Notes on How to Teach 5 Semesters of Game Design in 1 Class

My notes from Jason Wiser’s talk on how he teaches a class that covers 5 semesters worth of game design in a single semester.

Christian Mills


December 29, 2021

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Here are some notes I took while watching Jason Wiser’s talk how he successfully teaches class that covers 5 semesters of game design in a single semester.

Course website

Game Design - Tufts

How to Make This Course Work

  • Teaching Assistants offering coding labs
  • Flexible Classroom
  • All lessons built on Team Production:
    • Motivating, inspiring, and no one feels like the burden is all on them (as long as the team are well supported).
  • Robust Course Website
    • A website with all schedules, materials and lecture notes and tutorials covered in class, and further opportunities for further learning
    • Allows students to see the full scope of the course
  • Stacking Theory
    • The class does not cover content in a purely linear fashion
    • Students are taught one critical concept a week and exposed to other concepts before they are needed.
      • Allows them to get curious
    • Class meets once a week for three hours
      • Discuss and practice the one critical topic for that week’s homework
      • Introduce two or three other ideas will be important later
        • Example: A month before anyone will need to make anything in 3D for homework, they start learning basic modelling and texture
  • Summary
    • Class meets 1/week, 3hours/class divided into 3-5 lesson-units
    • Weeks 1-6: Students work in 2-week teams to make tabletop games, then switch. Lessons in Design, Teamwork, Engine, and Art tools.
    • Week 7: Students Pitch Final Game Concepts, and form Final Teams
    • Weeks 8-14: Students Develop Final Games. Lessons in Pipeline Dev, Project Management, Level Design, UI, Audio, Tutorials, Marketing
    • Week 15: Final Presentations Party

Email Two Weeks Before the Semester

  1. Welcome to the course
  2. What games do you love?
  3. What games do you want to make?
  4. Download Unity and Maya
  5. Get familiar with tabletop games

Game Design Principles and Prompts

  1. Mechanics vs Story
    1. focus on mechanics
    2. form team and design a table top game inspired by weird boards and toys
  2. Playtesting and Radical Revision
    1. find the fun parts of the game
    2. discuss radical revision to refocus around that fun
  3. Disruption of Existing Games
    1. form a second two-week team
    2. disrupt an existing game into something new
    3. Unity 3D 1 hour
  4. Alternate Reality Games to solve misery
    1. Read Reality is Broken
    2. Brainstorm and present an alternate reality game to solve a misery
    3. Unity 2D 1 hour
    4. Homework: Unity Roll-a-ball
  5. Workplace Routine Games
    1. Form third team to make a final tabletop project based on the routines of a workplace
    2. Intro Maya to Unity pipeline 1 hour
    1. Intro VR, Unity Builds
    2. Make the workplace game digital (zero expectation of success)
  6. Final Games Pitch
    1. Brainstorming and silent reflection
    2. Everyone chooses a colored sticky-note for their production role, adds their name
    3. 45 seconds to pitch idea
    4. Everyone votes on the game they want to make
    5. Teacher rebalances roles
  7. Last 8 Weeks: Final Digital Games
    • 2 weeks of predevelopment
      • paper prototypes, design docs, tools research, and pipeline development
    • 3 weeks to get a full functioning prototype
    • 3 weeks to get a revised prototype built-out to multiple levels and more polished art and audio
    • Photoshop for 2D assets
    • Animation and VFX in Unity
    • Intro to Audio Design
    • Intro to UI design
    • 3 weeks on Level Design
    • 2 weeks on Marketing
    • Weekly in-and-out-of-class playtesting

Giving Feedback

  • Clarity: Do players know what to do?
    • A game that is intentionally obscure is taken and discussed on its intentions and merits
  • Innovation: What new gameplay to stimulate interest?
  • Immersion: Is the “story” compelling (implied in setting, art, music)?
  • Flow: Does the player feel constantly productive?
    • A game that is designed to inhibit flow is taken and discussed on its intentions and merits
  • Fiero: Are there multiple big victory moments for players?
  • Grade is as much on collaboration, experimentation, risk taking, and design, as it is about the games being successful as games


  • Weekly playtesting and responses to rubric.
    • verbal and typed feedback
  • Posting weekly task divisions
    • show an equal share of production per member
  • Posting weekly personal progress report
    • one paragraph with screenshots
    • What they agreed to take on that week
    • What they actually completed
    • Who helped them
    • Who they helped
    • Links to tutorials they used
  • Peer evaluation form 3 times in the semester
    • Discuss teammate contributions to team productivity and moral
    • Divide a pool of point unevenly between their teammates
    • Only the last one, handed in on the last day of class, impacts their teammates’ grades (20%)

Industry Engagement

  • Off-campus Networking Event attendance and write-up
  • Weekly videos by game industry designers
    • Gets other voices into the room besides the teacher

Other Notes:

  • Try not to talk for more than 10 minutes before having the students do something

  • Talk in the beginning of the semester about what each student is in the class for