Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
Fall 2023
Course number: 60418
Location: CFA 303 + 317
Days / time: Tuesday + Thursday 02:00PM 04:50PM
Professor: Paolo Pedercini – paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Office: School of art 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment

Description: Let’s face it: there are too many videogames in this world. Luckily, game engines and game design principles can be used for a variety of purposes! This installment of Experimental Game Studio focuses on artful software, interactables, nongames, digital toys, procedural generators, educational applications, and other playthings. The course is divided in two parts and two projects: in the first half of the semester you will develop an audio-visual application, focusing on generativity, aesthetics, and interaction. The second project will be more research-based, with focus on design, storytelling, and conceptual development. 


Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

  • Work in teams
  • Scope a project according to limited time and resources
  • Use game engines and tools for non entertainment purposes
  • Identify promising concepts and accept failures and dead ends
  • Contextualize your own work within contemporary cultural practices
  • Develop your personal style and artistic identity 
  • Research subjects and translate them into playable systems
  • Add at least one piece to your creative portfolio


Playful Software 

Make an application that creates a meaningful relationship between sound and images.
It can be an audiovisual instrument, a tool to VJ a music performance, an interactive music video or anything in between.
Make it thematically related to your current or previous artistic research.

The unit will consist in a series of exploratory assignments and prototyping exercises, after which teams may or may not be formed.

Topics and exercises: synesthesia in the arts, music video games, interactive music videos.
Programming in Unity, interaction, dynamic animation, iteration, sound analysis, lighting, shaders and visual effects.

Explorable Explanation

Research a complex subject and create an interactive artifact that explains it in a compelling way.
Examples: an educational application, a political videogame, an interactive journalistic feature, etc.

The unit will consist in a series of research and prototyping assignments after which teams may or may not be formed.

Topics: game design, narrative design, documentary games, explorable explanations, educational games, interactive journalism.


-A laptop. You don’t need a powerful gaming computer but consider we won’t be working in a computer lab.
-The charger is not optional.
-A 3 button mouse. You can’t work in 3D without it.
-Software: all the programs used in this class are free or provided by the school. You may have to purchase some individual licenses and subscriptions to certain games or plugins depending on your project. The overall expenses should not exceed $100.


Qualitative feedback during in-class critiques is the most important form of evaluation, but we live in a quantified society so grades need to happen.

A. Outstanding concept and implementation. It looks and feels like a complete project, not an assignment or prototype.
B. The project is original and complete, all the core components are functional, but it feel unpolished and not ready to “ship”.
C. The game is incomplete and/or the idea is derivative.
D. The game doesn’t work, it has major bugs or is incomplete to a point that is impossible to get a clear idea of the user experience.
E. The student failed to deliver the assignment.

Making (and teaching) games is hard because there different dimension of success and failure. Ideally your project:

Works as artwork – does something innovative, it’s in dialogue with contemporary artmaking, it tackles complex issues.
Works as experience –
 the player understands what to do, it’s aesthetically polished, it’s well presented and enticing, the difficulty level and learning curve are adequate for the intended audience.
Works as game – 
the gameplay is not broken, there are no dominant strategies, the gameplay succeeds in its own terms (a roguelike is replayable, an exploration game makes you want to explore, a match-3 game is addicting, etc).
Works as software – 
it runs, the features are complete, it doesn’t crash, there are no bugs.

Final grade composition

40% Mid semester
40% Final project
20% Class Participation and assigned videos


-A laptop. You don’t need a powerful gaming computer but consider we won’t be working in a computer lab.
-The charger is not optional.
-A 3 button mouse. You can’t work in 3D without it.
Software: all the programs used in this class are free or provided by the school. You may have to purchase some individual licenses and subscriptions to certain games or plugins depending on your project. The overall expenses should not exceed $100.


I’ll ask you to read and sign a little contract. We will discuss it and amend it on the first day of class.

* Absences:
I will inform the professor and my teammate of my absences via email at least one hour before class.
I’m entitled to a total of 4 absences over the course of the semester.
This class doesn’t differentiate between justified and unjustified absences. I am not required to give my professor any justification nor explanation for my absences.
I am aware that more than 4 absences will trigger a check from my academic advisor, the university’s health services, or disability resources. If the extra absences are not validated, they will produce one letter grade drop on my final grade.
I am responsible to catch up with the class, and to look into the material that I have missed.
I will not expect any online or hybrid accommodation if I’m not able to attend class.

* COVID 19
I will comply with CMU and the CDC coronavirus policies regarding isolation and quarantine.
I understand absences due to COVID may have to be validated by the university.

* Tardiness:
Arriving over 15 minutes after the scheduled start time will count as absence.

* Participation:
I will engage actively in discussions and critiques.
I expect the professor to adopt a variety of critique formats to account for different personality types.

* Net addiction
I value face-to-face interaction, so I commit to not use phones and computers during lectures, critiques, and discussions, ie. any time somebody is presenting to the class, except for taking notes.

* Computer habits
I understand that using my personal laptop will require more responsibilities on my side:
-I will disable all push notifications from social media unrelated to class
-I will reboot my system before class and close all the applications
-I will bring and use a mouse when it’s required
-I will bring and use my charger all the time
-I will make sure I have enough room in my hard drive
-I will make sure I have all the required applications installed
-If unable to meet these basic requirement I will use the school computers.

I will use the class Discord to keep up with asynchronous communications, announcements, and questions that could be of general interest.
To keep a proper record, I will use the CMU email for personal communication with the professor.

I will negotiate late assignment submissions with the professor at least 24 hours before the deadline. I understand it will have to be justified and will not be automatically granted.
I will be present and participate to critiques even if I don’t have my work.

*Flipped Classroom
In a flipped classroom model the technical demos are assigned as homework, while class time is for more interactive activities.
I will watch all the mandatory video tutorials, taking them as seriously as studio assignments and class participation.
While I don’t have to immediately master everything covered in the videos, I understand that being unaware of the content of previously assigned videos (i.e. being caught not watching them) will penalize my participation grade.

*Office hours
I am entitled to a one-to-one meeting with the professor for feedback and general check-in every semester.

*Plagiarism and “collaborations”
I acknowledge that the concept of plagiarism is somewhat elusive in digital media as we working with open source tools and libraries, remixing and building upon the work of a multitude of people.
I will credit all the work and components that I use according to the licenses applied to them.
I will not outsource the class work to other people nor plagiarize assignments and exercises from my classmates.

*Generative AI
I will not use large language models such as chatGPT in the production of response papers, research, documentation, and correspondence.
I acknowledge that generative AI tools such as chatGPT or Midjourney are allowed in creative studio projects unless otherwise specified. I will declare where and how such tools have been used.

*Community agreements
These statement apply to both student and instructors:
We will speak from our own experiences (make ‘I’ statements).
We will respect differences; we’re all privileged in some ways.
We agree to critique ideas, not people.
We will not assume the identity of others, nor ask individuals to speak for their perceived social group.
We will hold this as a brave space, where we take risks, be vulnerable and hold each accountable with love and respect.
We agree to have only ‘one mic’: we will listen respectfully without interrupting.
We agree to practice active listening: when someone is speaking, we will listen without also thinking about how we are going to respond/rebut.
We may share what we learn but will keep others’ stories and personal experiences in confidence.
We will ‘move up, move up’: those who tend to speak a lot will ‘move up’ their listening; those who tend
to hold back and listen will ‘move up’ their speaking.


It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present activities that accommodate and value a diversity of gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture.
I will gladly honor your request to address you by your preferred name and gender pronoun. I commit to make individual arrangements to address disabilities or religious needs (e.g. religious events in conflict with class meetings). Please advise me of these preferences and needs early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my plans and records.
Debate and free exchange of ideas is encouraged but I will not tolerate harassment, i.e. a pattern of behavior directed against a particular individual with the intent of humiliating or intimidating.


Being in an art school, you should expect to be exposed to content that challenges your moral, ethical, and aesthetic values. In case of extremely graphic content I will warn the class in advance, but if you have a history of PTSD please let me know privately if there are types of content that are known to act as trauma triggers for you.


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.