Devising a Gamestar Mechanic Lesson Plan As a Teacher

If you’re a teacher who instructs by way of the Gamestar Mechanic website, you should understand that your students require a different lesson plan than they do in a basic classroom environment. Game design is a creative and personal experience, and your lesson plan should be the same — you have to guide students toward the subjects they need to work on (otherwise, what’s the point of having a class?), but you must also give them room for creation, exploration, and directed study.

Set the width of your path

Teaching game design requires a balance between guiding your students and supporting their creativity. Imagine each lesson as a path that students must follow to the end: a narrow path keeps students from straying off course, whereas a wide path lets them explore what they like along the way. A good lesson plan has a balanced width that isn’t too narrow or too wide. Give your students generally enough freedom to surprise you with their games — if your restrictions cause students’ games to become boringly similar, try allowing them more freedom of design.

Here are a few lessons you can try that provide a fair amount of freedom to your students:

  • The Five Elements of Game Design: Introduce and discuss the five elements of game design, as defined in the Gamestar Mechanic Quest. Students can then design single-level games and identify the five elements in each other’s works.

  • Visual Themes and Detail: Discuss the use of visual elements in popular video games, and the feelings derived from them. Students can then design single large levels with detailed visuals and describe the environments created by classmates’ games.

  • Ecosystems: Have students play the AMD Impact Challenge. Discuss real-world systems of animals and plants in the context of game design — what game is each creature playing? Students must then design an energy-based game that includes a twist of their own design, and think about what their twist might represent in real life.

Plan your time

When figuring out your lesson plan, you must budget your time well. Use the following list to ensure that you have time for everything you need to do:

  • Questing: Sometimes, you want students to play informative games before continuing, such as quests and challenges — and they can take much different lengths of time to complete these games. To keep your lesson running smoothly, consider assigning quests as homework to be completed before class begins so that students can talk about them during the discussion.

  • Lecture/Discussion: Always talk about the subject of your lesson, to make your goals clear and allow students to ask for clarification when necessary. Keep this plan somewhat flexible — students learn best by participating, asking questions, and discussing a lecture (rather than simply listening to it).

  • Designing: Devote the majority of your lesson to open design sessions, in which students design games based on your teachings. Give students plenty of warnings about time remaining so that they don’t end up with unfinished games. Alternatively, you can assign the whole game-design process as homework and let students present their games in the next lesson.

  • Reviewing: There’s no point to designing a game if no one plays it. Allow ample time for students to gather feedback from you and from other classmates. You can do this by assigning worksheets, reviews, discussion, or anything else you think would work well. Though you can assign this phase as homework, many students like to have a real-time reaction to their work.

Review your students’ games

Designing games should be the homework that takes the longest, and it’s usually what students are proudest of. Be sure to play and review students’ games during or after class. Reviewing games as a teacher is similar to grading papers without assigning a grade: You can find segments that were done well and segments that could be improved, keeping students confident and gaining knowledge.

If you evaluate your students’ games, do so based on how well they used the information from the discussion and challenges.