Summer 2021 - IAT 312 D100

Foundations of Game Design (3)

Class Number: 4777

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    We 4:30 PM – 6:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Aug 17, 2021
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    Completion of 48 units, including IAT 265 with a minimum grade of C-.



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 endeavor 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 

Intended learning outcomes

The course is intended to support you to gain both practical experience with and a critical understanding of the foundations of game design in specific contexts. Specifically, by fulfilling the requirements of the course you will be prepared to accomplish key tasks in 4 main game design areas:

  1. Game Design Basics
    1. Explain and critically reflect on games, and the characteristics and features of different types of games including their components, mechanics & rules, dynamics, and aesthetics/UX/fun, the “Magic Circle”, and what makes for a compelling game 
    2. Analyze and argue what makes for a compelling game (or not) and why people like to play games
  2. Game Design Frameworks & Psychology
    1. Compare and contrast different frameworks and underlying assumptions, and determine how and when to use which frameworks
    2. Explain different player types and psychologies, how they affect their gameplay, assumptions, and preferences, and use this knowledge to improve game designs
  3. Game Design Process
    1. Explain and effectively utilize game design best practices/processes/frameworks/mechanics, and explain how you did this when designing several games in teams. This includes typical game design phases such as ideation, prototyping and play testing as the base for an iterative game design cycle 
    2. Analyze, discuss, and critique games using appropriate terminology, and provide well-structured, constructive, and useful feedback (e.g., after playtesting or game pitches). 
    3. Discuss the difference between game critiques vs. playtesting, and demonstrate why, when, and how to use either of them effectively to improve your game and design process
    4. Effectively demonstrate and reflect on how to effectively communicate your game across different stages (from early prototype to final game), to different audiences (both internal and external), and using different presentation formats (incl. written instructions/rule sheets, pitches, game design documents (GDDs), and game videos)
  4. Game Design Teams
    1. Reflect on and apply suitable processes and team-based, collaborative practices used in game design including ideation, prototyping, iterative revisions, and playtesting as the base for an iterative design cycle to a game design project.
      1. Specific processes covered in this class may include structured team brainstorming (affinity diagramming), moodboards, inspiration analysis, Razor & Slogan, Play Matrix, playtesting scripts, structured game critique/analysis, and Agile project management)
    2. Explain what makes a good game designer, and why and how they often work in teams
    3. Reflect on your own and others’ assumptions, lenses, beliefs, what people really care about, and preferences about games/playing, and how do they affect game design and teamwork 
    4. Explain and utilize a toolbox of how to  foster a collaborative, constructive, and supportive team culture and process, including patterns of thinking and behaviour that support effective teams, as well as specific  tools, tips, processes and frameworks (incl. Agile) that might be useful
    5. Find ways to effectively address challenges that can occur in team-based environments while being respectful and constructive. (This could include collaboratively resolve challenges that commonly occur in team-based projects, such as balancing between leading/following, communication challenges, conflicts that arise, ensuring all team members contribute meaningfully, engaging all team members, ensuring all care for the project and each other, getting people on the same page, and figuring out a shared vision/purpose that all can care about). 



  • Assignments & quizzes (individual) 45%
  • Projects (team work) 40%
  • Attendance & Participation 15%


Delivery method

This course will include a weekly live lecture (110 minutes) and a workshop-tutorial (110 minutes) component. The course for summer 2021 will be delivered via remote instruction and will use a “flipped” classroom approach. Students are expected to participate in:

  • synchronous activities during the scheduled course times. This includes a live, interactive lecture with demonstrations, discussions, and some peer group work, as well as a live workshop-tutorial where students will practice and apply the concepts of the lecture in designing several games
  • asynchronous activities (e.g., independent preparation before the lecture, teamwork, peer work etc. to prepare each week and to pace yourself carefully in order to stay on top of the activities/assignments and to get the most from the class).

The learning environment will be active, supporting, and will afford opportunities for students to strengthen knowledge, skills, and feel a part of a community.

you can find more information and examples/videos of prior course projects at the course website

Creating an engaging classroom
In Summer 2021, This course will be offered remotely and synchronously using a videoconferencing system (e.g., Engageli, Zoom, or Discord). Students are expected to join all the live sessions during the scheduled course time, actively engage and contribute. If possible it would be great if you could have your video cameras on during class to facilitate communication, teambuilding, and feedback. Please make sure you have a suitable webcam and microphone and stable internet connection ready and tested before class, and if possible a setting where you will not be disturbed.
You may use a simple plain zoom background if you prefer not to show your actual space (but please no videos, fancy backgrounds, Snapchat or other filters etc. that are known to distract others). 

Respect copyrighted materials
Several items provided in this course and through Canvas or other means have been copied of the Copyright Act as enumerated in SFU Appendix R30.04A - Application of Fair Dealing under Policy R30.04. You may not distribute, e-mail or otherwise communicate these materials to any other person.

Lectures delivered online may be recorded by your instructor. As a result, Simon Fraser University may collect your image, voice, name, personal views and opinions, and course work under the legal authority of the University Act and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy. This information is related directly to and needed by the University to support student learning only (i.e., posting in the Learning Management System for students to review). Note that student responses, student presentations, or elements of student works that are shared during class (but not in breakout rooms) may be included in the recordings and made available to all those in the class. If you have any questions about the collection and use of this information please contact your instructor.

Taking pictures, audio, video, or other recordings of the lectures and workshops or parts thereof are only permitted with prior written approval from the instructor.

Lab switching
Questions about switching labs, wait lists, enrollment, etc. should be addressed to SIAT advising ( Course instructors have no control over the composition of class and lab rosters other than to authorize change requests that are made through SIAT advising.


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.



Tabletop Simulator
As this is an online class in Summer 2021 you won't need to purchase physical prototyping materials for designing your own games. Instead we will use an online board game simulator, the "Tabletop Simulator" Course assignments will be taught and demonstrated with this software, and other software will not be supported by the course. You can also use this software for rapid prototyping and designing your games in your teams, and it also works really well for online and distributed playtesting (and of course gaming just for fun), and sharing your final games online. Thus we strongly recommend that you purchase, download, and install your own copy of it before class starts, see link above of directly from Steam it runs on both Windows and MacOS and currently costs CDN$ 21.99. The software has a lot of excellent online resources and tutorials available at Note that to minimize your extra costs for this class, we are removing the need to purchase physical prototyping and game design materials, and I chose a textbook where our library provides free online access.



Attendance and participation: Active participation will be required in lectures, and participation marks will stem from participation during lecture discussion as well as activities during the labs, especially ones that are not otherwise graded.


Fullerton, T. (2019). Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, Fourth Edition (4th Edition.). Boca Raton, FL: A K Peters/CRC Press. ISBN: 9781315104300
This is our main textbook, so make sure you have access and get your own copy by the first week of the semester, as we'll read through most of the book. You might be able to access it through the SFU library or directly here.

Schell, J. (2019). The Art of Game Design : A Book of Lenses, Third Edition. A K Peters/CRC Press. doi:10.1201/b22101
You might be able to access this through the SFU library or directly here. We might use this book for complementary readings. 

Additional online readings will be provided via Canvas


"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 

"Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals" (2003) by Katie Salen Tekinbas, Eric Zimmerman; 1st Edition; MIT Press ISBN: 9780262240451 – only available as physical books at SFU Library

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site 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.


Teaching at SFU in summer 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods, but we will continue to have in-person experiential activities for a selection of courses.  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 ( or 778-782-3112).