Just as the academic year was coming to a close, Professor Nicolas W. Proctor of Simpson College was hard at work putting the finishing touches on his third edition of the Game Designer’s Handbook, a tool specifically crafted for the Reacting to the Past series. This small but highly effective “how-to” guide shepherds faculty through the game design process.
Professor Proctor, currently the Chair of the Editorial Board for the Reacting Consortium, has designed or helped to design just about half a dozen games. In addition, he is preparing to teach an upper-level seminar in which the students design RTTP-style games. When guiding students, thinking about his own games, or offering advice to other game designers, he says that the greatest difficulty comes from balancing historical accuracy with playability. "If it's not fun, it's not a good game," he said.
But fun should not be the only guiding principle. "Too often I used to start projects by thinking, 'wouldn't this be fun?' This is not a good approach to learning. I've learned that I need to back up." He now insists that the first step in any game design in the clarification of learning objectives. In particular, it is important for the designer to decide why a game is the best instrument for teaching a particular set of ideas.
The new edition of the Game Designer’s Handbook has benefited from Professor Proctor’s reading more about diverse game methodologies, campus visits at a number of institutions using RTTP, and his work over the last year with dozens of authors as chair of the Editorial Board. He also says that the Facebook Faculty Lounge provided valuable clues as to RTTP-specific challenges. Recurring discussions about increasing the scalability of full-length games and the development of short games encouraged him to write new sections on these issues.
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