[This article is a work in progress, to eventually be submitting to a yet-to-be-determined journal.]
The Game Design Workshop is a single-semester course in game design for computer science and digital media students at the University of New South Wales. It is based on the principles of experience-based, player-centric, iterative design, using the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics (MDA) framework and LeBlanc’s 8 kinds of fun. My objectives in teaching the course are to open the students’ eyes to the many kinds of experience that can be created through play, to give them a wider vocabulary to describe these experiences, and to equip them with a toolkit of design patterns they can use to craft new experiences deliberately.
Philosophically, I adopt a learning strategy based on the theory of experiential learning. Abstract ideas are couched in concrete experience, both before and after. Students are given games to play, in class and as prior homework, to expose them to the ideas that we will cover in lectures. We follow this with design exercises to turn ideas into practice.
In this paper I focus on one particular game we play in the very first class of the semester. The game has no official title but goes by the moniker of “that ball game”. It is a simple and rather childish activity that involves throwing brightly coloured balls around the classroom. Nevertheless, it has proven to have remarkable depth as a learning experience. I have been playing and refining it with my class for over six years, and my graduate students have urged me to document it as they have begun to take it on in their own teaching practice.
In the following, I describe the game and how I employ it as a teaching tool. I have found it to be useful as a way of restructuring the classrom, as a community building exercise, and as an illustration of the ideas of game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics. I offer it here for others to use and remix to their own purposes as they see fit.