Learning Legion

Game Design Concepts


This course was adapted from Game Design Concepts. Authorship and more information below.

Course Description

This course provides students with a theoretical and conceptual understanding of the field of game design, along with practical exposure to the process of creating a game. Topics covered include iteration, rapid prototyping, mechanics, dynamics, flow theory, the nature of fun, game balance, and user interface design. Primary focus is on non-digital games.

Learning Outcomes

The concepts in this course reflect a (relatively small) body of work that is accepted in the game industry. Students who complete this course successfully will be able to :

  • Describe theoretical foundation of game design (definitions, games elements, design methods, assessment methods).
  • Apply and evaluate various approaches to game design using assessment techniques (i.e., critical analysis, prototyping, playtesting, balancing).

Course Objectives

The course is broken into 12 lessons (which are referred to as ‘levels’) and 1 game design project (referred to as the ‘main quest’). They meet the following course objectives:

  • Define the common vocabulary in game design (game, game design, game designer, etc.)
  • List the atomic elements of games
  • Explain the process of game design and design frameworks
  • Apply the process of game design and design frameworks
  • Describe the importance of iteration and prototyping
  • Explain the importance of MDA (mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics) as a game design framework
  • Identify the function of flow theory and decision-making in game design
  • Explain the function of ‘fun’ in games
  • Recognize the role of art in games
  • Describe the value of story-telling in game design
  • Evaluate game designs in terms of game balance
  • Analyze game designs in terms of user interface design
  • Synthesize various game design concepts into a game design project

Target Audience

Anyone with an interest in game design. This includes:

  • Students who are interested in game design
  • Faculty who teach courses in game design and would like to compare course material
  • Game developers with an interest in design or a desire to see an example of what students are being taught these days
  • Relatives of game designers who are curious about what these people do all day (wink)

Course Materials

  • Challenges for Game Designers, by Brathwaite & Schreiber. [Required, estimated cost $16.50]
    This book covers a lot of basic information on both practical and theoretical game design. It will be referenced heavily throughout the course.
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by McCloud. [Recommended, estimated cost $12.50]
    While this book refers to comics, many of the lessons within it can be applied to game design and other forms of art. It also is written in a comic book format (which makes it fun to read).
  • A Theory of Fun for Game Design, by Koster. [Recommended, estimated cost $15.50]
    This book shows the similarities between game design and education. It also incorporated good discussions regarding the concept of Flow.

Game Design Instructor / Game Critic

Sebastian Sohn is a “well played” game player, critic, and game design instructor. He is especially fascinated by the use of games as an experiential teaching aid and is constantly on the lookout for tabletop games, video games, and role-playing games that teach life skills. He is a Contributing Editor for Play This Thing, an indie video game site, promoting the goodness of indie video games. On the tabletop side, he was a judge for a game design contest by Rio Grande, a prominent European board game publisher, as well as ran a board workshop atIndiecade, an indie game festival. Currently, he is serving as a judge for the Independent Game Festival design contest, the biggest indie video game festival and is wrapping up an experiment of using branching path books as a gamified creative writing course.  You can level-up your game literacy by reading his game reviews of tabletop and indie video games at ‘Play This Thing! (Links to an external site.).’

Course Author / Game Designer

Ian Schreiber has been in the game industry as a programmer and game designer since 2000. He has worked on eight shipped titles, including online trading card games, console games, online social games, and even some “serious games” for corporate training. He is also a consultant on a variety of additional titles.

Since 2006, Schreiber has developed and taught game design courses (both in-person and online) at two-year and four-year colleges and universities. He is the co-author of Challenges for Game Designers (Links to an external site.) and Breaking into the Game Industry (Links to an external site.)and the content creator for a free massive open online course called “Game Design Concepts (Links to an external site.)” and “Game Balance (Links to an external site.)

Schreiber is also a proud member of the IGDA (Links to an external site.) (since 2003). He co-founded the Global Game Jam (Links to an external site.) and is an active member of the Education SIG (Links to an external site.) (he is a local coordinator of the Columbus Chapter (Links to an external site.).)

Over his lifetime, he has saved 87 princesses, defeated 64 evil wizards, and prevented the destruction of the universe 127 times. (You probably owe him your life for this without even realizing it.)

You can contact Ian via Twitter at @IanSchreiber (Links to an external site.). For more ‘ramblings’ follow his blog at “Teaching Game Design (Links to an external site.)

Additional Credits

  • Course Authors: Ian Schreiber, Sebastian Sohn
  • Instructional Designers: Ian Schreiber; Biray Seitz, MS; Maria Andersen, PhD
  • Although not formally part of the course, we thank Extra Credits (Links to an external site.) for producing concise, meaningful, and beautiful videos on game design.  Their videos are sprinkled throughout the course materials.  Extra Credits crew, from left to right:  Allison Theus (illustrator), Daniel Floyd (narrator), James Portnow (content writer), and Elisa Scaldaferri (illustrator).

This course was designed with author permission under the Creative Commons License.

It’s reproduction on LearningLegion is not affiliated with the authors of the course. Contact LearningLegion directly with any questions.


CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike This course content is offered under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.

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