Fall 2020 - IAT 312 D100

Foundations of Game Design (3)

Class Number: 8084

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 9 – Dec 8, 2020: Thu, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Completion of 48 units, including IAT 265.



Examines the discipline of game design. Games are studied across three analytical frameworks: games as rules (formal system), games as play (experiential system), games as culture (social system). Includes analytical and practical exercises in game design.


Game Design is a creative endeavour requiring practical experience through design, critique and iteration. In the lecture part of this class, we will read and discuss some of the work that analyzes players, games and the design process to establish common ground for practical work in the course labs. We will also cover some of the more universal game mechanisms, such as randomness, economic systems, player motivation and psychology, and a few specific topics in more detail. In the labs, we will play, critique, improve and design games as well as report on the course's longer game design projects.



The course should help you gain practical experience with and a critical understanding of:

• The existing attempts to analyze the psychology of players and how it affects game design and consumption

• The process of game design and its components such as prototyping and play testing

• Some of the dimensions along which to think about game design and critique existing designs, such as art style, narrative and game balance

• A subset of the mechanisms available to accomplish game design goals, such as reward systems and economic systems 


  • Assignments (individual) 30%
  • Projects (team work) 35%
  • Quizzes 15%
  • Lec Participation 12%
  • Lab Participation 8%


Class attendance and participation policy: Students are expected to attend and participate in all lectures and labs. Regular attendance and active, supportive participation in class and team activities is necessary to pass; doing otherwise will result in point reductions and in extreme cases failure to pass the course. 
If you miss an assignment or workshop due to illness or personal concerns, a doctor’s note or other forms of credible evidence must be presented to your instructor/TA. 
Failure to contribute sufficiently to in-class activities, individual and team assignments, failure to responsibly do your part of the teamwork, or failure to reliably attend and contribute in team meetings can result in additional point reductions beyond the team evaluation.

Deliverables: All deliverables must be submitted (typically to Canvas) by the due date/time. No late submissions will be accepted.



Online Readings provided via Canvas

"Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals" (2003) by Katie Salen Tekinbas, Eric Zimmerman; 1st Edition; MIT Press ISBN: 9780262240451

"Fundamentals of Game Design" (2013) by Ernest Adams; 3rd Edition; New Riders
This text can be accessed online via the SFU Library; although currently only 8 users can view this simultaneously. ISBN: 9780321929679

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).