Big Games – Spring 2010

Posted by on Jan 20, 2010 in Big Games, Teaching | No Comments

Big Games

New York University / Interactive Telecommunications Program – Spring 2010
Greg Trefry
gtrefry at iamtheeconomy dot com
Office Hours: Friday after class, 6-6:30 PM or by appointment
Download Syllabus

Class Description

What happens to games when they escape the boundaries of our tabletops and desktops and TV screens and living rooms? From massively multiplayer online games to networked objects that turn the city into a gigantic game grid, new forms of super-sized gaming are expanding at an alarming rate and opening up vast new spaces in which to play. Whether these games are measured in terms of number of players, geographical dimensions, or temporal scope, they represent a new trend in which the ‘little world” created by a game threatens to swallow up the “real world” in which it is situated. This class is a hands-on workshop focused on the particular design problems of large-scale games. In this class students: develop a foundation of basic game design understanding from which to approach the specific issues particular to big games; analyze existing digital and non-digital large-scale games, taking them apart to understand how they work; as interactive systems; and work on a series of design exercises that explore the social, technological, and creative possibilities of large-scale games.

The class will be broken into three sections: People, Time and Location. The first section People will focus on games that bring together large numbers of players into one game. The second section Time will focus on games that stretch over long periods of time and begin to integrate with our everyday lives. The Location section will examine ways in which games can utilize specific spaces and integrate with the world around us. For the final we will bring all of these ideas together to create games that challenge established notions of gameplay.


  • Game Presentation on a Big Game
  • People Game: a game for a large number of people
  • Time Game: a game that spans a large amount of time
  • Location Game: a game about a location
  • Final Team Project


  • Attend the class and talk – For every two absences your grade will be lowered one letter grade
  • Do all of the reading
  • Turn in all assignments on time and complete. For each week your project is late you lose one letter grade.


15% In-class discussion and weekly blog comments
10% Game Presentation
15% People Game
15% Time Game
15% Location Game
30% Final Project

Class Schedule

January 22 / Class Intro

In Class
What are Big Games
What do people think they are
My expectations for the class

January 29 / Game Design Basics

- Marc LeBlanc, MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research,
- Tracy Fullerton, Game Design Workshop, Chapter 3, pages 49-81

In Class
- Play Poker
- Play Mafia

February 5 / Role-Playing

- Start playing World of Warcraft
- Waskul, Dennis; Lust, Matt (2004). “Role-Playing and Playing Roles: The Person, Player, and Persona in Fantasy Role-Playing”,

In Class
- Play The Pool

February 12 / People Game Due

- Richard Bartle, “Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players who suit MUDs,”

In Class
- We will play each team’s People Game

February 19 / All the Time

- Play What to Wear,
- Play Parking Wars,
-Byron Reeves & J. Leighton Read, Total Engagement, selection

In Class
- Hand out water guns to play Assassins over the next week

February 26 / Alternate Realities

- Jane McGonigal, “This Is Not a Game: Immersive Aesthetics & Collective Play,” (if for some reason the link doesn’t work, Google the paper title. You’ll find it)
- Montola & Waern, “Ethical and Practical Look at Unaware Game Participation,” 2006

March 5 / Time Game Due

In Class
- Teams will introduce players to their game.
- Each game will be played over the following week

March 12 / Everywhere

- Linda Hughes, “Beyond the rules of the game, Why Are Rooie Rules Nice?,” Game Design Reader, page 504-517
- Raph Koster, A Theory of Fun, Chapters 2-3, pages 12-47
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk on flow,

In Class
- Play a Scavenger Hunt
- Play Capture the Flag

March 26 / Location

- History of Grand Central
- Henry Jenkins, “Game Design as Narrative Architecture,”

In Class
- We will all meet at Grand Central by the clock

April 2 / Location Game Due

In Class
- We will play each team’s Location Game

April 9 / Sports

- E.H. Gombrecht, In Praise of Athletic Beauty
- Dave Hickey, Air Guitar, “The Heresy of Zone Defense,” pages 155-162

In Class
- Play Touch Football

April 16 / Managing Big Projects

- Ken Birdwell, “The Cabal: Valve’s Design Process for Creating Half-Life,”
- Rory McGuire, “Paper Burns: Game Design with Agile Methodologies,”

April 23 / Playtest Finals

In Class
- We will playtest each team’s game

April 30 / Finals Due

In Class
- We will play each team’s Final Game

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.