The Team

Malcolm Ryan       86 kudos

Hello everyone, I'm a teacher for this course and I can't wait to learn with all of you.

The Community

609 Students           175 Comments

More Information

"One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games and it cannot be done by men out of touch with their instinctive selves." -- Carl Jung,

Jung and the Story of Our Time, Laurens van der Post


How do you invent, design and build a game that is really original and fun? The aim of this subject is to explore this question, through lectures, workshops, group projects and (of course) playing games. We will consider such issues as:

  1. What is a game? What are the formal elements that all games have in common?
  2. What is fun? Are there different kinds of fun? How do you design and tune the rules of a game to make it fun? What role does story or art have in a fun game?
  3. How do I create a fun game? Processes for brainstorming, prototyping and playtesting games, which keep the player in mind.

You will also have opportunity to put these ideas into practice in a series of small group projects, in which you will design, prototype and playtest your own computer games.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course, you should:

  1. understand the definition of a game as a combination of play and pretend, within a structure of rules and goals,
  2. be able to distinguish the different kinds of "fun" that games can provide,
  3. be able to describe what makes computer games different from more traditional kinds of games,
  4. be able to analyse and critique games in terms of both their core mechanics, gameplay dynamics and aesthetic components,
  5. be able to apply the experience-based design methodology
  6. be able to use the player-centric design process to invent new games for a specific target audience,
  7. know how to document your game designs to best communicate your ideas,
  8. appreciate the broader ramifications of gaming within society.


This subject has three main 'intake' programs: Comp Sci/Eng, Digital Media and Media & Coommunications, but also welcomes any students who think they have something to contribute to a group designing and developing a game.

CSE students need to have completed COMP1927. Other students need to be in Stage 2 of their program.

Enrolments are managed to try to get a reasonable balance of students from different programs. This may mean that myUNSW will not allow you to enrol online, even if the subject is not yet marked as full. If this happens, contact Malcolm to see whether you can be allowed in.

Course Web Pages


Lecturer in Charge:
Malcolm Ryan
ph: 9385-6921


Classes will be run as discussion groups, interspersed with game activities and analysis. The topics covered by week are listed below (tentative, subject to change):

  1. Introduction. What is a game? What is fun? Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics.
  2. Games as systems, Procedural rhetoric
  3. Player-centric design: Brainstorming and Prototyping
  4. Challenge and Drama
  5. Sensation: Art, Sound and Game Feel
  6. Dynamics: Resource economies
  7. Fellowship: Co-operation, competition and community
  8. Fantasy: Storytelling through play
  9. Self-expression: Construction, creation, Self-defining play
  10. Player-centric design: Playtesting
  11. Serious Games. The social aspects of gaming.
  12. Working in Industry.

Reading Materials

There is no set textbook for this course. Below is a list of recommended reading.

Recommended reading:


The class timetable is available online at

Note that tutorials start in Week 2.

How we use these times will vary from week to week. Classes will be a mix of lectures, tutorials, lab time, and game playing.


There will be five assessment tasks: a journal, three design projects of varying sizes and a take home exam. The details below are tentative and may be subject to change.

Design assignments

There will be three design assignments, testing different aspects of game design.

  Topic Group? Mark Due date
Assignment 1 Sensation, Challenge, Drama Pairs 25% end of week 5
Assignment 2 Fellowship, Interesting Choices, Resource Economics 3-4 25% end of week 8
Assignment 3 Self Expression, Playtesting 3-4 30% end of week 12

Each assignment will be marked based on game design, not on the code, the art, or other features except in so far as they contribute to the fun of the gameplay. The games produced will be distributed to other class members and will be invited to play them and discuss them in class.

Essay / Serious Game

There will be a take-home exam about the social implications of gaming. There are two options for this task. You can either write an essay on one of a list of topics about gaming, or you can design and outline the implementation of a 'serious game' which makes a point about a social issue of your choice. Due in Week 15.

This task is worth 20% of your final mark.


Assessment tasks will be graded on the following scale:

Grade Meaning
HD Evaluation: Ability to critically reflect on the ideas taught.
DN Synthesis: Ability to apply the taught concepts to design.
CR Analysis: Ability to apply the taught concepts to the analysis of a problem.
PS Comprehension: Ability to understand and explain the basic ideas taught.
FL Failure to adequately understand or apply the fundamental ideas of the course.


Plagiarism (taking the ideas or words of others and passing them off as your own) will not be tolerated. See the UNSW Statement on Plagiarism at:

Teaching Rationale and Strategies

The aim of this course is to give you a vocabulary and methods for understanding, analysing, designing and critiquing games. A variety of teaching approaches are used:

  • Lectures provide the core concepts needed to begin understanding games.
  • Games are played and analysed to illustrate these concepts first-hand and to teach reflective practice.
  • Design exercises are given to apply the learnt concepts to the construction of new games.
  • Peer assessment is used to encourage critical evaluation.
  • Journalling is used to encourage personal reflection on the learning process.

Course Feedback and Improvement

Student feedback on this course will be obtained via electronic survey at the end of session and will be used to make continual improvements to the course. Students are also encouraged to provide informal feedback during the session and to let the lecturer in charge know of any problems as soon as they arise. Suggestions will be listened to very openly, positively, constructively and thankfully, and every reasonable effort will be made to address them.

The course has expanded again this year in response to requests from students and has moved to day-time lectures and tutorials. 

Related Courses

Game Design Workshop

Status: On now

Duration: 14 Weeks

Students: 609