The Game Design Question

I recently gave a brief presentation on games to our school’s education faculty. One faculty member (I believe he used to be a school principal) got fairly excited, asking me whether he could use Crazy Machines to set up a scientific experiment to show his students. 

I suggested that he was thinking of the game simply as a tool for setting up a demo, but that was missing out on the power of games.  Rather than use a physics simulation program to create a fancy video for the students to watch, he should instead put the students in front of the game, and make them wrestle with the simulated system, as they strive to find their own path to a goal.

Emily Short gives an interesting take on this same idea, drawing on her own extensive experience as an indie game designer and critic.  She asks her students to design a game that will incorporate material they learn in a humanities course.  To pull this off, the instructor would have to know games inside and out — not any specific games, but rather the principles that define good game design

I’ve used a variation of the following activity in a couple of
different college classes (all of them courses in translation, pitched
at a class of 30-40 students with no prior background in classics):

Divide into groups of five or six, and spend 30 minutes
or so coming up with a core game design for a game based on some aspect
of the Roman economy (or whatever — specific content varies). Name your
game. Choose a group member to present a pitch for it to the rest of
the class.

Students love this activity. They think I’m letting them play in
class, practically giving them the day off. The discussions are
riotous. Certain male students who tend to be otherwise pretty quiet in
class actually sit up and talk. It usually starts off a little goofy,
but they get interested in some specific questions about the game
design, and pretty soon they’re paging back through their books to
remind themselves about critical dates and data.