Introduction to Serious Games
2: Prototyping & Playtesting

Module 2: Prototyping and Playtesting covers the basics of paper prototyping with openness to light digital prototyping such as materials and tools needed. It's all well and good to think about the shiny parts of game development, but it's essential to focus first and foremost on the core mechanic and refine the game around it. Gameplay is just as much about the feeling of the game as it is about what a developer hopes for players to get out of the experience.

Week 6: Core Mechanics

1: The Center
Tune in for a lecture on core mechanics. Briefly, a core mechanic is the most essential repeated action of the player(s) in a game. It is widely understood as the most vital part of a game's design.

2: Core Analysis
We will discuss all of the games that have been played and apply them to your proposed game prototypes in order to identify your core mechanic.

"Designing Around a Core Mechanic," Charmie Kim

Assignment: Final Review - 10%
Finish the review of at least 1,000 words comparing and contrasting the three serious games you played.

Week 7: Development

1: Teams
A defining characteristic of serious games is that they are very dependent on a subject matter expert. The development process thus involves collaborating with people who are not necessarily familiar with game development and how to adapt deliverable content through gameplay. That's where you come in. By offering a mix of both or at least the ability to listen and communicate clearly, you're an asset to a team. 

"Building A Strong Indie Game Development Team," Alistair Doulin
"Dream of Game Design Mastery," Brenda Romero  

2: Paper Play
Let's begin paper prototyping!

"How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days," Kyle Gray, Kyle Gabler, Shalin Shodhan, Matt Kucic
"Building Your Prototype (Board Games)," Rob Stone
Game Paper Prototyping Kit


Week 8: Prototyping
* Game Developers Conference

1: Iterative Development
We are jumping into the iterative game development process, ala Eric Zimmerman and other well-known game designers. We will start by putting together a basic framework for our ideas, then jump quickly into prototyping, shift into playtesting, and then iterate once during this course. You may find that you need more cycles of iteration, which would be natural and good for making an amazing game.

"Iterative Design," Eric Zimmerman
"Tools for Game Design: Game Design Methods"
"MDA Framework," Robin Hunicke, Marc LeBlanc, Robert Zubek

2: Just Do It
Let's paper prototype! But wait. Don't get caught up in the big picture of the game. That's fun and all, but you really need to make sure that your core mechanic is actually going to keep your player(s) in the game.

Assignment: Proposal - 5%
Based on the direction your ideas are going, right a brief description about your game. What's the title? Who is the target audience? What is the eventual platform? What is the genre? What is the core mechanic? What is your intended outcome of gameplay?

Week 9: Inclusivity
* Spring Break

1: Inclusive Game Development
We are seeing an increase in diverse representations in games, but few directly involve the communities represented in the development process. Inclusive game development is a rising approach that refers to more directly involving players and community members represented in a game in the design and creation of that game. The intention of inclusive game development is to ensure that the game first and foremost meets the needs of the players, responds to and addresses issues that the community deems important, and more directly respects players as creators rather than simply consumers.

2: Initiate Iteration Cycle
Refine your prototype!

Week 10: Playtesting

1: Playtesting Methods
Playtesting is an absolutely essential part of game development. Generally, playtesting starts with team members, expands to family and friends, and then gets implemented with target players. Methods vary depending on your type of prototype. I highly recommend having a way to take notes or run a pre-interview and post-interview if you’re going for something with academic caliber that you could publish in a peer reviewed journal. Your approach will depend on your own personal interests and motivations. 

Let's work together to build out from the core of your game into other aspects. As peers in this course, students will playtest one another's rough prototypes and provide feedback to assist in the next iteration.

"How to Design and Playtest Your Games?," Antti Kirjavainen
"Best Practices: Five Tips for Better Playtesting," Vin St. John
"The Science of Playtesting," Laura Parker

2: But Wait, There's More!
Your rough prototype should now be complete but the game is far from completion. The next step will be to actively playtest your game first with friends and then with your target audience. Keep track of your work because you'll present on your process and results in Week 13 and your final prototype in Week 15.

"Game Design Document Sample," Chris Taylor
"Game Design Document"
"A GDD Template for the Indie Developer," Jason Bakker
"Game Concept and Design Document"

Assignment: Documentation - 30%
(1) Game Design Document: Choose a game design document template or make your own and fill out as many details as you possibly can at this stage of the development process.
(2) Archive of your prototype: Take photos or screenshots and write a statement about how far along your game is, what you predict the outcome(s) of gameplay will be, and what your hopes are in regards to distribution. Do you see this game, for example, in schools, in community centers, in homes, on mobile devices for a limited audience or for public release?
(3) Playtesting Plan: Thus, who are you going to playtest your game with outside of the class? How will you ask useful questions that will help you improve your game? Will you conduct pre-interviews and then post-interviews? Are the interviews open-ended or surveys? Are they written or oral? Will you use other forms of feedback such as biofeedback?