Syllabus

Carnegie Mellon University – School of Art
Professor: Paolo Pedercini
Course number: 60427
Classroom: CFA 303 + CFA 318 (Mac Lab)
Time: Monday Wednesday 01:30PM 04:20PM
Office: CFA 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Email address: paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu

A hands-on game design course focused on innovative and expressive forms of gameplay.
In this installment of Experimental Game Design the emphasis is placed on the interface: inputs beyond mouse/keyboard/joystick/touch, outputs beyond screen/speakers, playing contexts beyond the suburban living room (alternative arcade, gallery museum spaces, urban environments etc…). Activities include hacking of commercial controllers (WiiMote, Kinect), fast prototyping under bizarre constraint, and the creation of custom hardware with Arduino.
The class comprised by frontal lectures, design exercises and in-depth analysis of works from the digital arts and the independent gaming world.

Selected student works. Check the Student Area for downloads descriptions.

Experimental Game Design – Fall 2013 from paolo pedercini on Vimeo.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Upon completion of the course students will (hopefully) be able to:

* Create expressive and meaningful games and interactive artifacts

* Critically analyze the mechanics and apparatuses of videogames including their ideological and cultural underpinnings.

* Deconstruct and actively engage with narratives of technological advancement in electronic entertainment

* Discuss their work in the context of new media art and/or in relation with mainstream cultural production.

DISCLAIMER

* Being passionate about game might help but please keep in mind this is not a class for sharing our love for video games or video game culture. We’ll try to approach the subject critically and focus on cutting-edge developments at the margins of the mainstream game industry.

* This is an art course and CMU School of Art is focused on conceptual practice, it means that your primary goal will be to create meaningful, personal and unique works – not necessarily elegant, balanced, well designed, entertaining products. More industry-oriented game design classes are offered by the ETC.

STRUCTURE

Home play: you will be strongly encouraged to play some games that relates to the unit, and present them to your classmates for discussion. A schedule for the presentations will be defined soon.

Tools: this class involves hacking and tweaking technologies that are not always “off the shelves”. Processing, Open Frameworks and Unity are some of the weapons of choice for this course while Game Maker and other editors are discouraged due to their limited integration with 3rd party components.
Full support (in form of example files and tutorials) will be provided only for Processing in order to provide non-experienced programmers an intro-level framework. If you are planning on using Unity or more advanced programming languages you are expected to be more self-directed.

Readings: being a studio class, Experimental Game Design is relatively light on theory. However you’ll be required to read and respond to a short text chosen among the one I recommend for each unit.

Assignments:
This course is centered around two main projects, the first deals with the theme of “reduction” (less technology, less complexity), the second with the theme of “embodiment” (mimetic interfaces).

For each of the two projects all students will engage in an extensive ideation process.

1. A series of prompts are be provided: a prompt is a technical constrain or platform randomly coupled with a general theme.
2. Every student pitches ideas on every prompt.
3. Every student discusses and evaluate every other student’s proposal.
4. The best proposals (the most feasible, original, fun, and clever) for each prompt are be democratically selected.
5. Teacher forms teams of 3-4 students including the author of the proposal and other members according to skills, student preferences, gender and previous team compositions.

PART 1: REDUCTION

NO TECH
Prompt: a game that can be played without any technology.
Games: Ninja, Werewolf/mafia, Blowdart game, bombs and shields, triangles, Spy party live action, Human Asteroids, Cruel 2 B Kind, Tinygames.
Activities: Game for Mel Bochner garden. Obscure Games Pittsburgh class Visit (TBD).

ONE BUTTON
Prompt: a 1 button videogame that is not a “runner”, multiplayer encouraged.
Tech: Intro/refresh to Processing, switches in Arduino/Teensy, Keyboard emulation.
Games: Canabalt, Faraway, Fotonica, Poto and Cabenga, B.U.T.T.O.N., Glorg, Gamma 4, Moon Waltz, Tug the Table, Silent Skies, War and Peace by Stéphane Bura.
Reading: Towards Minimalist Game Design by Andy Nealen, Adam Saltsman and Eddy Boxerman.

ANALOG
Prompt: an installation game that uses one or two analog inputs.
Tech Analog inputs in Processing + Arduino via Firmata, Makey Makey.
Games in the white cube PainStation, Furminator, Tekken torture tournament, The Colour Game, Sweetpads, Intimate controllers, Massage me, Dance Dance Immolation, Giant Joystick, Prepared PlayStation, Long March: Restart, Simmer Down Sprinter, Rolling Up the Cosmos, Panoramical.
Reading: Analog: on Katamari Damacy by McKenzie Wark. From Gamer theory.

NO SCREEN
Prompt: a videogame that can be played without screens / employs non-video output
Tech Arduino + switchtail, Analog outputs/actuators, OSC intro, Unity intro.
Games: Brainball, DarkGame, Flaming Simon, What It Is Without the Hand That Wields It, Deep Sea, J.S. Joust, Propinquity, Papa Sangre, BlindSide, Space Team, Proteus.

PART 2: EMBODIMENT

GESTURE
Prompt: a game using a mimetic interface
Tech: WiiMote (PS Move as alternative), Wacom Tablet, Arduino + accelerometer, Kaliber, OSCulator.
Works: Flower, Okami, superHYPERCUBE, We Dare, Spin the Bottle, Renga
Reading: Return to Player Space: The Success of Mimetic Interface Games. From a casual revolution by Jesper Juul.

TOUCH
Prompt: a multitouch game + large scale projection
Tech: MSAremote, Multi channel projection
Works: Yellowtail, Sonic Wire, Pollock by Manetas, Eliss, Hundreds, Fingle, O by Michael Brough
Reading: A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design by Bret Victor

VOICE
Prompt: a voice controlled game
Works: Messa di voce
Tech: OSCpitch

EXPRESSION
Prompt: a face controlled game
Tech: FaceOSC

BODY
Prompt: a body controlled game
Tech: Kinect
Works Videoplace, Text rain, Suicide Box, (in)security camera, The Manual Input Workstation, Hand from above, Tape Recorders.
The Perfect woman, Child of Eden, Body Dysmorphic disorder, Kinect Invisible Man, Hand Puppet, Nipple Tracker, V Motion Controller, The Treachery of Sanctuary, Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth.

GRADING

30% 1st project
30% 2nd project
20% Proposals
20% Class participation and readings

Grading sucks but someone has to do the dirty job. Assignments and final project are graded according to these criteria:

E. The student failed to deliver the assignment.
D.
The game/prototype doesn’t work, has major bugs or is incomplete to a point that is impossible to get a clear idea of the user experience.
C. The game/prototype is functional and complete in all of its parts. Both the technical execution and the concept are sufficient but not outstanding.
B. Good concept and excellent technical execution. Or, vice versa, excellent idea and good technical execution.
A. Outstanding concept and implementation.

Some self evaluation questions

Is the game complete? In case of a prototype, is it developed enough to be a proof of concept for an actual game?

Is the game playable and compelling and does not have any major structural problems?

Does the game provide meaningful choices for the players? Does it allow multiple strategies / tactics and encourage replayability?

Is the game novel? Does it follow the assigned constraints? Does it at least try to be a culturally relevant piece or artwork?

Is the game presented properly either in terms of graphics, sounds, story, instructions or documentation?

*Header font based on Salutations alphabet by Kevin Chan

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