Fall 2023 - IAT 312 D100

Foundations of Game Design (4)

Class Number: 7260

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Mon, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

    Oct 10, 2023: Tue, 12:30–2:20 p.m.

  • 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 


  • Assignments (individual) 30%
  • Projects (team work) 40%
  • Attendance & Participation 15%
  • Quizzes (individual) 15%


Delivery method

This course will include a weekly live lecture (110 minutes) and a workshop-tutorial (110 minutes) component. The course will be delivered via in-person instruction. Students are expected to participate in:

  • synchronous activities during the scheduled course times. This includes a live, interactive lecture with demonstrations, discussions and student group presentation/discussion on assigned topics.  In the workshop-tutorial, students will practice and apply the concepts of the lecture in playing, critiquing or even designing several games

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

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.

Lab switching
Questions about switching labs, waitlists, enrollment, etc. should be addressed to SIAT advising (siat_advising@sfu.ca). 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 are 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. Late submissions will be accepted with penalties progressively increased by the days of lateness.

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.




Reading materials are provided via Canvas beyond the textbooks.


Major 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 –  available as a physical book through the SFU Library
ISBN: 9780262240451


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.