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California Institute of the Arts

Introduction to Game Design

California Institute of the Arts via Coursera


Welcome! This course is an introduction to the primary concepts of gaming, and an exploration of how these basic concepts affect the way gamers interact with our games. In this course you will understand what defines a “game” and the mechanics and rules behind different types of games. Through four linked assignments you'll learn ways to create and describe a game concept, and specifically what makes a compelling game. This course focuses on the conceptual underpinnings of games, and all assignments can be completed with a pencil and paper – no previous programming knowledge is required.


  • Week 1: The Simplest Games
    • This week we start at the beginning: what are the principles of very simple games, like Hangman and tic-tac-toe? How do these games work? Why do people play them? What are the elements that define games and the gaming experience? And finally, what do games have in common with each other, and what sets them apart? In addition to covering the basics and ground rules for this course, we'll conclude this week with a very simple, low-tech assignment: create a game on a single sheet of paper.
  • Week 2: Rules and Discovery
    • How does a player learn the mechanics of your game? How do they learn anything about your game? This week we will talk about the rules that define gameplay, and how those rules are communicated to your players. We also discuss the way rules are bent and broken by players.
  • Week 3: Tell a Story
    • How does narrative drive a player to start playing your game? Or to finish it? This week we'll look at some of the ways you can make your game more compelling with story, and discuss some of the ways story can drive gameplay forward, or enable a player to make their own way through it.
  • Week 4: The Friend and the Enemy
    • What purpose does an enemy serve in a game? What effect does a second player have on two-player games? Can a game work without an adversary or a final goal? We'll address all of those questions in this last week of the class, and work towards finalizing your board game project with characters.

Taught by

Fran Krause


4.4 rating, based on 14 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 2717 ratings

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  • I finished the course within some hours only. Honestly, I was stuck at writing the 'perfect' game, but with this course' help, I was able to brainstorm a paper-based board game idea. Yes, it can be made in computer as well. I would recommend this for beginners starting out there, and stuck with what to write.
  • Profile image for Rates
    Great introduction to game design. I really enjoyed Fran's style - at the time I thought some of the content was a bit sparse, but on reflection I think "precise" is a better evaluation. I still refer back to my notes from this class - he really does a good job at highlighting fundamental concepts.
  • Anonymous
    Very accessible and entertaining course that focuses on what makes a good game. It challenges you to keep reviewing your initial ideas and use peer feedback to improve the design.
  • Khadar Abdi Hassan
    I have more interesting to this course please enable us to talk this course, I make. more research to find like this courses.
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