Boy Scouts of America – Game Design Merit Badge

math in games

Rachel’s Class on Game Design

for the BSA Merit Badge College

About

In 2013 and 2014, I have volunteered to teach local Boyscouts how to get started with making games, in order to earn their Game Design merit badge. Both years, we have used Scratch (http://scratch.mit.edu/), which is a great tool to introduce anybody to beginning concepts of programming, via a friendly graphical interface. These documents are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 license. Feel free to use and adapt them!

Creative Commons License Rachel’s Class on Game Design for the BSA Merit Badge College by Rachel J. Morris is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

2014 Class

Here is my outline for the 2014 class. I have created a video this year to teach the basics of Scratch, in order to try to make the best use of our time. My assistant and myself will focus on directing discussion and helping answer specific questions as the students are creating their games. For the requirements list, see the Game Design page on Scouting.org.

A. Opening Discussion

Prior to the merit badge college, scouts were required to fulfil some prerequisites (marked below), to be discussed during class.  Requirement descriptions are from the requirements page.

Requirement 1A

Analyze four games you have played, each from a different medium. Identify the medium, player format, objectives, rules, resources, and theme (if relevant). Discuss with your counselor the play experience, what you enjoy in each game, and what you dislike. Make a chart to compare and contrast the games. (Scouting.org)

Examples:

  1. Portal 2 (Video Game) Single Player or Multi Player Player progresses through story, solving challenging brain-teaser and motor-skill-challenging puzzles. Player is able to create two portals (Orange and Blue), with one portal leading to the other, as well as the ability to walk, run, jump, and pick up some items. User must utilize portals to navigate the course, manipulate switches and buttons, and unlock doors.
  2. Pandemic (Board Game) Multiple players cooperate to stop diseases from spreading, eradicating these diseases, and saving the world from a global pandemic. Each player has a role with their own strength, and they must collaborate in order to stand a chance at “winning” against disease.

 

Requirement 1B

Describe four types of play value and provide an example of a game built around each concept. Discuss with your counselor other reasons people play games. (Scouting.org)

Play value examples:

  1. Story – Experiencing a narrative, sometimes that you can change the course of. Getting to know characters in the game, learning about the world, and the lore. Games: Gone Home, Myst, Mass Effect
  2. Challenging – Pushing your logic and/or motor skills in order to accomplish a challenging feat. Games: Dark Souls, Ikaruga, Mega Man

Reasons to play games examples:

  1. Experience something new – Travelling in outer-space, wearing somebody else’s shoes (see another perspective), learn new skills
  2. Challenge (mental, physical) – Exercise your reflexes and your brain
  3. Social – Spend time with friends, meet new people

 

Requirement 2

Discuss with your counselor five of the following 17 game design terms. For each term that you pick, describe how it relates to a specific game. Thematic game elements: story, setting, characters Gameplay elements: play sequence, level design, interface design Game analysis: difficulty, balance, depth, pace, replay value, age appropriateness Related terms: single-player vs. multiplayer, cooperative vs. competitive, turn-based vs. real-time, strategy vs. reflex vs. chance, abstract vs. thematic (Scouting.org)

 

Requirement 3

Define the term intellectual property. Describe the types of intellectual property associated with the game design industry. Describe how intellectual property is protected and why protection is necessary. Define and give an example of a licensed property. (Scouting.org)

What has intellectual property? (Games, Art, Music, Characters, Fonts, …)   What could constitute IP infringement?

  1. Using sprites from another game
  2. Making an unofficial Mario game, even with your own art

How to make sure you’re in the clear?

  1. Licenses – Creative Commons, Public Domain, etc.
  2. Make your own art/music
  3. Hiring someone to make original art/music
  4. Getting permission from the original creator to reuse their work

 

Requirement 4A

Pick a game where the players can change the rules or objectives (examples: basketball, hearts, chess, kickball). Briefly summarize the standard rules and objectives and play through the game normally. (Scouting.org)

Students were to fulfil requirements 4A, 4B, and 4C prior to the merit badge college.

Requirement 4B

Propose changes to several rules or objectives. Predict how each change will affect gameplay. (Scouting.org)

 

Requirement 4C

Play the game with one rule or objective change, observing how the players’ actions and emotional experiences are affected by the rule change. Repeat this process with two other changes. (Scouting.org)

 

Requirement 4D

Explain to your counselor how the changes affected the actions and experience of the players. Discuss the accuracy of your predictions. (Scouting.org)

Did players change how they played? Were loopholes found? Did it change how people felt while playing the game? –

B. Introduction to Scratch video

Then, we transition to learning how to use Scratch. This year, I’ve prepared a video to be played during the class, so that it is easier to keep everyone on the same page.

You can also download the step-by-step written document here: (gonna add a link i promise)

C. Design Additional Features (Requirements 5A, 5B, 5C, 5D)

5A. Write a vision statement for your game. Identify the medium, player format, objectives, and theme of the game. If suitable, describe the setting, story, and characters.

5B. Describe the play value.

5C. Make a preliminary list of the rules of the game. Define the resources.

5D. Draw the game elements. (Scouting.org)

After the students have created the tutorial game, we discuss design, and the students are allowed to sketch or write out on paper additional features that they would like to add. Example features that are small enough:

D. Implement Additional Features (Requirement 6A)

Prototype your game from requirement 5. If applicable, demonstrate to your counselor that you have addressed player safety through the rules and equipment. (Scouting.org)

After the features are reviewed and approved (to make sure they’re doable within the time frame), they are free to work on those features, asking questions as needed.

E. Testing & Feedback (Requirements 6B, 6C, 7A, 7B)

6A. Prototype your game from requirement 5. If applicable, demonstrate to your counselor that you have addressed player safety through the rules and equipment.

6B. Test your prototype with as many other people as you need to meet the player format. Compare the play experience to your descriptions from requirement 5b. Correct unclear rules, holes in the rules, dead ends, and obvious rule exploits. Change at least one rule, mechanic, or objective from your first version of the game, and describe why you are making the change. Play the game again. Record whether or not your change had the expected effect.

7A. Write an instruction sheet that includes all of the information needed to play the game. Clearly describe how to set up the game, play the game, and end the game. List the game objectives.

7B. Share your prototype from requirement 6 with a group of players that has not played it or witnessed a previous playtest. Provide them with your instruction sheet(s) and any physical components. Watch them play the game, but do not provide them with instruction. Record their feedback in your game design notebook. (Scouting.org)

First, the student will have someone else test their game. They will interact together during this playtest to figure out what may be unclear on how to play, the rules, etc. Afterwards, the student will write up an instruction sheet and have other students “blind test” their game. They will get feedback from their peers, and record that feedback in their notebook.

F. Closing Discussion (Requirement 8B)

List three career opportunities in game development. Pick one and find out about the education, training, and experience required for the profession. Discuss this with your counselor. Explain why this profession might interest you. (Scouting.org)

Finally, the class will end with discussion about career opportunities, experiences, and any other closing notes.

G. Counselor Review (Requirement 7C)

Share your game design notebook with your counselor. Discuss the player reactions to your project and what you learned about the game design process. Based on your testing, determine what you like most about your game and suggest one or more changes. (Scouting.org)

The student will share their game design notebook with their instructor, discussing their experience with designing and testing their game.


2013 Class

  • Main instruction document (.odt, .pdf)
  • Let’s Make Pickin’ Sticks – Scratch tutorial (.odt, .pdf)
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