Monday, December 28, 2015

Game Design Exploration - Part 3 - Testing the Games

This is the third part of a series for a classroom game design project that can be used in many classes and subjects. The whole project is based on a very simple game I created. Students will modify that game so it's about the topic they are studying in class.

Here's the flow of the overall project. Each of these stages has its own post, which you can access by clicking the link.
  • Learn and play Roll-n-Flip - Students need to learn to play the basic game of Roll-n-Flip first. It should take one class period or less to learn the game and to play it a couple times. 
  • Redesign Roll-n-Flip - Next, students will modify the game by adding a theme (based on your lesson) and possibly other rules. This can take more or less than one class period, depending on how much you want them to develop their version of the game.
  • Play and improve their game - In this step students test the game their group made and then at least one game created by another group. You could also give them time to improve their game based on feedback. This process can be a class period or more, depending how much you want to focus on game design.
  • Reflection - For the last part of the activity, students will reflect on what they learned about your course content and about game design. This reflection "seals the deal" for the learning, making this possibly the most important of step of the project.

The importance of playtesting and revision - the iterative process in game design

This testing and revision stage of the game design process is essential. It can be fun and rewarding or sometimes very frustrating! It's often the heart of the creation process and it will probably take more time than all other parts combined.

Being so important, students need to see it. With limited class time, though, it is likely you will use it in this activity only provide some exposure to the concepts and a chance to have fun with the designs. Tell students it is important when making any type of game, but remind them to really test and improve their game they'd need to work on it a lot outside of class.

Keeping that in mind, tweak the following outline and resources to fit your needs.

Is everyone ready to proceed?

If a class is working through this design activity, at this point each group of students should have redesigned the simple Roll-n-Flip game. At the very least they should have done the following. (All of this is explained in the second post in this series.)
  • Chosen a theme for their game based on the topic studied in class
  • Created a title for their game
  • Written a short introduction about the game
  • Redesigned the 11 cards and changed them on the template found in Part 2 of this series
Optionally, the groups might have designed additional rules and components for their game.

Make the games.

When all the parts above are complete, groups should print and cut out any cards or components they need to play their games. It's best to print the cards on cardstock or at least the thickest paper possible.

Each group also needs at least one die. They need tokens for a pawn and chips too, but a template in Part 2 provided components they could cut from paper if those tokens were not available. 

If the groups added rules for additional cards or components, all of those pieces need to be printed and cut out or gathered as well.

Depending on how much time you want the class to devote to this playtesting experience, groups could make two or more copies of their game so multiple groups could play them at once.

Groups test their own games

Game designers often play their own games first, just to see if the creations even work at all. At this stage, each group should play their game at least once.

After playing, students should discuss these questions:
  • Did the game work as we intended?
  • Did we find anything (good or bad) that we didn't expect?
  • How much do we think other groups will enjoy our game?
  • What changes could we make to improve the game?
Depending on how much time you have for this design exploration, students could rework their cards. Simple changes might be handwritten right on the cards. Significant changes might require students to actually alter the cards in the original Google Drawings they made in Part 2 of this activity.Of course, that would require them to print and cut out more components.

If time doesn't allow a students to make all the changes they want to, remind them that they can improve the game as much as they want on their own.

Groups test a game designed by another group

For this part of the activity, each group will play at least one other group's game. Ideally this will be "blind playtesting", meaning the groups will play the games without additional assistance from the game designers.

The game components should already be created by now. Game introductions and possibly new rules need to be printed (or shared through Google Drive) so groups have everything they need to learn and play the games.

Along with these materials, give each group a copy of this Game Playtesting Sheet. It provides questions for before and after playing the game. 

Additional considerations

  • Give the groups time in class to read and discuss the Game Playtesting Sheets that test groups filled out for their game.
  • Groups could test games from more than one group if possible.
  • Students could take their games home and have other people play them to get more opinions.
  • Have a class discussion (possibly virtually) at the end of this stage so you and the students can look for patterns on what worked best in the games.
  • It would be ideal to get test groups from a class that did not go through the design process themselves. In other words, they would likely be unfamiliar even with Roll-n-Flip, so the whole experience would be new to them. This requires the designers to put a lot more work into their rules.
In the next post (and final stage of the activity) students will reflect on their game designs and the design process.

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