Just before Christmas my friend, Lew, from across the pond in the USA (I live in the UK) asked me if I'd try out his new Udemy audio-visual course "Learning Game Design". Having said I'd happily give it a shot over Christmas/New Year, I now find myself beyond that window of opportunity. Nevertheless, a shot is what I'll give it now, and hopefully, my best one.
Link here: https://www.udemy.com/learning-game-design. It's a priced course, but for the price of a book, you get a proper 'learning experience'.
As a spur to blogging, at which I'm not very regular, I've decided to note down thoughts as I go through the course (or 'class' as our American cousins call them). Lew and I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on all aspects of game design, so I may throw in the odd controversial comment. For information about Lew's views on Eurogames and other popular forms on the Geek, have a look at Lew's fine blog here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/blog/435/pulsipher-game-design. He also has other regular blogs and publications.
First I'm bearing in mind that I'm not the course's target audience, which is beginning game designers. However, it's called 'learning game design', and game design is always about learning how to do it - you've never finished learning. One of the reasons that I now also write (or help to write) the occasional freeform game, and wargame, is that there are massive learning opportunities from cross pollination across game genres - what's been learnt in Eurogames hasn't been learnt yet in other genres, and vice versa quite frequently.
I've completed the intro sections of the course. The initial parts lay out what the course is and what it is not - gently but firmly. Lew gives the audience time to think (quite properly). Pace seems good to me, and thought provoking for those not accustomed to this type of educational experience.
This course is also helpful for me, because in the real world I handle information about courses - particularly marketing information; and I've not yet caught up properly with MOOCs. I tried a relatively simple Intro to Philosophy MOOC recently and found it rather disappointing with little use of new technology - pretty much a series of talking heads and very simplistic quizzes; not enough critical thinking, which struck me as odd for a philosophy course! This course on Learning Game Design will, I'm sure, be better.
First notes: it's about game design, not any other aspects. And it's video and tabletop games. All the slides are available for download, so not only can you take it at your own pace, you can rinse and repeat, as desired. Also, it's NOT a rehash of Lew's recently published game design book. There is little tutor-student interaction, because that's the nature of online - at least on Udemy. I'm hoping that online courses will develop better interaction possibilities, but that still seems some way off.
Lew stresses that game design is about critical thinking and effort. It's education not training; and it's experiential, not just because you're encouraged to design a game during the course, but because you'll be able to absorb Lew's considerable experience as an expert teacher and expert game designer.
The introduction to the course is extensive, but necessarily so. No-one should get the wrong message about what they're letting themselves in for. You quickly find out the good and not-so-good points about the Udemy experience, before committing too far.
Finally, in this first part of my experience, I like the admonition to give yourself time to think. Wise words, which I will absorb now.