Assignment 1: Reinvent a Game

Let’s make a game better than before!

Due Dates:

DELIVERABLE #1: Sections 1 & 2 Due by Friday, 7/3 @ Noon (Eastern)
DELIVERABLE #2: Remaining Sections Due by Monday, 7/6 @ Noon (Eastern)

All deliverables are to be submitted to your ASSIGNMENT folder on Box.

Both deliverables should be submitted as PDF files.


The assignment is to re-invent the game of “Hopscotch”, a common children’s game often found in playgrounds and driveways. Your task is to come up with a new and improved version of this game using the design methods that we will focus on in this class. First, you will analyze the current game. You will brainstorm many ideas, and select the best ones for further development. Then you will choose one of those developed designs and build a “prototype” version to test with live subjects (preferably someone else and not yourself). Finally you will assess your design and draw conclusions from your playtesting as to what your successes were and how to build on them.

The assignment is due in two parts. The first part covers research and early ideation. The second part has you refining, testing, and reflecting on your findings. Both of these parts will take a significant amount of time – don’t wait until the last minute!

Assignment Sections

1. Research & Analysis

The first step in design is to get to know your subject matter, and turn a critical eye to it. If you are a hopscotch expert, you probably already have many ideas as to what is great about it, and maybe how it could be improved. If you are NOT a hopscotch expert, then you need to educate yourself – understand how the game is played. A good place to start is by finding the rules – wikiHow has a great summary with helpful animations.

You should also try out the game for yourself. Often times just reading the rules or watching someone else play does not give you the full experience. Dive in and try it!

Once you have a good sense of what the game is, then it is time to analyse the game itself to determine what parts of the game are good, and what aspects could be improved.

SECTION 1 Documentation:

  • Write up a quick summary of your impressions of Hopscotch. (1 paragraph)
  • Write a bulleted list of 5 aspects of the game that you think are positives. Be descriptive as to why the aspect is a positive. Example “The game can be played anywhere that you have room to move and can draw a surface”
  • Write a bulleted list of 5 aspects of the game that you thing are negatives. Again, be descriptive as to what the the disadvantage is. Example: “some children with physical disabilities may not be able to play”

2. Brainstorming

The best way to get a good idea is to come up with a lot of ideas and then find the good one. Your task is to let your mind wander and think up 30 different ideas for a variant of Hopscotch. The first 10 ideas will probably come easily, but you may find that it gets more difficult over time.

The trick to this section is to not spend much time fixating on a particular idea. There will be time for fixating later. When you come up with an idea, write it down on the list, set it aside in your mind, and move on to the next concept.

SECTION 2 Documentation:

  • Document your 30 ideas by providing a bulleted list of all 30 ideas. Each should have a very short sentence explaining the concept quickly and succinctly. Example: “Op-Scotch – Hopscotch meets the game ‘Operation’.”

NOTE: Sections 1 & 2 are due Friday 7/3 by Noon (Eastern)

3. Ideation

Now it is time to take some of your ideas and work on developing them into fuller concepts, closer to a real game with rules and mechanics and things.

Select two (2) of your ideas from your brainstorming list and write a short game design document for each one. This document should include a summary of the game, details about how it is played, and a set of rules.

I recommend including simple illustrations or diagrams to help communicate some of these concepts. For instance, if you are changing the configuration of the hopscotch board, you should probably include a drawing of that. If people are supposed to move in a particular way that is significantly different from the current game, a quick sketch may help, even if they are just stick figures.

A good game design document is one that can be read by someone with no experience with your game, and they will understand how to set it up and play it.

SECTION 3 Documentation:

  • Simple game design documents for two (2) of your ideas.

4. Experimentation

Choose one of your game designs and make it a real game. Build a simple test version (a prototype) so that you can play the game you are intending. Prototypes are not expected to be fancy or refined, usually they are quite the opposite. They are quick builds to test a concept, meant to be thrown away.

If you are creating a new board, you might want to get some chalk and draw it on your driveway. If you’re turning it into a board game, draw on a piece of paper. To put this in comic-book terms, you’re not building Iron Man’s nano-suit, you’re building the Mark I, clunky and made of scraps, to do one particular job.

Once you have constructed a prototype, test it out. You should definitely try it yourself to see if your design meets the expectations that you have. If you have other people available who can play your game, have them try it and give you their impressions. (Siblings make great test subjects, but their feedback can be brutal!)

When you play your game, you should be taking notes on your reactions. Write these down as soon as you finish playing when they are fresh in your head. When your players play your game, ask them to “think out loud” and share their thoughts. Take notes on what they are telling you. Try to avoid the urge to respond to their comments or help them out. Let them figure it out for themselves. If they cannot, that tells you something about your current design.

SECTION 4 Documentation

  • Document your playtest – take photos of your prototype and your playtesting. (Be sure to get permission to share photographs of your test subjects. Some people may not be comfortable having their picture shared. Consider blurring faces or cropping photos.)
  • Write up your notes and your player reactions – This is not analysis, but provide summaries of the experiences as you or your playtesters reported them.

5. Reflection

Now it is time to compile your results and consider what your playtest tells you about your original design. What about your design worked? What did not? Where did players struggle? Did they understand the rules? Were they entertained or bored? If you were going to improve it again, what would you do differently in the next prototype?

The point of this exercise is to turn a critical eye towards your design. It can be a very difficult process, because we like our ideas. We can get very attached to them. And most importantly, we are often reluctant to admit that we made a bad choice, or a wrong assumption, or missed something entirely.

The temptation in reflection is to tell the reader why you were right all along. But the secret to design is: we almost never get it right the first time, and that’s OK!

Don’t be hard on yourself, just tell me what you learned. In order to be a successful designer and build great things, you need to comfortable with admitting that you are not always right. That’s why we run these experiments – to test our assumptions and find the weaknesses hiding in our blind spots. Once we find those and identify the causes, we can address them and build stronger.

SECTION 5 Documentation

  • Write your reflection document summarizing your findings. What was it about this first iteration that worked as expected? What did not? What came up that maybe surprised you? What did you learn? If you were going to refine your design further, what would you change for the next version? This portion of the document should be 1-2 pages.

Leave a Reply