Join Melanie for game improv at MAGfest!

Hello everyone, and welcome to 2017! We hope that you had an awesome New Year’s Eve and that you’re ready to take the new year by storm!

As you may or may not know, this coming weekend in DC is MAGFest: the place to be for video games, it’s music, and the people who appreciate them. It’s also the place to be if you want to join Melanie and panel of seasoned game design experts for a session that’s called Serious Game Design Improv.  Here is the description in the MAGFest catalog:

“Games are supposed to be fun, when you’re developing serious games, how do you balance the fun and educational content? Can we have fun when talking about climate change, teen pregnancy, coal mine safety or cyber security? What is acceptable to borrow from entertainment versus the lecture hall and how can we make serious games better? Finding the right mechanic is a delicate balance in design. Through Seriously Fun Game Design Improv we will demonstrate how to find the right mechanism for creating learning and fun memorable experiences. The panelist will demonstrate through a series of design improv play throughs and then let the audience loose to create their own improv-designed games, making up the rules as they go. We will provide props, paper, and lots of colored pencils, and at the end we’ll all check out each team’s designs.”

Seriously Fun Game Improv
Introductions of panelist: Susan, James, Heidi, Melanie, Brad, Carl, Allen, Jeremy and Peg.

Minute 10
Why are we here?
James talks about how serious games have changed over the past decade.
Susan talks about the kind of fun people need to really engage in a game.
Heidi talks about how she sees design changing
Melanie introduces the idea of Improv-ing Game Design

Minute 20 (30 mins)
Improv examples All Panelist Participate – Give us a Thing to Teach and make Fun
Take game theme examples from the audience.
Improv several topics out into game mechanic.

Minute 50 (25 mins)
Break audience up into teams and let them loose on a their own themes.

Minute 75 (25 mins)
Do it again

Minute 100 (20 mins)
Report Out
Closing comments from panelist.



Game Improv is guided by three design principles:

  1. The game mechanic should do the teaching (For more on this, we look to Soren Johnson’s GDC talk).
  2. Players use what they learn to win.
  3. Players must stay engaged to learn; too boring or too difficult doesn’t help learning.

Creating a game mechanic that teaches new things can be daunting. For example, here at Molecular Jig we have considered, “How can we teach diffusion in a game format?”  We think this hard task is worth figuring out!  Explaining diffusion in a paragraph isn’t intuitive, engaging and also not necessary. We can give the player a goal and make the deal with diffusion in a game environment.

OK then, how to make a game around diffusion? Can we really make a game mechanic about diffusion? This question really is: How do we make a novel game mechanic?  Designers of novel game mechanics can follow our GMES method.  The GMES method means that at each moment of the game, the designer considers whether the player is able to do each of the following:

  1. Gather data about what to do next, where to go, what to collect, etc.
  2. Make a hypothesis about what will happen if player does x.
  3. Experiment to prove or disprove hypothesis.
  4. See the results.

GMES is the game design method we’ve developed here at Molecular Jig over the years.  Seriously Fun Game Design Improv should will help refine these ideas, so that they can be added to game design tool kits for those who create serious/learning games.  Additionally, the panel includes some excellent game designers, who will bring their own ideas and opinions to Seriously Fun Games…  So, come out and join us!

If you are planning to attend MAGFest, join the improv session Friday January 6th from 6p-8p.   To learn more about MAGFest, click here!


Posted in Game Design and Development, General

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