Positive Sum Game Design
Begin the design process with the user experience. Begin by playing checkers with a partner, and integrating your reflections of that experience into subsequent iterations.
You can make your own checker pieces and board by downloading it from the STEAMstudio site. Use spray adhesive to adhere the printed board and pieces to the chipboard, creating a territory for play. Only use spray adhesive outdoors or in a well ventilated space. Once you’ve adhered your image to the chipboard, a few simple cuts with a sharp matte knife is all you need…first across the long dotted line to create columns then across the other direction to separate the tokens. Be careful when using your matte knife, always taking care to cut against a flat surface and keeping your fingers out of the path of the blade. After you have played the game, reflect on the experience with your partner. Each player should fill out and post to their blog a survey about the experience.
What might you change about the design of the game considering the tokens, the territory of play, the rules, and the stakes? Using these reflections as a guide, consider what changes you might make to the game. Using the elements of iteration one, mock up a second iteration and play it again. Use sharpies, matte knives, and other materials and tools to create a quick, low resolution mock up. Play it again and reflect on the experience with your partner. Use surveys to refine your questions for subsequent iterations.
Write a short story that explores the “who” (tokens), “where” (territory), “how” (rules), and “why” (stakes). The purpose of this part of the exercises is to help give structure to the behaviors of the game through a narrative structure. Give your game a title. Develop your story with each iteration. This story can be as short as a paragraph or as long as several pages.
Make sure all the elements are well considered, providing an experience for the user that you yourself would enjoy. In subsequent iterations, you might refine the elements in Illustrator and Photoshop. Consider the following elements of the process:
Observe, Empathize, and Understand the user or users as you frame and reframe the need, problem, or opportunity you are attempting to address. This will allow us to frame our design process towards a particular, testable goal. By playing the game you are designing, you will gain insights into how to make it better.
Prototype iteratively through a series of sketches and models to develop and refine your project. Remember that each iteration is an opportunity to ask a new question. Find the appropriate level of resolution and kind of representation to answer those questions and communicate the idea with each iteration.
Test and Reflect to see if your designs work the way we have intended them. Just like an experimenter that tests a hypothesis against empirical data, use this feedback to improve your design.
Consider who, where, how, and why… consider the tokens, the territory, the rules, and the stakes. By the end of this design process, your game should have evolved well beyond checkers. Use other games as inspiration, too. Your game might be competitive or it might be cooperative. Can you turn a zero sum game into a non-zero sum game? Work iteratively by testing your game through play. Iterate as many times as necessary until you have created a game that is well-considered and fun to play.