Game Design Principles


Authored by Lori Landay


Course Code: OLART-205

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Understanding the principles and process of game design is essential for anyone interested in video game scoring and sound design. This course provides an overview of video game design, exploring the iterative process of coming up with ideas, prototyping, testing, and revising that is at the heart of the video game industry. You will learn to analyze games through such elements as mechanics, systems dynamics, interface, navigable space, and avatars. The course examines the principles of game design from a visual studies perspective that connects video games with wider issues in art and design. Throughout the course, you will learn to create and revise game ideas based on the results of play testing and feedback from the other students in the course.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the process for designing video games
  • Define the concepts of mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics in a game, and how they are connected
  • Analyze games using concepts and spectrums for player experience
  • Recognize how video games are an art form, and how artistic imagery is an essential component in video games
  • Identify several ways of categorizing games, and which ways are most helpful for understanding game audio
  • Identify elements of storytelling and dramatic structure in games
  • Explain the role of physics in terms of rules, mechanics, world building, and how they contribute to dynamics, aesthetics, game feel, and player experience
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Lesson 1: Introduction to Game Design

  • Scope of the Course: Imagine, Create, Play, Analyze
  • What Is Game Design and Why Does It Matter to a Composer/Other Non-Designer/Beginning Designer?
  • The Video Game Design Process & The Video Game Industry
  • Design Document

Lesson 2: What Is a Game? What Is Play?

  • Classic Definitions of Play
  • Meaningful Play
  • What Makes Games Different from Other Media?
  • Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics (MDA) and Technology (the Tetrad)
  • What Is Game Audio and How Does It Connect to Mechanics, Dynamics, and Aesthetics?

Lesson 3: Hands-On Game Design and Genres

  • Intro to GameSalad
  • 2D and 3D Games
  • Genres
  • Styles
  • GameSalad Walkthrough: Space Shooter

Lesson 4: History and Aesthetics of Video Games

  • Origin of Video Games
  • Video Games Develop: Consoles and Devices
  • A Brief History of Video Game Music & Sound
  • The Smithsonian "Art of Video Games" Exhibit
  • Video Games in the MoMA Permanent Collection
  • Art Games

Lesson 5: Game Design and Visual Studies

  • Art Historical and Visual Studies Approaches
  • Video Games and Postmodernism
  • Video Game Criticism
  • Game Feel

Lesson 6: Players, Experience, and Games in Culture

  • Player Perspective and Experience
  • 2D, 3D and Isometric
  • Number of Players and the Player Experience
  • Game Audio and Emotional Experience
  • Big and Small Games

Lesson 7: Elements of Games

  • Formal Elements
  • Dramatic Elements
  • System Dynamics
  • Mechanics

Lesson 8: Story in Games

  • Elements of a Good Story
  • The Hero’s Journey
  • Dramatic Elements of Games
  • Interactive Story Structures

Lesson 9: Space and Place in Video Game Worlds

  • Navigable Space Levels
  • What Do We Mean by Physics in a Video Game?
  • 2D and 3D Audio in Video Game Worlds

Lesson 10: Game Characters

  • Game Characters
  • Avatars
  • NPCs and AI
  • Other Players and Computer-Mediated Communication

Lesson 11: Interface and Control

  • Interface and Design: Affordance Theory
  • Interface
  • Indirect Control
  • Good GUI (Graphical User Interface)

Lesson 12: The (Near and Distant) Future of Gaming

  • Alternate Controllers: Kinect and Leap Motion
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • Multiplayer Communities


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
This course does not have any prerequisites.


Media and Subscriptions

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Lori Landay


Lori Landay is a professor of cultural studies at Berklee College of Music and an interdisciplinary scholar and new media artist exploring the making of visual meaning in 20th- and 21st-century culture. She is the author of two books, I Love Lucy and Madcaps, Screwballs, and Con Women: The Female Trickster in American Culture, in addition to articles on topics such as virtual worlds, digital narrative, silent film, and television culture. Her creative work includes animation, graphic design, creative documentary, machinima, interactive virtual art installations, and music video. Landay has been awarded the Dean's Award for Excellence in the Professional Education Division at Berklee College of Music, a Newbury Comics Faculty Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Humanities Enduring Questions Grant. She has consulted on and appeared in Finding Lucy, an American Masters documentary airing nationally on PBS and internationally, in addition to serving as the Information Technology Officer for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies from 2002-05. Landay holds a bachelor's degree from Colby College, which included a year abroad at the University of York in England, master's degrees in American Studies and English from Boston College and Indiana University, respectively, and a doctoral degree in English and American Studies from Indiana University.

Danielle Riendeau


Danielle Riendeau is an editorial video producer at Vox Media's, a game development instructor and an indie game designer. She holds an MA in Visual Media Art from Emerson College and has taught at Northeastern University since 2010, primarily game design and interactive storytelling courses.

Spencer Bambrick


Spencer Bambrick is a composer, educator, author, and electronic artist. His creative practice is rooted in video games, where interactivity plays a primary role. His career in the video game industry spans over a decade, shipping titles on Sony PlayStation 5, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, as well as mobile games with millions of downloads internationally. The intersection of technology, interactivity, and social impact are major themes that Spencer explores in his work.  


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