Gaming the System

Gaming the System: Designing with Gamestar Mechanic

Katie Salen Tekinbaş
Melissa Gresalfi
Kylie Peppler
Rafi Santo
foreword by James Paul Gee
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qf7p5
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  • Book Info
    Gaming the System
    Book Description:

    Gaming the Systemdemonstrates the nature of games as systems, how game designers need to think in terms of complex interactions of game elements and rules, and how to identify systems concepts in the design process. The activities use Gamestar Mechanic, an online game design environment with a systems thinking focus.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-31995-9
    Subjects: Education, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. SERIES FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)

    In recent years, digital media and networks have become embedded in our everyday lives and are part of broad-based changes to how we engage in knowledge production, communication, and creative expression. Unlike the early years in the development of computers and computer-based media, digital media are nowcommonplaceandpervasive, having been taken up by a wide range of individuals and institutions in all walks of life. Digital media have escaped the boundaries of professional and formal practice, and of the academic, governmental, and industry homes that initially fostered their development. Now they have been taken up by diverse populations...

  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-x)
    James Paul Gee and Mary Lou Fulton

    Today, we humans face massive problems because of complex systems. These are systems we have helped to create because of insufficient intelligence and care, systems like global warming, environmental degradation, broken governments, rapid technological change, national and global inequality, and global flows of immigrants fleeing war, poverty, and drought.

    Asystemis any set of components or elements that are integrated, in the sense that to understand a system, we have to understand not just its elements (as a set), but also the ways in which they relate to each other to integrate into a whole that is more than...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND PROJECT HISTORY
    (pp. xi-xviii)
  6. SYSTEMS THINKING CONCEPTS IN THIS BOOK COLLECTION
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. ALIGNMENT TO COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS
    (pp. xxv-xxxii)
  8. NEXT GENERATION SCIENCE STANDARDS
    (pp. xxxiii-xxxvi)
  9. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-18)

    Few would argue with the idea that the world is growing more complex as the twenty-first century unfolds. We live in a time that not only requires us to work across disciplines to solve problems, but also one in which these problems are of unprecedented scale, coming from a world that is more interconnected than ever. In such a context, power rests in the hands of those who understand the nature of the interdependent systems that organize the world, and, more important, can identify where to act or how to intervene in order to change those systems. Effective intervention requires...

  10. TOOLKIT
    (pp. 19-34)

    In this toolkit, we offer an explanation of why designing video games is a useful way to help youths learn about systems. We then present an introduction to the game and community platform Gamestar Mechanic (G*M), upon which the systems thinking and game Design Challenges in this curriculum are based.

    Throughout, we encourage instructors to follow the spirit, rather than the letter, of what we include in these Design Challenges. Every learning environment is different—a classroom is dramatically different from a library space, which is also different from an after-school program. Every group of youths is different—tweens are...

  11. DESIGN CHALLENGES OVERVIEW
    (pp. 35-38)

    The goal of the first challenge is to introduce youths to key concepts and vocabulary related to games and game design through playing and analyzing digital and non-digital games, as well as through classroom discussions. Specifically, youths will start to think about games as systems that are made up of components, each with its own behavior, which interconnect in order to form the overall way that the system functions. Youths will start by playing a non-digital game and analyzing the game as a system. Then they will have the opportunity to participate in collaborative game design. Working in groups, youth...

  12. DESIGN CHALLENGE 1: INTRODUCTION TO GAMES AND GAME DESIGN
    (pp. 39-70)

    The goal of the first challenge is to introduce youths to key concepts and vocabulary related to games and game design through playing and analyzing digital and non-digital games, as well as through classroom discussions. Specifically, youths will start to think about games as systems that are made up of components, each with its own behavior, which interconnect in order to form the overall way that the system functions.

    Youths will create a list of components that make up a game, develop criteria for evaluating what makes a game “good,” and create a playable board game.

    In this challenge, youths...

  13. DESIGN CHALLENGE 2: DESIGNING TOP-DOWN GAMES
    (pp. 71-94)

    The goal of this challenge is to continue to develop a systems thinking lens by analyzing and building games in Gamestar Mechanic (G*M). Youths will consider how the games are systems, and they will analyze those systems in terms of their components, the behaviors of those components, and most important, the interconnections that they make.

    Youths will design “top-down” games in G*M.

    In this challenge, youths will continue to think about what makes a system function by analyzing the purpose or goal of the system of a game by identifying components of that game, identifying the behaviors of those components,...

  14. DESIGN CHALLENGE 3: DESIGNING PLATFORM GAMES
    (pp. 95-126)

    The goal of this challenge is for youths to continue to develop their facility with game design tools and to consider games in terms of their properties as systems. In this challenge, they will add to their current conceptualization of systems by considering how the structure of a system is related to its function. By changing specific components and examining the impact on the overall system functioning, youths will continue to investigate the ways that interconnections among components work to build a system.

    Youths will design “platform” games in Gamestar Mechanic (G*M).

    In this challenge, youths will continue to think...

  15. DESIGN CHALLENGE 4: BALANCING THE GAME
    (pp. 127-152)

    The goal of this challenge is for youths to better understand and practice using the key systems thinking idea of interconnections (that is, the concept that components within a system relate or are connected to other components in specific ways that determine how a system functions or the kinds of goals that it can meet). In game design, this is best expressed through the idea of balancing a game, which means making sure that a game’s level of challenge is not too hard or too easy, and that the elements are all working well together to express the idea of...

  16. DESIGN CHALLENGE 5: PATTERNS AND MOVEMENT
    (pp. 153-176)

    This challenge creates an opportunity for youths to experiment directly with the interconnections that arise between two specific components: enemy sprites and block sprites. Youths will practice creating different kinds of movement and mechanics by adjusting enemy sprite parameters (i.e., movement style, start direction, and turn direction). They will be encouraged to consider how the qualities of the game space influence and determine the kinds of movement that is possible.

    Youths will design games that focus specifically on the interconnections between enemy movement and the creation of the game space.

    In this challenge, youths will continue to think about what...

  17. DESIGN CHALLENGE 6: MODELING A PREDATOR-PREY SYSTEM
    (pp. 177-196)

    The final challenge of the module will involve modeling a complex system both on paper and in a game. Youths will explore a predator-prey system and learn about how it works—what its components are, how they interconnect and how they ultimately shape the overall functioning of the system. If desired, the group can also begin to talk about how a predator-prey system stays in balance through a kind of feedback calledbalancing feedback.

    Youths will create a game that models the predator-prey relationship.

    This challenge encourages youths to think about what they’ve learned about systems in the context of...

  18. DELVING DEEPER INTO SYSTEMS THINKING
    (pp. 197-204)

    So what is systems thinking, and why is it important? With so little time to cover what seems like so much, why should systems thinking get a seat at the educational table? We find the answer in part by looking at the vast problems in the world around us, which range from environmental degradation to global financial meltdowns, growing inequality to ballooning costs of health care, and so many more issues. At their core, these difficulties are about systems, and all can be linked fundamentally to perspective: people have a tendency to look at things in terms of isolated parts...

  19. Appendix A: GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS
    (pp. 205-208)
  20. Appendix B: ADDITIONAL GAME DESIGN RESOURCES
    (pp. 209-212)
  21. Appendix C: GAMING THE SYSTEM ASSESSMENT
    (pp. 213-218)
  22. Appendix D: SYSTEMS THINKING CONCEPT CARDS: GAMING THE SYSTEM
    (pp. 219-228)
  23. Appendix E: GAMING THE SYSTEM CHALLENGE CARDS
    (pp. 229-262)
  24. REFERENCES
    (pp. 263-264)
  25. INDEX
    (pp. 265-266)