Designing Games for the Common Good

Fall 2021
Winter 2022
Sophomore - Senior
Class Size: 25
8 Credits per quarter
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Ideally, all sessions of this program will be held in person.

We will meet remotely or in hybrid mode if necessary, following guidelines from the college.  Please email faculty with questions.

Design and design thinking center on the transformation of ideas into purposeful plans, objects, and actions. Our focus in this two-quarter program will be to study and design tabletop card and board games, and to consider the contribution of games to learning and to the social, or common, good. One program goal will be to learn design practices applicable in a wide variety of settings and as strategic approaches to a range of problem types. We'll also explore the capacity of games to represent and enact cultural dynamics, systems, and values in relation to the common good, including the varied roles of race, class, gender, sexuality, disabilities, age, and ideologies. This will allow us to inquire into the ways that game design and design in general can support critical engagement with social systems, and in particular those social systems related to equity, community, and democracy.

Study of the fundamental elements of modern board game design during fall quarter will help us explore how games educate, advocate, promote empathy, and provoke both thinking and change. Program members also will consider game design as system design, and as design of player experience. We'll begin our inquiry into the common good, with consideration of historic and contemporary games that engage values, social change, and social identity representations. Arts journalism critique and review, focused on research and analysis regarding specific games and their roles in learning and society, will be one of our writing practices. Fall quarter studio sessions will focus on prototyping, modifying, redesigning, and play of published board and card games, and perhaps of a game or two of our own design. Participants will be expected to provide prototyping supplies costing roughly $35-50; email faculty for a list of suggested items. 

During winter quarter, participants will identify and research their choice of an aspect of the common good as a lead-in to creating relevant board games. Winter studio sessions will provide opportunity for collaborative design, critique and playtesting, and for project support. Interactive lectures and readings will introduce principles of technical writing, design thinking, research strategies, and tabletop board game project planning and development processes applicable to many types of creative project. The final project will be creation of game documentation and of a fully-operational physical board game prototype accessible to the intended audience, for a game intended to support player consideration of the common good.

We plan to work in person as possible, during both quarters. Class activities (online or in person) will include seminar discussions, gameplay and debriefings, lectures, and collaborative and solo design tasks. Participants will work in and out of class sessions to play and analyze card and board games, respond to readings, and to write game reviews and assessments, reflection essays, and game documentation including rules. Faculty will present introductory skills and also welcome upper-division students seeking breadth in their studies.

Participants who don't identify (yet!) as gamers or designers are more than welcome to register. Willingness to exhibit an open inquiry stance toward questions of the common good; to learn technical and sequential design practices; and to think about, write about, play, and create physical tabletop board and card games are prerequisites. Readiness to make knowledge collaboratively, to listen and learn across significant lived differences of thought and experience, and to engage thoughtfully with systems of social identity also will be vital to the success of our work.

Credit equivalencies include in fall: game studies, introductory board game design 1, board game journalism, and community studies. In winter, credit will be awarded in design thinking or design studio, board game design 2, game studies or community studies, and technical writing.


Fall 2021 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 10202
Winter 2022 Registration

Course Reference Numbers

So - Sr (8): 20166

Academic details

Preparatory For

education, introductory game design, product development, technical writing, arts journalism, and design thinking

Maximum Enrollment
Class Standing


In Person or Remote
In Person (F)
In Person (W)
Time Offered
Schedule Evergreen link
see Schedule Evergreen for detailed schedule

First Meeting

SEM 2 C3105 - Workshop