Education Blog

Behind the Scenes: Storyville Game Design

By JBFC Senior Faculty Member, Aaron Mace 12.15.17

Once a year, Storyville students get the chance to create their very own board game. The 1st and 2nd graders in this class do practically all the work involved (the only thing I do is to bring all their artwork together in the finished product) from agreeing on a concept, creating a story, designing the rules, play-testing and revising the rules, and creating all the artwork that is used in the game.

The trickiest part is to have everyone begin from a place that they all agree on. This is a crucial determiner in whether the rules will support each other to create a coherent experience, or if they will compete with each other creating a disjointed experience. At the Media Arts Lab, story is the crucial component of all our projects and this is where we start. Once we have a story, we can use this as a litmus test to see if the rules we are generating support the themes and ideas found in the story.

Students then get a chance to test out the rules they’ve generated on a rough draft of the board map. The goal of this is to see how fun, how difficult, and how often each rule comes into play. Afterwards we talk about how each rule needs to shift to create the kind of game we want to make.

Finally students are tasked with creating imagery that brings their ideas to life. They are able to find images from the web or create their own. The only rule about taking images from the web is that they have to manipulate them in some way, this means they can bring together parts from various images or also draw on them to change them.

Once we have a final version it becomes a team effort behind the scenes. I bring all their individual artwork together in one document to create the digital board. Our art department prints out the background on foam board to create a tangible board.

I work with our technology department to use our 3D printer to make pieces, dice, spinners, or any other objects the game needs.

Each student leaves the family presentation with his or her own copy of the game. This project supports students in their understanding of how to build a world that is designed to provide a specific experience.

We are very explicit that the rules that the students create are what control the experience players will have. Students are challenged to create rules that are challenging yet ultimately fun. It is definitely one of the best projects of the year!

Want to join in on the fun next semester? Registration for our winter and spring 2018 Courses @ the Lab is now live! Visit our course page for full course details and to register.