Designing Digital Play
The purpose of this course is to explore play as an expressive form and creative framework outside of the domain of games. As such, the learning goals and activities are not oriented towards game design. This course will focus on drawing into the digital design domain inspiration and practices from play and computer games.
This course is designed to expand the intellectual and professional scope of interaction design students.
Prospective students should notice that this is not a game design course. The purpose of this course is to explore play as an expressive form and creative framework outside of the domain of games. As such, the learning goals and activities are not oriented towards game design. Play is at the core of many interactive experiences, from digital and non-digital games to online services, social networks, and even electronic appliances. However, we don’t often stop and think about the nature of play, and how it is actually designed, implemented, and tested.
This course will focus on drawing into the digital design domain inspiration and practices from play and computer games. It will not be, however, a game development course. Students will be encouraged to create playful objects and/or interactions, but the course is not centred on game design theory. Rather, this course is focused on play theory and design research.
In the first part of the course, students will be introduced to the classic theories of play, asking them to explore how playfulness and games provide powerful emotional, social and cognitive experiences. This first part of the course will be highly theoretical, focused on reading and discussing two essential texts in play studies.
The second half of the course will center on exploring play from an interaction and game design perspective. Students will become familiar with some basic design principles in traditional fields, and how they can be leveraged into digital play. Students will also begin to experiment with creating play dynamics in real-world domains. The ultimate goal of the course is to provide students with the opportunity to explore how play might be fruitfully used in a range of design contexts.
Designing Digital Play is an interaction design course that provides students with essential knowledge and skills in the subjects of critical technical practice, prototyping, game and play design, and design methodologies. By engaging students with the practice of designing, developing, and testing playful digital experiences, students will learn how to apply design theory to create playable experiences, and how to use prototypes as arguments in design reflection.
Intended learning outcomes
After the course, the student should be able to:
- Discuss the cultural and social importance of the concept of play
- Describe how play is used in the development of interactive services and games
- Explore and theorize how play can be evoked from design practices and principles
- Design and implement play experiences on digital environments
- Test the success of a particular play approach to an interactive concept
The course is divided in two conceptual blocks.
The first block comprises a theoretical and practical understanding of play and its role in culture. This block will be focused on reading classic play theory texts, as well as more modern literature on the topic. Students will get acquainted with different definitions of play, and how those can be implemented in design practice. This first block will be structured around a 6-weeks project in which students will have to conceptualise, prototype, and develop a playful service (f.ex. a website, a home appliance, an interface. Examples will be given in class).
The second block comprises an exploration of cultural and societal topics and how they can be seen through the prism of play. From aesthetics to ethics, the second block comprises expanded readings on play, as well as a new 6-week project in which students will have to conceptualise, prototype, develop, and if possible test and evaluate a playful technology. Examples of project topics:
- Playful digital service design
- Toy design
- Game design
- Gamification design
- Playground design
- Activist media design
- Playful social media design
- Disobedient electronics
- Artistic approaches to digital technology
Sicart, Miguel. (2004). Play Matters. Cambridge: The MIT Press
A selection of relevant articles will be distributed in LearnIT.
Student Activity BudgetEstimated distribution of learning activities for the typical student
- Preparation for lectures and exercises: 15%
- Lectures: 35%
- Project work, supervision included: 50%
Ordinary examExam type:
C: Submission of written work, External (7-point scale)
C1G: Submission of written work for groups
Each project must have a hand-in containing:
- The prototype
- Documentation on test setup
- Results from the test
- A 5000 word (minimum) (not including references) written report that explores the process of creating the project, as well as a reflection on how it explores different concepts of play explored in class.
The reports are individual.
The exam is a written assignment without oral examination.
As part of this course, students will have to make two prototypes, so they have to hand in these materials for each prototype.
Group and individual
- Groups of 2-5 students