Do you want to take on the role of “game designer” for your course? Though it may seem fun (and it certainly can be an enjoyable process), the act of creating a game obviously involves much more work than playing one.

As an associate professor and co-director of the Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lee Sheldon has a significant amount of experience in writing, designing, and developing games — as well as teaching others how to do so. In his book The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game, he poses several questions that can help you consider if taking on this challenge is right for you:

  • Are you open to new ways of approaching your class material? . . .An open, curious mind can take you a long way.
  • Are you a gamer? . . . Game design shares with teachers an attention for detail, an ability to structure experiences for others, and especially important for a real world game: to be able to adjust the day-to-day surprises that come your way.
  • Do you know gamers? Having a gamer in the family, a spouse, a child, grandparent can be a great resource. How about colleagues in your school? Parents of students? Friends at church? Chances are you are surrounded by gamers of all ages. You may just not know it.
  • Are there students you can ask for advice, or who might be able to help you with the actual design? This is obviously more likely with high school or college age kids, but these days don’t be surprised to find middle school students creating games, either with game-building programs, or even programming from scratch. It should be obvious, but just in case—it’s probably not a good idea to ask students in the class you’ll be designing as a game to help with the game design unless, as in my “Designing Interactive Characters” class, you want them to peek behind the curtain to see the puppeteer at work.
  • Are there any game designers on your faculty? You’ll find that game designers find it hard to say no if a new design challenge presents itself. The chance to see the design in action is a strong pull as well.
  • Are there any game companies in your area? No, I’m not suggesting you hire a professional game designer. If you have the funds for that, then lucky you! Go for it! But you will find that game developers are conscientious members of your community who may be more than willing to volunteer their time.
  • Do you want to try it because it sounds like an interesting challenge, your students really need a change, or it just sounds fun? You’re in luck. . . a lot of your fellow teachers are giving it a shot, and having a pretty good time doing it, too!

Whether you have a team to help you, someone to bounce ideas off, or you’re striking out into the wilderness on your own, it’s time to get your game on. (pp. 221-222)

Reference: Sheldon, Lee. 2012. The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game. Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning.

 © 2012 Delmar Learning, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission.

Have you designed a game for your course? What factors helped you decide to create your game? What skills helped you to bring it to fruition? Share your experiences in the comments section.