Cluster 5

Video Games: The Design of Fun from Concept to Code

Dani Wright
UCSC Department of Computational Media
Tamara DuPlantis
PhD student, UCSC Department of Computational Media

Prerequisite: One year of Algebra II or equivalent

Preferred: Programming experience

Summary: The goal of this cluster is to introduce high school students to computer science and the design principles used in creating a computer game. Computer games are no longer just for young children and enthusiasts. Modern games show a wide variety of features, from the rich graphics and detailed rule sets of World of Warcraft, to the simpler, more casual gameplay of Bejeweled, which appeal to a wide variety of audiences. In this cluster we focus on both the technical and design sides of creating computer games, through analysis of popular existing games and a series of projects in which students will build their own games. Students will learn the design principles for creating games that are fun, engaging, and interactive, and how to understand and build these complex software systems.

All students in this cluster will be enrolled in the following courses.

Structure of Fun: Science of Game Design

This course provides an interdisciplinary overview of the design principles used to create fun and engaging video games. Students will participate in discussions about theories of fun and play, as well as how to apply these theories to their own projects. The course will also explore games that address social and humanitarian issues, and games that are designed to appeal to different audiences. Topics from psychology will be addressed, including the design of games for training and the difficulties in transferring learning from games to real-world situations. Students in the course will explore these issues by analyzing existing games and by working in teams to create one or more paper-based game concept designs.

Technologies of Fun: Game Graphics, and AI

This is an interactive, projects-based course in which students will create their own complete games. Students will learn fundamental design and programming skills to rapidly prototype their ideas using graphical game making tools and popular programming languages. In addition to the main game project, there will be smaller projects introducing students to 3D graphics and artificial intelligence techniques. Lectures will be supplemented with the latest game research, such as procedural content generation and interactive storytelling.