Game On: Principles of Game Design

Course Description

This seven-week, interactive online course explores the fundamentals of all types of games (e.g., computer, athletic, board, role playing) and focuses on how to create ones that are playable. It dissects the five components that permeate all games, including: purpose, narrative, structure, mechanics, and rules, and explains why games’ bells and whistles are inconsequential if the basics aren’t well thought out and the game isn’t playable. The course also covers how to create an effective game-design document – an essential tool for communicating a designer’s vision to stakeholders. Additionally, the class touches on game psychology as well as play testing and game balance. Students participate in several class activities and are graded on two assignments, including modifying an existing game and designing their own game.

This online course is self-paced, but there will be deadlines.  How to meet them will be up to you. We recommend aiming to complete at least one module per week, reserving 4-6 hours to complete each module. There will be opportunities to interact and collaborate with your classmates and instructor.

Course ID: COMP 5001P
Course Format: Online

Important Course Information

This is a self-paced online course.  You may register anytime before the published registration deadline and will have access to the course through the published "Access Ends" date.

Available Online Sections

There are no available sections for this course. Please check back later.

View previous sections
View Previous Sections
CRN Start date End date Format Location Cost
16432 Jan 11, 2016 Feb 26, 2016 Online $595
16525 Mar 21, 2016 May 6, 2016 Online $295
16526 Jun 20, 2016 Aug 5, 2016 Online $295
17729 Jul 3, 2017 Aug 18, 2017 Online $295



  • Basic knowledge of computers. Computer programming is a plus.

Who Should Attend

Computer scientists, gamers, and educators. However, if you’re not in one of these groups, you’ll still learn a lot. The course is for enthusiasts as well and offers much more than just the theory of game design.

How You Will Benefit

  • Identify and be able to explain five key components of all games
  • Learn how to create a well-written game design document
  • Discover how to use a design engine, such as Unity
  • Produce a playable game and explain how you accomplished that


  • Module 1: Overview & Basics (game design, frameworks, course assignments) - 4-6 hours
  • Module 2: Concepts, Story, & Narrative (game concepts, purpose, narrative, synthesis & analysis of game story concepts) - 4-6 hours
  • Module 3: Game Structure (structure, board design, token design synthesis & analysis of structural design) - 4-6 hours
  • Module 4: Game Mechanics (probability, arbiters/catalysts, strategy & skill, luck & chance)- 4-6 hours
  • Module 5: Game Rules (construction, writing for clarity, controlling game balance, application & analysis of rules) - 4-6 hours
  • Module 6: Psychology (audience, complexity, prisoner’s dilemma, synthesis & analysis of game psychology) - 4-6 hours
  • Module 7: Testing (rule testing, play testing) - 4-6 hours



  • Fundamentals of Game Design: Edition 3, Ernest Adams
  • Game Theory: An Introduction, Steve Tadelis

For Course-Related Questions

Please contact the course administrator: Christopher R Stevens

Technology Requirements

Verify you meet the minimum technology requirements for this section.