“Game design is a creative discipline which also requires an extremely analytical mind at a high level; this would seem to explain why most game designers I know are a tiny bit unhinged (in a good way)! . . .
There are three ways to learn game design; I’ve put these in descending order of efficacy:
1. Make games, then watch people playing your games
2. Play other games analytically
3. Study game design theory”

Mode7 Games

The idea of developing the Game Design Masterclass for school students arose after working with thousands of students over the past few years through MacICT’s game design bootcamps and projects. While many students could see the value of spending time designing a game before building, the majority approached this with reluctance, preferring to put the majority of their time and effort into building their game after hastily whipping up a flow chart or storyboard, designing a world map and writing a brief backstory. Of course there were exceptions along the way, students that valued design, or perhaps under the guidance of their class teacher put a lot more thought and effort into the design stage.

The Masterclass is all about design and, in particular, identifying what makes their game fun by really drilling down to identify the core mechanic of their game because after all, the overwhelming reason why people play games is because they are fun!

As a result of organising MacICT’s GAME On festival last year, I was lucky enough to meet some of our talented local and out of state game developers. One of those developers was Dean Tuttle co-founder of Alternator Industries creators of the game, Alternator. I have been very fortunate to collaborate with Dean on the design of the Masterclass and benefit from his expertise with game design. Dean is also keen to co-teach some of the Masterclasses and we will continue to iterate on the design of the activities and the format.

Here is a little more background information on Dean . . .

Dean Tuttle

Dean is co-founder of Alternator Industries, the Sydney based games and transmedia production company. Dean first began making computer games as a school student in the late 80s, writing and selling several game titles to early PC magazines. Since then, his career has included acting, writing, directing and producing live, cross-artform and transmedia projects. This includes live performance productions that combined video, animation, music, plenty of smashed TV screens and incorporated skills ranging from hiphop to gymnastics and even surfing! Returning to games development, Dean co-designed and produced Alternator, the winner of the Screen Australia and ABC TV Serious Games Initiative. Alternator launched in late 2011 and has since enjoyed a strong online following, excellent critical response and has been selected as a Finalist for both the Earth Hour Awards 2012 and the UN World Environment Day Awards 2012.



Game design provides a context for inquiry and discovery, leading students become active problem solvers and to engage in their own learning. Students have the time, space and purpose to tinker with games systems, allowing for thought and action to come together, and to build theories. These are critical practices for learning and discovery  that has application across all curriculum areas. Students are able to analyse, manipulate and evaluate information and media, construct knowledge and solve complex problems in individual and collaborative settings.


  • To develop in students, the understandings, skills and strategies, which will help them design a game that is original and fun.
  • To actively engage in different types of thinking including: design thinking, systems thinking, computational thinking, critical and creative thinking.

It is assumed students will already have a basic level of understanding the following good game design principles: clear goal; importance of story, world design and challenge; player feedback and difficulty curve.


  1. Pre-requisite activity: In groups, students will be required to design a simple physical game with specified objects as a fun activity prior to attending the Masterclass.
  2. On the day of the Masterclass, students will ‘fun’ test each others games and provide feedback to the designers.
  3. Explanation of core mechanic, watch video of how to make your game fun
  4. Designers will then identify the core mechanic of their physical game
  5. Next students will need to generalise their understandings and work on the design of the core mechanic of the game they are building as part of their school’s course requirement. Students will be encouraged to use physical objects to aid in the design of their core mechanic.
  6. Once the core mechanic is bedded down, students will develop their backstory and world map.
  7. If there is time, students will have the opportunity to prototype their game. Depending on their class teacher’s requirements, this may be either physically, using paper or Kodu Game Lab.

Curriculum Focus:

Draft Australian Technologies Curriculum


1.  Creating with ICT:

Generating ideas, plans and processes
–  Select and use ICT to articulate ideas and concepts, and plan the development of complex solutions
Generate solutions to challenges and learning area tasks
–  Design and modify creative digital solutions, for particular audiences and for a range of purpose

2.  Communicating with ICT:

Collaborating, sharing and exchanging
–  Select and use a range of ICT tools efficiently and safely to share and exchange information and to construct knowledge collaboratively

3.  Selecting hardware and software:

Independently select and apply appropriate software and hardware to suit specific tasks, purposes and social contexts

Applying and understanding of ICT system components to make changes to functions, processes, procedures and devices to fit the purpose of the solutions

NSW Curriculum

K-6: Science and Technology, English, Mathematics, PDHPE

7-12: Technological and Applied Studies (TAS)- Design and Technology, Software Design and Development; English, Mathematics, PDHPE

It should be noted that game design has cross curricular application and is able to meet outcomes across a broad range of learning areas. It is the responsibility of the class teacher to link it to relevant outcomes for their school context.

If you are interested in your students participating in a Game Design Masterclass, please contact the Centre either via macictsupport@det.nsw.edu.au or phone 02 9850 4310