For the third year in a row, I’ve been a guest judge at Waunakee High School’s Game Design and Theory classes. Taught by long-time friend, colleague, and gaming buddy Aaron Pavao, the class teaches students the elements of game design, and the dizzying array of ways to employ them.
This year, I was able to judge both sections of students: each group had four teams (called “guilds”) that worked to design a game. The most common type of creation was a basic board game, some with truly creative themes and design techniques. Each group had fifteen minutes to describe to me how the game worked and play a few turns to give me the idea. I had a tally sheet for each group, with tick boxes to keep track of hitting various basic design goals, and a smaller section for my thoughts. I rarely had enough time to perform a detailed break-down of the game, so I had to resort to encouraging quips to (hopefully) inspire the students to keep at it.
There was a two-hour break between classes, and since Aaron didn’t have anything pending to do in-between, he and I went to Sushi Muramoto and gorged on delicious sushi for lunch, Aaron’s treat. I had the chef’s choice special, consisting of three rolls: salmon, avocado, and spicy tuna. All very safe, but also, all very tasty and satisfying. Then it was back to school for the afternoon class, and another four games to try.
This year, most of the groups seemed to have genuinely been collaborative efforts. While one or two students did most of the talking to me, nearly everyone seemed very familiar with their guild’s game and how it worked. Some groups were better than others at getting the rules down on paper in a clear, concise format, but I was pleased to note that, while not every game was to my particular taste, there wasn’t one game I thought was poorly designed, and most I would be happy to play again.
Still disappointing is the relatively few women involved in the class — maybe three total out of two classes and over 30 students. Game design isn’t strictly for boys, after all, and there are quite a few talented, clever women actively involved in game design professionally right now. I hope to see more women take an interest in game design in future classes.
I always enjoy my time working with Aaron’s classes. The students want to be there and are interested in the subject, and even though they really have no idea who I am (Aaron did gibe them a brief summary of my career in the industry) they seem interested in hearing opinions on their designs. If this is a career — or even a hobby — that they choose to pursue in the future, they certainly will have plenty more opinions to look forward to.