schell in The Art of Game Design: The Book of Lenses (2015, p. 3-4) lists 20 skills
which are useful. Animation, anthropology, architecture, brainstorming, business,
cinematography, communication, creative writing, economics, engineering, games,
history, management, mathematics, music, psychology, public speaking, sound design,
technical writing, and visual arts. Above all, he says, you need the skill of listening: to
your team, to audience, to client, to the game, and to yourself (p. 5-7).
Preparing his talk on GDC 2016, James Portnow (Extra Credits
) interviewed game
designers about skills they valued the most. Portnow’s list enables me to jump from
Schell’s 20 useful to 7 essential skills. These are: communication, collaboration, the
love of learning, scope (realistic design plans), logical thinking, lateral thinking,
and breadth of knowledge.
Please note: this list does not come from employers or managers, or from academics,
but from designers themselves. Who should know better than them? Plus, Portnow’s 7
skills can easily be mapped on Schell’s 20 skills:
Communication = communication, creative writing, technical writing, public speaking,
listening
Collaboration = listening, brainstorming, management
The love of learning = listening
3
Scope = listening
Logical thinking = mathematics (arguably)
Lateral thinking = listening
Breadth of knowledge = all else, from anthropology and architecture to visual arts
4
Even with Schell’s 20 skills, I couldn’t help but notice that “A significant part of this list
belongs to the realm of the humanities, social sciences and soft skills, with a surprisingly
low number being directly relevant to the technical-practical tasks of game
3 In Knowledge-Skills-Attitudes, this would be an attitude/ability, not skill
4 In Knowledge-Skills-Attitudes, this would obviously be knowledge, but some of the areas may also have
strong emphasis on skills (e.g. visual arts)
6
development” (Mochocki, 2016b, p. 85). In Portnow’s list this number goes down to
zero. As he says, “None of these things are really game-specific skills” (Portnow, 2016,
3:51). I take it as a very important guideline for teaching programmes: never
underestimate the power of transferable skills.
Now there is the big question: what can universities do to better train students to be
game designers? (Remember: “the biggest challenge” according to Pawłowski, 2017, p.
78.) If we believe that the designers interviewed by Portnow know what they’re talking
about, we should focus on the seven core skills. Or, actually, five skills
(communication, collaboration, scope, logical thinking, and lateral thinking), one
attitude (love of learning), and general breadth of knowledge. Here, I made the
following assumptions:
Knowledge has so many areas that it will always be selective, and it can’t be predicted
which will be more useful in a given project. Sometimes the game will need architecture
and history, another time - psychology and anthropology. If I had to pick one which is
likely to be useful in every single game, it would be Visual arts (which are
half-knowledge, half-skill).
Love of learningis an attitude. Knowledge and skills can be more or less predictably
developed in a series of well-structured tasks. Attitude-formation relies primarily on the
person of the teacher and the culture of the community. I have no idea how it can be
effectively facilitated on the level of the curriculum - but if somebody does, I would love
to hear it!
Scope. This is one point in which I disagree with Portnow: I don’t agree it’s not a
game-specific skill. What does he mean by scope? “You need to be capable of creating
realistic design plans, and the willingness to cut even the parts you personally love the
most, in service of the project as a whole.” The second part (kill your darlings) is
actually an attitude, and I agree it could be learned beyond games, e.g. in a creative
writing class. But the ability to create realistic design plans is, in my view, more
medium-specific than medium-neutral. Can you predict what’s realistic for a game dev
team without a good experience of the affordances of the medium and processes of
production? I’d say scope in game design can only be learned from game design.
Communication, Collaboration, Logical thinking, Lateral thinking. These four are
genuine transversal skills, all rooted in the humanities and social sciences.
Communication in speech and writing is the domain of Literature / Philology and
Communication Studies. Thinking (logical and lateral) is at the core of Philosophy.
Collaboration is part and parcel of both Management and Education/Pedagogy. Hardly
anywhere but at universities will you find professionals who specialise in the craft of
organising and supervising the development of these skills. Imagine a Literature scholar
7
who teaches Creative Writing, or a Philosopher who teaches Logic. They have
know-how, tools, and experience in teaching young adults, leading their progress
step-by-step in four-month installments.
I find it highly probable that when a junior designer’s game dev practice is combined
with well-structured academic education, their skills will grow faster. Not necessarily
better - but faster. Especially at beginner/junior level when they need guidance the
most. It may speed up their career (s/he’ll faster reach the next career stage), save time
for the senior staff (less time spent on helping the junior), and save money for the
company (when the “learn-from-mistakes” part of learning will not always happen on
the job).
1.3. Universal Game Design Core Curriculum
Above, I made a claim for “skill dev experience” of professional educators: while the
game dev know best what skills they need, the skill dev knows how to train. But skill
dev is more than just educators who design classroom work and home work for classes
they teach. There are also curriculum designers, who assemble and scaffold activities in
“the learner’s journey” over the period of months, semesters, and years. I did this for
three years as Head of Programme Committee at the Institute of Modern Languages and
Applied Linguistics, supervising curriculum development for 17 variants of English
Studies, Russian Studies and Applied Linguistics (full-time, part-time, B.A. and M.A.). As
coordinator of Gamedec.UKW, I created two versions of the Game Studies & Design
curriculum implemented in 2013 and 2015, and (with Piotr Milewski ) the new one
5
found in this document (see below).
What I find to be a universal core of a game design curriculum consists of six design labs
+ project management module which build the necessary skillset. They should be
scaffolded over four semesters for maximum synergy, with modules in each new
semester building on skills and know-how from earlier ones. For 15-week semesters we
have in Poland, we recommend 45 contact hours in each lab (3 x 45 minutes per week),
plus accompanying reading and/or lectures with the necessary theory.
Focused on team-based hands-on practice in game design, prototyping and playtesting,
all seven modules develop some or all of the five core skills: communication,
collaboration, scope, logical thinking, and lateral thinking.
5 We also created a curriculum for Master of Arts in English Studies with specialisation in Game Writing &
Design, and two related international post-grad programmes in non-digital game design. But this is a
story for another time.
8
LEVEL (semester) 1
Module
Skill focus (Schell)
Aspects of game design (IGDA)
Board & Card Game Design
technical writing,
games, mathematics
Atomic parts of games;
boardgame design; play
mechanics; approaches to game
design; spatial design; task
design; design integration;
abstract design elements;
Tabletop RPG Design
creative writing,
public speaking,
games
Play mechanics; roleplaying
design; ideas; task design; design
integration; also elements from
IGDA 3.7 Interactive
Storytelling
Game Project Management*
management,
communication
Ideas; iterative design; play
testing; prototyping;
*Game Project Management may be a separate module, or part of Board & Card Game Design
The key learning outcomes for these modules focus on:
Board & Card Game Design [Level 1]
Understanding of game mechanics, mathematics, rule-based systems and their
dynamics (systemic thinking)
Goals and goal structures
Design of game space and mapping gameplay in game space
Tabletop RPG Design [Level 1]
Story/scenario design: characters, scenes, plots, conflicts, storyworlds
Game writing
Game mechanics & systemic thinking for role-playing and world-building
Game Project Management [Level 1]
Iterative design process
Rapid paper-based prototyping and playtesting
Scheduling, workload division, reporting
9
As Brenda Brathwaite & Ian Schreiber say in Challenges for Game Designers
(2009),
“Digital or non-digital, the underlying fundamentals of a game and therefore of game
design are all the same. Though technology may advance, modern video game designers
use the same core skills today that were used when designing games on paper” (p. 6).
Thus, gameplay design, story design and design process on Level 1 may be entirely
non-digital - and entirely useful in training designers of digital games.
Brathwaite & Schreiber’s book is subtitled “Non-digital exercises for video game
designers” and makes a convincing argument for the use of board- and card- game
design to sharpen the core skills. When it comes to tabletop RPG, Josh Sawyer in his GIC
2017 talk claims it is necessary for digital RPG designers to play and run (as
gamemaster) tabletop sessions. Playing helps to keep in touch with the feeling of RPG to
be recreated digitally. Live gamemastering is in fact playtesting
the story design against
live players, teaching the designer how to shape narratives open for player agency.
Module synergy: Practice with tabletop RPG may fuel design choices in the narrative
layer of board / card games. Board / card game mechanics may inspire RPG mechanics.
Variants: There are two good alternatives or useful add-ons to Tabletop RPG: a module
in Larp Design (which surpasses Tabletop RPG in teaching how to design societies,
communities and group dynamics), and a module in Interactive Fiction (which is less
focused on game mechanics and more on the practice of game writing). Curricula based
on the humanities/liberal arts could include two or all three of these modules. More
technically-oriented ones should include at least one module on story design. Also,
IT-focused degrees can teach board and card game design in their digital form, quickly
moving from a paper prototype to a digital board/card game.
10
LEVEL 2
Visual Design
visual arts
Spatial design; design integration;
also elements from IGDA 3.5 Visual
Design
Digital Game Design
mathematics
Interface design; spatial design; task
design; control schemes; play
testing; prototyping; content design;
game design documentation;
abstract design elements;; also
elements from IGDA 3.4 Game
Programming
Game Project Management*
as above
as above
*Game Project Management may be a separate module, or part of Digital Game Design
The key learning outcomes for these modules focus on:
Digital Game Design [Level 2]
Technical skills of creating digital game assets, levels, and game interfaces in a
middleware tool (e.g. Unreal or Unity)
Visual Design [Level 2]
Creating 2D game art
Creating digital graphic assets
Module synergy (vertical): Digital games on Level 2 will need both gameplay design
and story design. Learning to create digital games is likely to be more successful (and
definitely easier) if students have already had practice in creating algorithmic
rule-based systems (Board & Card Games) and role-playing narratives (Tabletop RPG).
Module synergy: (horizontal): Assets created in Visual Design used in Digital Games.
Variants: In humanities-based programmes, Level 2 is the time to make first steps in
the realm of digital design and visual art. In IT programmes, the use of middleware tools
and digital art will be integrated with the development of programming skills. In art
programmes, both modules will help develop existing skills in visual design and better
integrate them with game design.
11
LEVEL 3
Digital Game Design
mathematics,
animation
Gamification
psychology,
management
Game Project Management
as above
The key learning outcomes for these modules focus on:
Gamification [Level 3]
Gamer psychology, psychology of play and motivation
Scoring, feedback and reward systems
Integration of game mechanics, story elements, and non-game contexts
Digital Game Design [Level 3]
Technical skills of creating digital game assets and levels in a middleware tool
(e.g. Unreal or Unity)
Module synergy (vertical): Board & Card Game Design + Tabletop RPG Design from
Level 1 (see above) combined with all-semester Digital Games Design and Visual Design
on Level 2 should Learning to create digital games is likely to be more successful (and
definitely easier) for students who have already had practice in creating algorithmic
rule-based systems (board games) and role-playing narratives (RPG). Gamification
needs a prior knowledge of game mechanics and story design.
Module synergy (horizontal): Scoring, feedback and reward systems learned in the
Gamification module can be immediately applied in Digital Game Design projects. Also,
understanding of player psychology and motivations may guide Digital Game design
choices. Conversely, skills developed in Digital Game Design will help in the design of
digital platforms for gamification systems.
Variants: Digital Games on Level 3 may focus on a specific platform, e.g. VR or mobile.
12
LEVEL 4
Edu-Games Design
psychology,
technical
writing
Serious game design; training;
psychological design consideration;
abstract design elements
The key learning outcomes for this module focus on:
Educational Game Design
basics of instructional design: learning outcomes, instruction, assessment
principles of game-based learning
connecting game design to instructional design
Module synergy (capstone course): Edu-Game Design should be a capstone course,
combining knowledge and skills from a number of previous modules. The educational
game will have game mechanics (which may build on Board / Card Design module even
if the game is digital), a narrative layer (likely to draw from the RPG module), and a
system of progress measurement and rewards (think Gamification!). And the game itself
will be either digital, or board/card, or RPG, or a combination.
Employability: There is a career-oriented rationale behind the Edu-Games module.
Higher Education Video Games Alliance 2015 report shows 55,8% employment rate in
the video game industry within a year after graduation from video game degrees - and
26,8% in education! There are jobs in serious games, edu-gamification and
game-based learning, where a combination of game design with instructional design is a
very strong skillset.
Variants: Instead of education / instructional design, Level 4 can include a module on
the design of location-based urban games, and/or a module on live-action role-playing.
They both enrich the designer’s skillset with event planning, event management and live
gamemastering for large groups. Career-wise, this skillset can also be employed in
non-game entertainment sectors, such as event organisation and tourism. Larger game
design programmes, especially ones rooted in the humanities/social sciences, may
include all of these modules, e.g. Larp Design on Level 2, Urban Games on Level 3, and
Edu-Games on Level 4.
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1.4. Curriculum Customisation
For instance, the core curriculum + 2 extra modules added to Level 4 may look like this:
LEVEL (Semester) 1
Module
ECTS
(120)
Lecture
(hrs/week)
Lab
(hrs/week)
Hours /
semester
Board & Card Game Design
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Tabletop RPG Design
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Game Project Management
3
3
45 lab
LEVEL 2
Visual Design
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Digital Game Design I
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Game Project Management
3
3
45 lab
LEVEL 3
Digital Game Design II
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Gamification
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Game Project Management
3
3
45 lab
LEVEL 4
Edu-Game Design
6
1
3
15 lec + 45 lab
Portfolio
3
1
15 lab
Industrial Placement
6
intern/trainee/junior in the industry
On Levels 1 - 3, the modules could be grouped in two days. Level 1 as example:
Day 1
Day 2
1 h: Board Game Design - lecture
1 h: Tabletop RPG Design - lecture
3 h: Board Game Design - lab
3 h: Tabletop RPG Design - lab
2 h: Game Project Management - lab
1 h: Game Project Management - lab
14
Customisation: Programme Formats
The core programme in each semester is worth 15 ECTS, and takes 2 days per week. As
a free-standing programme, it may take:
four semesters (2 years) at normal pace (2 days a week)
two semesters (1 year) at fast pace (4 days a week)
The normal pace (2 days a week) enables part-time format (Saturday + Sunday)
The universal 4-semester core set of modules may also be incorporated in:
1- or 2-year post-grad programmes
2-year short-cycle Associate degrees (EQF Level 5)
3- or 4-year Bachelor degrees (EQF Level 6)
2-year Master degrees (EQF Level 7)
4- or 5-year long-cycle degrees (EQF Level 7)
EU degree programmes must have minimum 30 ECTS per semester, so the 15 ECTS of
the game design modules (2 days in the teaching week) will be placed next to 15 more
ECTS in other modules (other 2-3 days in the week).
The total of 60 ECTS in 4 semesters of the core game design curriculum will be at least:
50% of 2-year programmes (post-grad, Associate, or Master)
33,3% of 3-year programmes (Bachelor)
25% of 4-year programmes (Bachelor)
20% of 5-year programmes (long-cycle Master)
The remaining 50-80% of the curriculum may comprise another set of modules in class
with a teacher, or consist partially or entirely of e-modules (blended learning format).
The main question is: what modules should fill the rest of the curriculum?
Customisation: Modules from Other Disciplines
With the core game design modules occupying 15 ECTS (2 days / week) over the span of
four semesters, the remaining 15 ECTS (2-3 days) may also be game-related - any and
all of them. If you want a good idea for a full degree focused 100% on game design,
listen to J. Portnow in Extra Credits
. He nails it.
Another option: the 15 ECTS / semester in game design modules may go hand in hand
with 15 ECTS in another academic or professional discipline. This other discipline will
build a parallel skillset, which should make (synergic) sense in combination with game
design. For example:
15
IT degrees: game design skills + programming skills
Digital Art degrees: game design + skills in graphic design
English Studies: game design + storytelling and writing in English
Employability-wise, such combined skillsets seem to be perfect for small video game
studios. Unable to afford full-time designers, many such studios delegate design tasks to
programmers, graphic artists etc. And the quality of their design is not always
satisfactory. A person who is a programmer or visual artist plus also has a
well-developed game designer’s skillset would be a treasure.
There are also other working combinations of an academic discipline + game design,
focused on employment in other sectors than video game dev. For example:
pedagogy/instructional design: aiming at edu-games and game-based learning
history: aiming at the use of games and playful events in museum education
mathematics: aiming at design of board/card games
management & marketing: aiming at non-designer jobs in digital or non-digital
game dev: producers, community managers, marketing specialists
tourism management: aiming at event organisation and gamification in tourism
human resources: aiming at the use of games and gamification in recruitment,
training, motivation, and/or assessment in companies
With the rapid development of serious/applied games, game-based learning, and
experience economy, jobs for game designers are also to be found in educational
technology, education & training services, gamification & experience design etc. Not
only on the commercial markets but also in serious game projects funded from grants
and by institutions. Let’s keep this in mind - but not forget that video game dev is the
largest and most promising job market.
Thank you for reading. You are now ready to give feedback on Chapter 1.
Please contact michal.mochocki@gmail.com about the next step.
Chapter 2 includes a sample B.A. degree focused on multi-platform (digital and non-)
game design rooted in the humanities. If you have experience in curriculum design
or higher-ed teaching, please read on, we’d love to hear your comments! But if you
are a game dev professional and want to save time, it is perfectly okay if you only give
feedback on the Core Curriculum (Chapter 1, pp. 4-16).
16
2. Example: Game Studies & Design B.A. for Humanities
This is an outline for a curriculum for a humanities-based Bachelor degree in Game Design &
Studies, focused on the game designer’s skillset across digital and non-digital platforms. It is
based on four years of experience with such a programme as a 5-semester specialisation within
the B.A. degree in Humanities 2.0 at Kazimierz Wielki University (UKW) in Bydgoszcz, Poland,
with a highly satisfactory record of collaboration with the game industries, and full-time
employability rate reaching 56,8% for senior students prior to graduation. This new curriculum
makes the transformative step to a full degree, aimed to break through the glass ceiling of what
was achievable at the level of specialisation path.
However, it is not designed for immediate implementation. It is likely to be considered by UKW
for a launch in 2018, but decisions must wait for the details of the new Law on Higher
Education. Meanwhile, this whitepaper is released under the UKW-affiliated Bydgoszcz chapter
of the Games Research Association of Poland as a study in games-ed curriculum design. It lays
down the curriculum project for consultation with stakeholders from the digital and non-digital
game industries, and for exchange of ideas with academic teachers and curriculum designers
working in games education.
More about previous 2013-2017 versions of Gamedec.UKW curriculum can be found in:
Mochocki M., 2016b, Humanities-based degrees and game dev employability, in: A.
Wojciechowski & P. Napieralski (eds.), Computer Game Innovations
, pp. 80-105
Mochocki M., 2016a, Gamedec.UKW in IGDA Curriculum Framework,Replay: Polish
Journal of Game Studies
The new curriculum presented here was written by Michał Mochocki and Piotr Milewski,
with advice from Gamedec staff: Aleksandra Mochocka, PawełSchreiber, Krzysztof
Chmielewski, and Piotr Pieńkowski, plus guest lecturer Aleksandra Jarosz.
Dr. MichałMochocki is the creator of the Gamedec.UKW specialisation and its lead
coordinator for the years 2013-2016. Co-founder of Games Research Association of Poland,
member of the Game Education SIG at the International Game Developers Association, his
research focuses on non-digital role-playing games and game-based learning. Beyond the
academia, he has worked as a tabletop RPG writer, editor and translator, edu-larp designer,
and edutainment consultant.
Piotr Milewski, M.A. joined the Gamedec.UKW staff in 2015 as the teacher of board&card
game design, urban games, gamification, and edu-games. His professional experience includes
board & card game development at Trefl SA, edu-games at Young Digital Planet, and
co-founding of Sirius Game Studio. He is also a distinguished larp designer, author and editor.
Member of Games Research Association of Poland, is now preparing for PhD research on new
approaches to the Hero Monomyth in the design of non-linear narratives.
17
2.1. General Aims
General assumptions for the new curriculum as a modification of the existing one:
1. Keep the scaffolding arrangement of design labs from the existing Gamedec.UKW curriculum.
In the first year (semesters 1 and 2), start with non-digital games:
- board & card to teach rules, goals, game space (map), and general gameplay design,
- interactive fiction, tabletop RPG, and larp to teach about storyworlds, narratives, and
scenario writing
In the 2nd year (semester 3), move to digital and mixed-media games: video games,
gamification, ARG and urban games. Complete semester 4 with a capstone course in edu-games.
2. Keep a strong block of liberal arts and social studies in the first year, including practical
workshops in writing and soft skills.
3. Introduce a “Portfolio” module - at least in semester 5, maybe in 2, 4 and 5.
4. Introduce a “Pop Culture Reading List” module. No contact hours, just an exam to test the
knowledge of books, films and games from the list prescribed for the semester.
5. Introduce English-speaking courses in all semesters, and make the 4th semester 100% (or
close to 100%) English-speaking to facilitate international exchange of students and staff.
6. Make the 5th semester “IOS-friendly ” for the sake of students who already get game-industry
6
jobs during/after the second year and are struggling to combine full-time work with full-time
education. No classes that require teamwork in the classroom, only ones that can be passed in
b-learning format (individual projects, essays, and exams without regular attendance).
7. Keep the last (6th) semester free from classes except for the B.A. seminar and 3-month
industrial placement. The students should be able to move to another city for their traineeship
and complete the B.A. project in e-contact with the supervisor.
8. Do not introduce fixed specialisation paths. Instead, provide a set of Electives to choose from
in semesters 3-5. They should be advanced courses in a narrowly specialised area of game
design, studies or development, e.g. Video Game Journalism; Card Game Design; Nordic Chamber
Larp, etc. They may vary from year to year depending on the profile of available staff, existing
opportunities for industry collaboration, and student preferences (students would say what
kind of specialised training they would like to have in the next semester).
9. Introduce an entrance exam in the form of an interview and portfolio assessment, with a
preference for candidates who have already been involved in creative and/or organisational
work, e.g. fanfic writing, game modding, volunteering at game conventions.
6 Individual Organisation of Studies is granted by the Dean at student’s request. IOS students may ask
teachers for an individual plan of passing the course, e.g. without regular attendance.
18
2.2. Learning Outcomes
The existing Gamedec.UKW specialisation does not have its own learning outcomes, it
follows the list of outcomes for the Humanities 2.0 degree. The list below was written
from scratch, but guided by the Polish Qualifications Framework (hence the code
numbers and choice of language).
Learning Outcomes for a Humanities-Based B.A. Degree in Game Design
Learning Outcomes
Polish
Qualification
Framework
Knowledge
K_W01
Can present and analyse theories, tools and case
studies useful for game designers, with a thought of
the technical, social, legal and organisational aspects
P6S_WG
P5Z_UN
K_W02
Explains the usefulness of classic and transmedial
narratology for the design of interactive narratives
P7Z_WO
K_W03
Can present and analyse numerous examples of media
products from popular genres and the classics (fiction,
film, games, etc.)
P6S_WG
K_W04
Knows basic methods and technologies of digital and
non-digital graphic design
P5Z-WT
Skills
K_U01
Can make practical use of theories and design tools in
the creation of digital and non-digital games
P6S-UW
P6S-UK
P6S-UU
P6Z_UN
K_U02
Can communicate with various audiences, providing
proper justification for his/her stance
P7U-U
K_U03
Makes efficient use of methods and tools of project
management in team-based practice of game
development and organisation
P6S-UK
P6S-UO
P5Z_UI
K_U04
Efficiently collaborates with the team and with
business partners in completing project-related and
organisational tasks
P6S-UO
P5Z_UO
P6U_U
K_U05
Has a B2 competence in a foreign language
P6S-UK
K_U06
Can communicate ideas with the use of specialist
terminology
P6S-UK
19
K_U07
Can select and adapt methods, technologies and
procedures in visual art and graphic design in games
P5Z-UN
K_U08
Can use selected mathematical principles from the
areas of logic, probability and game theory
P6U_W
K_U09
Can write good quality texts in Polish
P6U_U
K_U10
Can do simple research based on the methodology of
social sciences
P6S_UW
K_U11
Can use the game designer’s knowledge and skillset to
create gamification systems
P7Z_WO
K_U12
Can analyse and evaluate one’s professional activities
against the development trends of the industry
P7Z_UO
K_U13
Works on the improvement of his/her toolbox in
selected areas of professional activity
P6Z_WO
P6Z_WZ
P6Z_UN
K_U14
Can complete complex professional tasks in a
changing and not fully predictable environment
P6Z_UO
Social Competences
K_K01
Identifies and solves ethical problems and challenges
typical for work in the game industry, and in creative
industries in general
P6S-KR
K_K02
Explains the opportunities of using games for public
benefit, e.g. for education, culture, social development
P6S-KO
K_K03
Makes independent decisions; makes critical
assessment of one’s own actions and the actions of
their teams and organisations they belong to; accepts
responsibility for the results of these actions
P6U-K
K_K04
Practises and promotes appropriate behaviour in
professional activities and beyond
P6U-K
20
2.3. The Curriculum: Modules & Semesters
This is a sample programme built on the basis of the Universal Game Design Core
Curriculum (see 1.3, above). Lab = design lab, lect = lecture, sem = seminar. The
following arrangement of modules, hours and course formats is what we would choose
for UKW in Bydgoszcz, if we were to launch a new programme in the nearest future.
This is not to be read as universal recommendation for all humanities-focused curricula
in game design. As much as we like the idea of a universal core curriculum, we do not
extend it to complete programmes. The universal core forms a flexible framework to
support a variety of bespoke curricula, always tailored to the locally available resources
and institutional demands.
LEVEL 1
Logic
15 h lab
Interactive Fiction (ENG)
15 h lab
Board Game Design
45 h lab, 30 h lect
RPG Design
30 h lab, 15 h lect
QA Video Game Testing
30 h lab, 15 h lect
Visual Art for Games
30 h lect
Intro to Visual Design
30 h lab
Human Capital: Soft Skills 1
30 h lab
Game Writing
30 h lab
Correspondence of Sciences and Arts 1
15 h lab, 10 h lect
Reviews of Games and Audio-Video Media 1
10 h lect
Intro to Negotiation with Role-Playing
15 h lab, 15 h lect
Foreign Language
30 h lab
21
LEVEL 2
Human Capital: Soft Skills 2
15 h lab
Narratology
15 h lect
World Literature
15 h lab, 30 h lect
Correspondence of Sciences and Arts 2
15 h lect
Philosophy and New Technology
30 h lect
Statistics and Probabilistic
15 h lab
Larp Design
75 h lab, 30 h lect
Digital Game Design 1
30 h lab
Visual Art for Games 2
30 h lect
Concept Art
30 h lab
Game Project Management (ENG)
30 h lab
Law and Economy of the Game Market
30 h sem
Reviews of Games and Audio-Video Media 2
10 h lect
Portfolio 1
5 h lect
Foreign Language
30 h lab
22
LEVEL 3
Methodology of Research in Cyberspace
15 h lab, 15 h lect
Game Theory
15 h lab
Business & Communication (ENG)
30 h sem
Digital Game Design 2
45 h lab
Team Projects & Industry Collaboration 1 (ENG)
30 h lab, 15 h lect
Game Psychology
30 h lect
Gamification in Education & Management (ENG)
30 h lab, 15 h lect
Elective I-1 / Elective I-2
30 h lab
Elective I-3 / Elective I-4
30 h lab
Reading List 1 (ENG)
10 h lect
Foreign Language
30 h lab
LEVEL 4
Digital Game Design 3
45 h lab
ARG & Urban Games (ENG)
45 h lab, 15 h lect
Edu-Games (ENG)
45 h lab, 15 h lect
Team Projects & Industry Collaboration 2 (ENG)
30 h lab, 15 h lect
BA Proseminar (ENG / PL)
15 h sem
Elective II-1 / Elective II-2 (ENG / PL)
15 h sem
Elective II-3 / Elective II-4 (ENG / PL)
15 h sem
Portfolio 2 (ENG / PL)
5 h lect
Physical Education
30 h
23
LEVEL 5 (IOS-friendly)
Elective III-1 / Elective III-2
15 h sem
Elective III-3 / Elective III-4
15 h sem
Elective III-5 / Elective III-6
15 h sem
BA Seminar 1
30 h lab
Portfolio 3 (ENG)
5 h lect
LEVEL 6 (off-site)
BA Seminar 2
30 h sem
Industrial Placement
3 months
Level 5 is IOS-friendly, meaning that all its modules are passed on the basis of individual
assignments, without mandatory classroom teamwork. This makes it possible to get
credit for Level 5 in online contact with the instructors, with little to no class
attendance: a welcome opportunity for students who have already found employment.
Level 6 is entirely off-site, with no other modules than B.A. Seminar (in online
collaboration with the supervisor) and full-time job placement in the industry. What is
more, Level 6 encourages module synergy: design work students do for the industry
may count as their B.A. project. Removing the necessity of physical attendance on Level
5 and 6 makes it possible for senior students to take on traineeships and jobs in any
place in the world with no harm to their prospects of graduation.
24
3. Feedback to Chapter 2
from students employed in games
Authors
This feedback to the sample curriculum (Chapter 2, above) was given by gamedec students /
former students who have already been employed in game industries: video games, board
games or commercial live-action games.
The team was coordinated by mgr Mateusz Makowski, holder of both Gamedec B.A. and
English Studies M.A., now PhD Candidate at UKW and President at Fundacja Fantazmat.
Patryk Kanarkiewicz is QA Lead at Fuero Games.
Marcin Szypura is QA at CD Project Red, previously junior designer/QA at Action Games Lab.
Paulina Michałowska works in Product Development & Marketing at Winning Moves.
Urszula Chmielewska is designer and gamemaster for Sirius Game Studio.
Iza Dankowska collaborates with Fabryka Kart Trefl.
1. On entrance exams, or another form of pre-selection of candidates
We suggest an additional score-based criterion. It would be the prior portfolio of
broadly-understood project/culture/community activities. Each activity should be weighed in
points according to a scoring system (similar to the one used for evaluation of student’s
achievements for Rector’s scholarship). The process should be administered in the online
enrollment system, with the candidate required to deliver the necessary papers together with a
file of materials documenting the achievements.
2. On running selected modules in English
English is an international language used on a daily basis. In game dev and related industries in
particular, English allows for communication with professionals coming from various countries
and representing various disciplines. Besides, the terminology used in the game industry comes
primarily from English. To keep up with its development, an aspiring game designer must be
able to quickly understand English texts and absorb the content. Running some classes in
English will help students adjust to the conditions of the industry.
3. Positive changes in relation to the previous curriculum
More emphasis put on aspects of mathematics which are necessary in game design:
logic, statistics, probabilistic.
Introduction of courses in digital art.
Introduction of a mandatory reading list on popular culture, which will broaden
horizons.
Making time for the preparation of a professional portfolio, checked by instructors
before graduation.
The curriculum makes it possible to start a job after the fourth semester without
dropping out from university.
25
4. On changes to specific modules and forms of assessment:
The list of popculture texts which students must be familiar with
This is a good idea which will help students broaden their horizons. What we suggest to do
differently is the method of assessment. An oral exam at the end of the module may turn out to
be insufficient. With this form of assessment, the majority of students may start to learn no
sooner than the very end of the semester, dividing the workload and crafting notes and
summaries. This, in turn, will result in most students repeating what they heard from others.
This could be prevented with more open questions challenging analytical thinking, or delivering
written opinions and short analyses throughout the semester before the final oral exam. The
instructor should only monitor the timely delivery of all assignments, s/he doesn’t need to read
it all. Putting one’s conclusions in writing enforces a deeper reflection. The written works
should be available for all, and I would also add the option for volunteers to write peer reviews,
discuss and share opinions.
Business & Communication
Business and communication are less relevant at the beginning of the programme. We suggest
to move this module to Semester 3, when negotiating with an employer or client comes closer to
everyday reality thanks to the appearance of “Team Projects & Industry Collaboration” module.
Human Capital
We don’t believe this module is so important for the development of competencies that it needs
two semesters.
Portfolio
We suggest to increase the number of contact hours in this module, with students required to
present their developing portfolio after each semester starting with 3. This should help shape
the habit of regular updates to one’s portfolio.
5. Suggestions
An addition of Creative Writing should be considered. This would expand the skillset needed to
design larps and RPGs, and it would also allow for verification of student’s competences. Now
some problems spring up not only with longer texts but also with crafting clear and
linguistically correct game manuals. Additionally, creative writing skills may be helpful for video
game designers in crafting interesting and coherent game narratives. In the presented
curriculum, scenario-writing (Semester 5) seems to be introduced a bit too late. One of the
consequences is that students wouldn’t be able to use this module for the benefit of earlier
projects.
It should be checked if it’s possible to replace the Foreign Language module with a Practical
English block (one semester/year of intensive language course analogical to Practical English
from English Studies with emphasis on speaking and writing, instead of a standard language
course for 3 semesters)
26
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