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MMEDIA 3L03 Game Design (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. David Murphy


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 333

Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1:00 - 2:00 (TSH 333)

Course Objectives:

Upon completing this course, students will….

  • have the theoretical vocabulary needed to describe the design of games
  • be able to apply iterative player-centered approaches to the design of games
  • be able to create and integrate game assets into the Unity game engine
  • be able to design and play-test a game prototype using the Unity game engine
  • understand career possibilities connected to gaming industries
  • gain experience with team collaboration, continuous integration, and version management

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

All required reading materials are either freely and legally available online (often in the form of open access peer-reviewed journal articles) or are available as electronic resources through the McMaster library. It is suggested that students taking this course have access to a computer that can run UNITY (which comes with its own specific license terms but is typically free for exploratory student and “low profit” use). Other free software that might be useful includes Blender (3D modelling), Reaper (digital audio workstation) and GIMP (photo and image editing). The installation of all of this software on students’ own computers is highly recommended, in order to facilitate work outside of the Multimedia wing. Additional readings, videos, and software tutorials will also be made available through Avenue To Learn.

Method of Assessment:

Attendance & Participation                 10%                             Weekly           

Analogue Game                                 20%                             January 29th (In Class)

Analogue Play-Test Write Up             15%                             February 1st (Submit Online)

Quizzes (2)                                         10%                             Weeks 3 & 9

Digital Game                                      30%                             April 2nd (In Class)

Digital Game Post-Mortem                15%                             April 11 (Submit Online)

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late Assignments will be penalized 5% per day. Papers submitted a week after the due date may or may not be accepted at my discretion. If a legitimate problem conflicts with your ability to complete an assignment, please contact me prior to the assignment due date to arrange an extension. Requests for extensions made after the assignment due date (including MSAF requests) will only be granted in cases where the problem preventing you from completing the assignment was serious.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1


Introduction & Review of Syllabus


Raph Koster (2010). "The Fundamentals of Game Design."


January 8th

Week 2


Understanding Game Systems


Kelvin Autenrieth (2015). “Rule Explicitness Between Classic, Modern, and Computer Games.”

Allison Gazzard (2011). “Unlocking the Gameworld: The Rewards of Space and Time in Videogames.”


January 15

Week 3


Rules, Goals, and Feedback


Salen and Zimmerman (2004). “Chapter 12: Rules on Three Levels.”

Ibrahim Yucel (2014). “Rules for Writing Rules: How Instructional Design Impacts Good Game Design.”


January 22


Quiz #1

Week 4



Iterative Design: Usability, Playtesting, and Balance


Tracy Fullerton. “Chapter 9: Playtesting.”


Rym DeCoster (2018). PAX South. “Balance in Game Design.”


January 29


Analogue Game Due


Week 5


Mechanics, Embodiment, and Game Feel


Steve Swink. (2009). "Chapter 1: Defining Game Feel."


February 5th


Unity Tutorial 1

Week 6


Game Art: Assets and Animation


Chris Solarski. (2013). "The Aesthetics of Game Art and Game Design."

February 12th


Unity Tutorial 2


Week 7


Midterm Break – No Classes


February 18th-24th

Week 8


Game Art: Levels and Narrative Architecture


Henry Jenkins. (2004). "Game Design as Narrative Architecture."


February 26th

Week 9


Difficulty, Randomness, and Uncertainty


To Alexandra, et al. (2016). Integrating Curiosity and Uncertainty in Game Design.


March 4th


Week 10




Aaron Oldenburg (2013). “Sonic Mechanics: Audio as Gameplay.”


Wired (2017). "Classic Video Game Sounds Explained by Experts."


March 11

Week 11


Work + Playtest Session


March 18

Week 12


Work + Playtest Session


March 25

Week 13


Game Showcase – Digital Game Due


April 2



Other Course Information:

Email and Laptop Use

Please respect your instructor and your classmates and refrain from watching videos and/or using social media during lectures and class discussions. Laptops should be used for taking notes and viewing lecture related content only.    

I do my best to respond to student emails within 3 business days. Please check the syllabus and assignment instructions before emailing questions, and if a question requires a lengthy response, I may ask you to repeat it in person to better facilitate a back-and-forth conversation.

I no longer accept requests to regrade assignments over email (but will double check to ensure that a calculation error has not been made). All other questions about grades need to be asked during office hours or special appointments.

Health and Wellness

If personal problems are affecting your ability to perform in this course, it is suggested that you get in touch with the Student Wellness Center to access the free services that they provide. For more information, please visit, or drop by the center in person.


HOURS:  Mon-Thurs: 8:45am – 7:45pm; Fri: 8:45am – 4:30pm; Sat-Sun: CLOSED

CONTACT INFORMATION:  Phone: 905-525-9140 ext. 27700, Email: