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a lecture on board game design

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

I recently had the opportunity to give a lecture at the university where I work about board games and board game design.  I basically just gave an overview of the modern gaming scene (with an emphasis on family strategy games) and talked for about twenty minutes about how one goes about designing a board game.  It was fairly well received, I think.  There were thirteen students in attendance.

After I introduced myself I asked how many people had played Settlers:  four.  Carcassonne:  one.  Ticket to Ride:  one.  Pandemic:  zero (though one person had heard of it).  Magic:  one.  Dungeons and Dragons:  one.  Risk:  three or four.  Monopoly:  thirteen.  Blokus:  two, followed by a discussion about the correct pronunciation of the name.  Dominion:  zero.  Puerto Rico:  zero.  Agricola:  zero.  Power Grid:  zero.

I wasn’t surprised, really — mainly I wanted to know roughly who my audience was before starting in.  One of them asked about Scrabble and Bananagrams and where those games fit in to all this, and I said Scrabble was very highly regarded but not quite the same kind of game.  Two people had played Bananagrams.

The students were very polite and fairly engaged.  They wanted to know where they could learn more about games like this, and I told them to check out BoardGameGeek.  They wanted to know where they could buy games like this, and I told them to check out Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or one of several different online vendors.

I described the top three gateway games in some depth, giving an overview of gameplay in Settlers, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride.  I had unfortunately only brought one game with me (Settlers), so the talk was definitely lacking in the visual aid department.  I should’ve brought TtR so I could show off its board.

They had quite a few questions about board game design, and they were interested to hear about some of the games I’ve come up with.

There were two neat / funny moments.  The first came at the beginning when I asked why they had chosen to theme their honors orientation class around boardgames.  Their reply?  “It was either that or duct tape.”  Fair enough.

The second came at the end when I told them I was thinking of teaching an honors seminar on board game design.  I asked if any of them might be interested in such a class, and about half of them said they thought it sounded fun.  One student appeared to wake up at that point just so he could express his enthusiasm for the idea.

He kind of reminded me of myself when I was younger — I would’ve given anything to take a class on game design when I was in college.

That, and the fact that I was always half asleep.  :-)

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  1. November 17, 2011 at 5:23 am

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