VFS Game Design Summer Intensive : The Fundamentals of Game Theory

Team Asgard presenting their idea

The VFS Game Design Summer Intensive kicked off on Monday (Aug 13, 2012) with Game Theory 1 and 2, taught by Instructor Chris Mitchell and Senior Instructor Andrew Laing. It started with an overview of the production pipeline, provided an outline of key developments in the relatively short history of console, online and mobile games, and focused on creative exercises related to preproduction processes.

The students came to life immediately as they were broken up into teams to brainstorm unique game ideas. They were given 5 essential questions to answer to help in the creative process. These questions and their ultimate resolution into a concise “pitch” sentence provided guidance throughout the day’s exercises, and clearly they represent the heart of the matter for Game Design in general:

  1. What is the game?
  2. What is the core mechanic?
  3. What is the core challenge?
  4. Why make the game?
  5. Why would you enjoy making the game?

(A great example of the one sentence “pitch” was provided by Chris Mitchell: “I want to make a chibi-style 2d twitch fighter with dinosaurs for weapons.”)

Chris Mitchell Summer Intensive Day 1 Game Theory2

The next exercise was to apply the same questions and seek innovation with a already owned IP. The property in question: Strawberry Shortcake. Visions of Bronieness danced through some heads. The results were quite wide-ranged, from Social Games that help teach people how to bake, to a wild in the streets, Mario meets Grand Theft Auto scenario with Strawberry wandering through a dangerous ghetto, oblivious to the danger around her, protected by the player and guided to her safe home.

There was some great advice given with respect to building comprehensive worlds, the importance of failure in prototyping, and to make sure game are challenging and entertaining. Creative “stealing” was also looked at as successful approach. Not outright theft of an idea — that’s just boring — but taking a core idea and producing a different spin on it can yield some great results. One example: Grand Theft Auto becomes Simpsons Hit and Run.

Andrew Laing Summer Intensive Day 1 Game Theory2

There really was a wealth of —not just information— but suggestions, techniques, and approaches, all guided by creative principles meant to keep the process fresh. And the final very important observation:  If it isn’t fun at all levels, then you better leave it behind.

VFS Game Design Senior Instructor Andrew Laing