Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a workshop at CONvergence, a local sci-fi and fantasy convention. Cam Banks, Ennie award winning game designer, who is currently at Atlas Games, ran the workshop on game design creation. It was a very informal affair, with most supplies being school supply standards (construction paper, card stock, markers, pencils) while Cam traveled from group to group to answer questions and give tips. A friend and I formed one group with my ten-year-old who was the real driving force behind us being in the workshop.
Cam started out with an overview of the importance of a theme and how the use of the theme differs when designing a card game or a board game. I hadn’t given themes much thought before and it seems so simple, yet an integral part of game design. Not to back down from a challenge, my daughter declared we’d be making a game that was both a board game and card game. Obviously, an hour isn’t enough time to design a complete, workable game. It is long enough to come up with very rough draft of a game, though! This is where the very simple, seemingly childish, crafting supplies came into play. They allowed us to make very quick game elements that served as a good representation of more polished materials.
Amazingly, we did have a game at the end of the hour, with all three of us working as fast as possible, rules and ideas being created on the fly and supplemented by Cam’s wandering supervision. Even his young son stopped by to throw in some ideas. The only thing we lacked at the end was play testing. This was a wonderful activity for preteens on up. (I was surprised at how much fun it was.) I would love it if more conventions had a similar activity or if there were even game design camps. Or course, such a workshop really benefited from having the expertise of an experienced game designer as a resource.
The only down side is that your child is fired up and you have to find some better creation materials…