An alternative approach to video game design combining lectures with hands-on practices. The focus of the course will be on games within the artistic context and on cutting-edge experimentations at the margin of the entertainment industry. Topics covered in the class will include games as means of communication and expression, gender issues in gaming, role of electronic entertainment in the military-industrial-complex, non-linear storytelling and location based/pervasive games. Previous programming experience is appreciated but not required: students will be introduced to various basic programming environments and will be able to develop their projects in non-digital forms.
Term: Fall 2009
Course number: 60424
Classroom: CFA 317
Time: 06:30PM - 09:20PM
Professor: Paolo Pedercini
Office: School of art 411 - 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Email address: paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Upon completion of the course students will be able to:

* Create original and playable games or game prototypes having aesthetic, expressive or political values.

* Critically analyze the mechanics of games including its ideological and cultural underpinnings.

* Discuss their interactive works in the context of new media art and/or in relation with mainstream cultural production.


* Attendance: three or more unexcused absences result in the drop of a letter grade.

* Absences: you are responsible for what happens in class whether you’re here or not. Organize with your classmates to get class information and material that you have missed.

* Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.

* Net addiction: you can exist for few hours without tweettering, facebooking, chatting, texting or emailing. Any device for mediated communication is banned during theory classes, crits and discussions. A 1% grade reduction will result from being found using them.
During the lab hours you will be allowed to network as long as your behaviour is not disruptive.

* Assignments: late assignments are only accepted with permission of instructor. You lose 10% of your points per day late up to a max of 7 days late.

Tardiness: 1st tardy = free.
Less than 10 minutes late = 1% grade reduction.
Over 20 minutes late = absence (unless justified).


The technical part of this course will be focused on Actionscript (Flash) for game design. The main concern is to provide everybody basic skills of digital game development. If you are already working with a more advanced language (C++, Java, Python etc...) you are more than welcome to stick to it.

* Code Sabotage
Create a digital artwork by modifying the code of the breakout clone. It has not to be necessarily playable or winnable.

* Character design, character animation, tamagotchi clone
A three step assignment about graphic, style and interface design.

* Color game, Reincarnation game
Two fast technical exercises to familiarize with the elements of game design. Starting from a thematic constraint (color or animal) and a short development timeframe (one week), you'll produce short-session minigames that will be assembled into two collective games.

* Final Project
Develop a playable game choosing from the following options - or mixing them:
1. A game addressing a social issue
2. A game that can be presented as "art"
3. An educational game that can run on an 8bit platform
4. A game that can be defined as "experimental": employing an innovative gameplay or experimental interfaces.

The final project can also be a non digital artifact as an alternate reality/urban game or tabletop or even a non-game artifact as performance or machinima as long as it related with the topics outlined during the course.


10% Color game
10% Tamagotchi
Character design and animation
20% Readings, class participation and final project proposals
50% Final project

Bonus: if you want to make up for a bad grade you can write a 2 pages (or more) reaction paper of one of the suggested readings. This extra effort will positively affect the final grade.

Grading sucks but someone has to do the dirty job. Assignments and final project are graded according to these criteria:

E. The student failed to deliver the assignment.
D. The game/prototype doesn't work, has major bugs or is incomplete to a point that is impossible to get a clear idea of the user experience.
C. The game/prototype is functional and complete in all of its parts. Both the technical execution and the concept are sufficient but not outstanding.
B. Good concept and excellent technical execution. Or, vice versa, excellent idea and good technical execution.
A. Outstanding concept and implementation. Seriously, this is reserved to the top 10%.

This is the list of the short readings you might be asked to discuss online or in class during the course.

K. Salen, E. Zimmerman - Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals - pp. 31 - 69
A. Galloway - Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture - chapter 3: Counter Gaming p.107
C. Brummer, D. Bennet, M. Hone - Girl Games and Technological Desire.
I. Bogost - Playing Politics: Videogames for politics, activism and advocacy.
T. Friedman - Making Sense of Software: Computer Games and Interactive Textuality
G. Frasca - Simulation vs. Narrative: Introduction to Ludology
J. McGonigal - 'This Is Not a Game': Immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play

* These are the suggested readings you might want to consider in order to get an extra grade. They are all quite short and/or easy to read books you can find on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore.

J.C. Herz - Joystick Nation (a witty history of video games)
A. Galloway - Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (game theory and art)
E. Halter - From Sun Tzu to Xbox (war and videogames)
M. Wark - Game Theory (games and philosophy)
Jan 11 M

Course overview and basic concepts
Game, Fun, Interaction and other impossible definitions.
Reading: Salen, Katie, and Eric Zimmerman. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals - pp. 31 – 69

Jan 13 W

Game Luddites
Modding and hacking, new retro aesthetics.
Games: Art mods overview
Assignment: Code Sabotage
Reading: A. Galloway - Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture - chapter 3: Counter Gaming p.107

Jan 18 M

Martin Luther King day
No classes

Jan 20 W

Cute overload!
Character design. Drawing in flash.
Screening: Pictoplasma: characters in motion, pixel art, various game-inspired animations
Assignment: Character design vector

Jan 25 M

Making things move
Character-driven games. Animating in flash, frame by frame, Tweens, IK, sounds.
Games: Alien hominid, Katamari Damacy, Psychonauts, Noby noby boy, LocoRoco.
Assignment: Character animation

Jan 27 W

Pointing and clicking
As3, Mouse interaction, interface design, variables, textfields
Games: Windosill, Machinarium, Samorost, Ludomancy games
Assignment: Make your own tamagotchi

Feb 1 M

Joystick envy
Sex and women in mainstream games, adult games, feminist perspectives.
Tamagochi work day.
Assignment: Think pink / think punk: write a proposal for a gender-inclusive game or a game dealing with gender issues.

Feb 3 W

Making Things happen I
As3, Movieclips, Timers, dynamic behaviors.

Feb 8 M

SNOWPOCALYPSE - classes cancelled

Feb 10 W

SNOWPOCALYPSE - classes cancelled

Feb 15 M

Making Things happen II
More As3, Mouse controls.

Feb 17 W

Making Things happen III
More As3. Color game discussion.

Feb 22 M

Indie revolution
The independent game movement, social & industrial context. Experimental games and latest trends. Setting goals, calibrating the difficulty level.
Reading: A Casual Revolution intro, Tales of Tales
Games: FlOw, Flower,World of Goo, Crayon physics. Blueberry garden, Flywrench, Envirobear, Coil, darwin hill.

Feb 24 W

Lost in space
Flixel overview (?).
Games: Mirror stage, Braid, Echochrome, Mondo chemicals, Virtual silence, Psychosomnium, Time fcuk, Small worlds, N+, VVVVVVV. Everyday shooter, Warning Forever, Captain forever, fracfight.
Assignment: Experimental game proposal

Mar 1 M

Art Games
Games: Passage, Gravitation, Pazzon, Fatale, The Graveyard, 4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness, Lose/Lose, This is infinity...
Assignment: make a proposal for game that can be presented as art.

Mar 3 W

Games with an agenda I
Grow-a-game exercise.
Games: Hidden Agenda, Vigilance 1.0, The Antiwargame, Civilization IV, Super Kid Fighter, September 12th, Disaffected, Airport security, Harpooned, Raid Gaza, Food Force, Darfur is dying, Climate challenge, Ayiti: The Cost of Life, The redistricting game.
Reading: Playing Politics: Videogames for politics, activism and advocacy by Ian Bogost
Assignment: proposal for game dealing with a social issue

Mar 8 M
Spring Break
Mar 10 W
Spring Break
Mar 15 M

Final Project discussion

Mar 17 W

Final project definition


Final project game design document

Mar 22 M

Documentary games?
Controversies, violence and taboo topics. The playpower project (TBD).
Screening: Playing columbine (excerpt)
Games: Super columbine massacre, Waco resurrection, JFK reloaded


Final project prototype

Mar 24 W

War games
Brief history of the incestuous relation between entertainment and military industrial complex. The israeli-palestinian conflict in videogames.
Screening: Gamer Revolution, various clips
Games: AA, Kuma war, Global conflicts palestine, Under siege, Peacemaker

Mar 29 M

Prototypes critique.

Mar 31 W

Radical interfaces
Games in the contemporary art practice, installation games.

Apr 5 M

Alternative interfaces overview
Tools overview. Arduino-flash inputs, ipac board, Wiimote, iphone. Camera detection, Augmented Reality.

Apr 7 W

On telling stories
Narrative based games, interactive fiction.
Games: Bad day on the midway, Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, Facade, Night of the Cephalopods!, Snow, I Fell in Love With the Majesty of Colors, Today I die.
Reading: G. Frasca - Simulation vs. Narrative: Introduction to Ludology

Apr 12 M

Online games, multiplayer games and virtual world design ethics.
Screening: Second skin
Games: Endless Forest, Defcon, Hell is other people, Between, Cowboyana, Life vs life, Mindfuck, Chicanery.

Apr 14 W

Machinima screening and game performances.

Apr 19 M

TBD: Tabletop games day or ARGs

Apr 21 W

Beta collective playtesting, everybody plays with everything

Apr 26 M

Fine tuning

Apr 28 W

Exhibit preparation

These are the most of the games/works that will be presented during the course. Some of them will be assigned as homeplay (see the assignments section).
Important: student will NOT be required to purchase any of these titles. Most of them are available for free or can be played in a limited demo version.

Art mods / hack
Ars doom by Orhan Kipcak (1995)
Museum Meltdown by Tobias Bernstrup & Palle Tornsson (1996)
SimCopter hack by Jacques Servin (1996)
retroYou R/C by retroYou (2000)
nostalG by retroYou (1999)
SOD by Jodi (1999)
Quilted Thought Organ ('QTHOTH') by Julian Oliver (1999)
Untitled Game by Jodi (2001)
Adam Killer by Brody Condon (1999)
QQQ by nullpointer Tom Betts (2002)
Super Mario Clouds by Cory Archangel (2002)
q3apd by Julian Oliver (2002)
911 survivor by Jeff Cole (2003)
F1 Racer Mod by Cory Archangel (2004)
Karma Physics < Elvis by Brody Condon (2004)

New retro / demakes
ROM CHECK FAIL by farbs (2008)
Syobon Action (cat mario) by z-gundam-tanosii (199?)
Spheres of Chaos by Iain McLeod (1992)
Plasma Pong by Steve Taylor (2007)
Psychosomnium by Cactus (2007)
1d Tetris by Ljudmila (2002)
Progress quest by Eric Fredricksen (2002)
Tuper tario bros by Swing Swing Submarine (2009)
Retrosabotage by anonymous (2008 - 2009)
Upgrade complete (2008)
ASCII portal by Joe Larson (2009)

Game-based art / art themed games
Isometric screenshot by John Haddock (2000)
Various photos by Rosemarie Fiore (2001-2002)
The great game by John Klima (2002)
How to win "super mario bros" by Radical Software Group (2004)
Tokyo arcade warriors - Shibuya by Axel Stockburger (2005)
Distellamap by Ben Fry (2005)
School of Perpetual Training by Stephanie Rothenberg (2007)
Shot by Robert William Overweg (2007)

Velvet Strike by Anne-Marie Schleiner (2002)
Suicide Solution by Brody Condon (2004)
You're dead Yan Duyvendak (2005)
Dead in iraq by Joseph Delappe (2006)
Domestic tension by Wafaa Bilal (2007)
Inverse forensics by John Paul Bichard (2007)

Exit by Magnus Wallin (1997)
Limbo by Magnus Wallin (1999)
Super Mario Sleeping by Miltos Manetas (1997)
Super Mario Movie by Cory Archangel & Paper Rad (2005)

Experimental interfaces
Pongmechanik by Niklas Roy (1998)
PainStation by //////////fur//// (2001)
Furminator by //////////fur//// (2004)
Tekken torture tournament by Eddo Stern (2001)
The Colour Game by Joe McKay (2003)
Sweetpads by France Cadet (2004)
Dance Dance Immolation by Interpretive Arson (2005)
Giant Joystick by Flanagan (2006)
Intimate controllers by JennyLC Chowdhury (2007)
DarkGame by Eddo Stern (2007)
Massage me by Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson (2007)
n0tb0t by Walter Langelaar (2007)
LevelHead by Julian Oliver (2008)
What It Is Without the Hand That Wields It by Riley Harmon (2008)
Prepared PlayStation (RSG-THUG2) by Radical Software Group (2005)

Hidden Agenda by Jim Gasperini (1988)
Vigilance 1.0 by Martin Le Chevallier (2000)
The Antiwargame by Josh On/Futurefarmers (2001)
Civilization IV by Eastwood Real Time Strategy Group (2002)
Super Kid Fighter by Carbon Defence League and Critical Art Ensemble (2002)
Metapet by Natalie Bookin (2002)
Escape From Woomera by VVAA (2003)
September 12th by Newsgames (2003)
Disaffected by Persuasive games (2006)
Airport insecurity by Persuasive games (2006)
Harpooned by Conor O’Kane (2008)
Raid Gaza by Raitendo (2008)
Under Siege by Radwan Kasmiya (2004)
Various Molleindustria works (2003-now)

Serious / documentary / advocacy games
Food Force by the United Nations World Food Programme (2005)
Darfur is dying by Mtv & Reebok (2006)
PeaceMaker by ImpactGames (2007)
Climate challenge by Red redemption (2007)
Ayiti: The Cost of Life by GameLab (2007)
Global Conflicts: Palestine by Serious Games Interactive (2007)
Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by Danny Ledonne (2005)
Waco Resurrection by C-Level (2003)
JFK reloaded by Traffic software (2004)
The redistricting game by USC Game Innovation Lab (2007)

Major indie games
World of Goo by 2DBoy (2008)
Crayon Physics Deluxe by kloonigames (2009)
Defcon by Introversion software (2007)
Braid by Jonathan Blow (2008)
Everyday Shooter by Jonathan Mak (2007)
FlOw by ThatGameCompany (2006-2007)
FlOwer by ThatGameCompany (2009)
ClOud by ThatGameCompany (2005)
Captain Forever by Farbs (2009)
Fez by Polytron (2010?)

Short indie / experiments
Darwin hill by Kyle Gabler (2006)
Enviro-Bear 2000: Operation: Hibernation by Justin Smith aka Crackerblocks (2009)
Virtual Silence by Virtanen (2008)
Warning Forever by Hikware (2005)
Wobble Bob by Lukasz Lesicki (2008)
Fracfight by Cactus (2007)
Mondo Medicals by Cactus (2007)
Lost in the Static by Silver Spaceship Software (2007)
Din by Team Bill (2009)
Life vs life by Justin Bakse (2004)
Mindfuck by Autie Pixelante (2009)
Chicanery by Autie Pixelante (2009)

Passage by Jason Roher (2007)
Flywrench by messhoff (2007)
Coil by Edmund McMillen (2008)
Aether by Edmund McMillen (2008)
Gravitation - Jason Roher (2008)
Pazzon by Jesse Venbrux (2008)
The Graveyard by Tale of tales (2008)
Fatale by Tale of tales (2009)
The Endless forest by Tale of Tales (2008)
This is infinity by Cactus (2009)
4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness by kloonigames (2009)
I Fell in Love With the Majesty of Colors by Ludus Novus (2008)
Trials by Ludomancy (2008)
Cowboyana by messhof (2008)
Mirror stage by increpare (2009)
Leaf by grapenfrukt (2009)
Lose / lose by Zach Gage (2009)

Narrative / poetry / story based
Bad day on the midway by The Residents (1995)
Galatea by Emily Short (2000)
Soviet Unterzoegersdorf by Monochrom (2005)
Facade by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern (2005)
Game, game, game and again game by Jason Nelson (2007)
Night of the Cephalopods! by spookysquid (2008)
Snow by Benjamin Rivers (2008)
Today I Die by Ludomancy (2008)
Samorost by Amanitadesign (2005)
Machinarium by Amanitadesign (2009)
Storyteller by Ludomancy (2008)
Windosill by Patrick Smith (2009)
The Path by Tale of tales (2009)
MS paint adventures by Andrew Hussie
I wish I were the Moon by Ludomancy (2008)

Arg / Urban / Pervasive
Objects of desire by Ludic society (2008)
World without oil by Ken Eklund (2007)
I love bees by 42 Entertainment (2004)
Pacmanhattan by PacManhattan team (2004)
B.U.G. by Area/Code (2003)
Cruel 2 B Kind by Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost (2006)
Year Zero by 42 Entertainment (2007)

AAA titles games
Rez, Katamary Damacy, Spore, America's Army, the Sims, Sim City...