Online Undergraduate-Level Course
Game Design Principles
Authored by Lori Landay
Course Code: OLART-205
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.
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
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
- 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
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
- NPCs and AI
- Other Players and Computer-Mediated Communication
Lesson 11: Interface and Control
- Interface and Design: Affordance Theory
- 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
This course does not have any prerequisites.
- The Art of Game Design, 3rd Edition by Jesse Schell, A K Peters/CRC Press
- Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games, 4th Edition by Tracy Fullerton, A K Peters/CRC Press
The following games should be purchased from the Steam® website:
The following list shows additional games for free that will be used in the course:
- Star Trek Online (from the Steam® website)
- Games from GameSalad
- Games from itch.io
The following games are recommended but not required. Some are not available for both Mac and Windows. There will be links to videos of gameplay included in the course of these terrific games, but if you can and want to play them, they are listed on the Steam® website:
After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact email@example.com for any questions.
General Course Requirements
Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. 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.
- Latest version of Google Chrome
- Zoom meeting software
- Speakers or headphones
- External or internal microphone
- Broadband Internet connection
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 is an editorial video producer at Vox Media's Polygon.com, 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 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.
When taken for credit, Game Design Principles can be applied towards these associated programs:
Associated Certificate Programs
Associated Degree Majors
Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.