Carnegie Mellon University – School of Art
Professor: Paolo Pedercini
Graduate Assistant: Hannah Epstein
Course number: 60419
Classroom: CFA 303 + CFA 318 (Mac Lab)
Time: 1:30PM – 4:20PM Monday + Wednesday
Office: CFA 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Email address: paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
GA: hepstein [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu

A hands-on course focused on innovative and expressive forms of play. This semester the emphasis is put on fringe works that expand the notion of games: VR, game art, environmental storytelling, digital toys, notgames, and other playthings.
The class involves a series of micro game jams to familiarize with different aspects of the game engine Unity, and two main projects.


Upon completion of the course students will be able to:

* Create playable games or prototypes with innovative and expressive gameplays.

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

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

* Have a good foundation with the game engine Unity


* 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.

* Although the course is listed as experimental game design for consistency purposes, this particular installment is not centered on game design. The focus will be on designing worlds and experiences, with a lot of time devoted to the technical aspects and workflows in the development of interactive 3D spaces.


The course is structured around units made of frontal lectures, critiques, and in-class exercises (mini game jams).

Deliverables: you are expected to produce two playable artifacts (mid-semester and final) in addition to the short intro assignment. Working in groups is encouraged but not required.

Home play: you are expected to play and discuss a variety of games. Every week, groups of 3 people are assigned one game to play at home. The group will then have a structured discussion in class and give a brief presentation to the rest of the class.
Once in the semester each student will prepare a more formal presentation about 3 assigned games by the same author(s). All the assigned games are relatively short, but some of them will have to be purchased (typically for less than $20).

Readings: being a studio class, Experimental Game Design is relatively light on theory. However you’ll be required to read and respond to a pair of short texts at every unit.

Social media: like it or not, you can’t be a independent game maker/artist today without self-promoting relentlessly on social media. You will be required to start an account on Twitter, follow the often obnoxious gaming “discourse”, and post entertaining work in progress of your projects.




Before becoming critical game designers we must become critical players.

Assignment: Mis-play a game of your choice by acting against the intention of the designer or by exploring/exploiting the limits of its system. Try to achieve an aesthetic goal or provide insights on the game itself.
Document your intervention through video and/or screenshots.

Works/case studies: Prepared Playstation, My Trip to Liberty City, Suicide Solution, Dead in Iraq, The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft, Pacifist Runs, Skate 3 Compilation, Breaking Madden, Magnasanti, Gold Farming.

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun? by David Graeber
Play is by Miguel Sicart



A brief history of Virtual Reality.
Art in Virtual Reality.
Works/case studies: Walter Pichler, Haus-Rucker-Co, Coop Himmelblau, Jaron Lanier, Myron Krueger, Nicole Stenger, Diane Gromala and Yacov Sharir, Rachel Strickland and Brenda Laurel, Ulrike Gabriel, Char Davies,Michael Scroggins, Jeffrey Shaw, Carl Loeffler

Virtual Reality demo day with Vive, Oculus, Samsung Gear, and Cardboard.

A Vintage Virtual Reality Interview by Jaron Lanier
Voices from a Virtual Past – An oral history of a technology whose time has come again

Still life mini-jam: Unity intro, navigating in the scene, creating assets and game objects in engine, hierarchy, transforms, activate deactivate, pivots, basic components, external assets & import settings.
Mood change mini-jam: lights, skyboxes, effects, materials, shaders, sounds, particle emitters, flares.



Virtual Reality in sci-fi. VR as empathy machine.
Weird Reality Symposium.

Robert Yang class visit.
Second Life tour with Daryl Kamen.

Colonizing Virtual Reality Construction of the Discourse of Virtual Reality, 1984-1992 by Chris Chesher
What Is Virtual Reality? by Brenda Laurel

Sound visualizer mini-jam , start & update, accessing components, time and counters, lerping & easing, prefabs and instantiation, collection types, importing animations and blendshapes, scene vs play mode: tweaking runtime.

installation art


Immersive Installation Art, an overview. Field trip to the Mattress Factory/Hutte Royal.

Claire Bishop – Installation art and Experience
Marcos Novak – Liquid architectures in cyberspace

Virtual installation mini-jam: Input and controllers, rigidbodies and colliders, baking lights, Maya to unity workflow and troubleshooting, raycasting, texturing, more on particle emitters.

HomePlay: Digital Museum of Digital Art, La Région Decentralized, Unreal Estate, Paper Thin, Jeremy Couillard, The Out of Body Experience, Grinder-man’s Mirage, Exercise in Immersion by Marnix de Nijs.

Mid-semester project: Create a VR environment to be experienced from a fixed point of view that changes according to one input, analog or digital (switch, sensor, etc).

walking simulators


Exploration games, environmental storytelling, level design, notGames.

Proteus, Dear Esther, The Stanley Parable, The Beginner’s Guide, Dinner Date, Little Party, Thirty Flights of Loving, SurrealistA, Exo, Gardenarium, Memory of a broken dimension (demo), Mirror Moon, ABZU, Bound, The Path

Readings (Two of the following):
Theory of the Dérive and Introduction to a Critique of Urban Geography by Guy Debord
Agency – from Hamlet in the Holodeck by Janet Murray
How to do things with videogames – Transit – Ian Bogost
Gamer Theory – Atopia (on Vice City) by Mckenzie Wark

Audio story mini-jam dynamic sound, canvas & UI elements, terrain, sprites, strategies for rapid asset creation.


Apps, software toy, unidentified game objects. Game Art and Machinima. Game spectatorship.

Final project: Develop an artifact that (ideally) challenges the boundaries of play and gaming.

Homeplay: Progress to 100, Bounden, Brume, Strawberry Cubes, GeoGuessr, Casual Games for Casual Hikers, Earth Primer, Hohokum, Herstory, Become a great artist in just 10 seconds, Vesper 5, Loop Raccord, Tetrageddon, Dys4ia, How do you do it, One of them, Storyteller (prototype), Facade, Panoramical, Mountain, The Immoral Ms. Conduct, Viral, Triennale Game Collection, Super Sculptor, Le Petit Architecte, Nested (by Orteil), Spaceplan, Kentucky Route Zero.

Not a manifesto; on game development as cultural work by Robert Yang
One critical reading of your choice related to the final project.


One author for each student. Prepared presentations.
Tale of Tales: The Graveyard, The Endless Forest, Bientot L’ete
Robert Yang: Cobra Club, Succulent, Hurt me plenty
Vector Park: Feed the head, Windosill, Metamorphabet
Ben Esposito+Arcane Kids: Pale Machine, Donout Country, Sonic Dreams Collection
Porpentine: High End Customizable Sauna Experience, Foldscape, Bellular Hexatosis
Nicky Case: Parable of the polygons, Coming out simulator, neurotic neurons
Kara Stone: Sext Adventure, Techno Tarot, Cyborg Goddess
StrangeThink: Mystery tapes, Joy exhibition,These Monsters
Increpare: Mirror Stage, Slave of God, Shower Game
Klondike Collective: Mu Cartographer, Orchids to Dusk, Vignettes
ThatGameCompany: FlOw, Flower, Journey
Keita Takahashi: Katamari Damacy, Noby Noby boy, Wattam, Woold
Jason Rohrer: Sleep Is Death, Chainworlds, A game for someone
Cory Arcangel: Super Mario Clouds, Bowling series, Super mario movie
Pippin Barr: A Series of Gunshots, Art Game, Let’s Play: The Shining
Mario von Rickenbach: Mirage, Plug and Play, Drei
Michael Brough: 868-HACK, Corrypt, Vesper.5
Lucas Pope: Papers Please, the Return of Obra Dinn (Demo), Republia Times
Davey Wreden: The Stanley Parable, The beginner’s Guide


10% Subversive Play
30% VR environment (Mid semester)
30% Final Project
10% Home play
10% Readings
10% Class participation and social media

Grading sucks but someone has to do the dirty job. Assignments and final project are graded according to the following 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. This is usually reserved to the top 10%.


* Attendance: three or more unexcused absences result in the drop of a letter grade.

* Absences: you are responsible for what happens in class whether you’re here or not. Organize with your classmates to get class information and material that you have missed.

* Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.

* Net addiction: you can exist for few hours without tweettering, facebooking, chatting, texting or emailing. Any device for mediated communication is banned during theory classes, crits and discussions. A 1% grade reduction will result from being found using them.
During the lab hours you will be allowed to network as long as your behaviour is not disruptive.

* Assignments: late assignments are only accepted with permission of instructor. You lose 10% of your points per day late up to a max of 7 days late.

* Tardiness: 1st tardy = free.
Less than 10 minutes late = 1% grade reduction.
Over 20 minutes late = absence (unless justified).

Stress Culture

Collaborative work and projects also fulfilling other classes’ requirements are encouraged as long as it makes sense, and the other professors agree.

Official university language: Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.