Lesson Plan

Intro to Game Design (designing engaging end-user experience)

Game Design is concerned with the iteration feedback loop and how games are a complex system designed around creating a satisfying user experience.
Clinton W.
Classroom teacher
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My Grades 7, 8
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math, Science, Arts


  • will use observations of examples of effective and ineffective design to develop strategies to improve engagement and useability.
  • will design and analyze dynamic systems, a characteristic activity in both the media and in science today, with considerations of how end-users interact with said systems.
  • will act as sociotechnical engineers, thinking about how people interact with systems you design by using the iteration feedback loop.
  • will observe social norms established in online environments for the good of the community in your digital communications (Netiquette).
  • will use online networks to assist classmates and demonstrate appropriate & professional communications (LEADERSHIP AND RESPONSIBILITY).
English Language Arts
writing clearly
Social Studies
Grades 5 – 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Procedure (students):

  1. Sign up for Gamestar Mechanic & write down your password!
  2. Play Episode 1 of the Quest, Addison Joins the League.
  3. Post which game in Episode 1 (Naviron Adventure / Altair Journey / Acheron Gauntlet / Kakuri Mindbender) was your favorite to Edmodo & why.
  4. Play Episode 2 of the Quest, Addison Joins the League.


Does it grab students' attention and capture their interest?

Yes! Gamestar Mechanic's initial quest has an engaging story, well designed games, and a clear method of progression. Students quickly get into the flow zone (the ZPD - Zone of Proximal Development, if you will) and those who are not finished will be dissapointed when they mus leave.

Does it make a connection with prior knowledge?

Students who have spent time in Computer Science, or other STEM related classes, learning how to use observations of examples of effective and ineffective design to develop strategies to improve communication, sustainability, and useability, this fits right in. For those that have not, this is a great way to introduce it, using a topic that all childeren understand; games.

Does it motivate students to want to learn more?

Oh yes, it most certianly does. Not only is the game-based quest engaging but there's also the promise of being able to design one's own games in the near future. 

2 Direct Instruction


Facilitator: Familiarize yourself with the elements of game design from: https://sites.google.com/a/elinemedia.com/gsmlearningguide/game-design-101 


  1. Students: Choose your favorite video game, board game, or sport. With your partner, identify:
    • “What do you do in the game?” (mechanics: collecting, shooting, throwing, solving)
    • “How do you win the game?” (what is your goal?)
  2. Facilitator: circulate, eavesdrop, and interview. Re-direct as necessary. Choose whom you will call on in whole group discussion.
  3. Discuss as a class. Place examples on the board. 
  4. Students: Reply to your partner's Edmodo post (from the hook) identifying the mechanics and goals of their favorite game in Episode 1:
    • ​​What do you do in the game?” (mechanics: collecting, shooting, throwing, solving)
    • “How do you win the game?” (what is your goal?)



Are new concepts introduced and/or being presented in a novel way?

Yes. Students are being introduced to the core elements of game design and ultimately how to design engaging end-user experience. 

Are concepts and processes clearly outlined and modeled?

Guiding students through examining and discussing games that they are familiar with allows them to apply new concepts in contexts they are familiar with before applying them in a new situation.

Does it provide concrete examples of the desired outcome(s)?

Yes. Examples are placed on the board. Students can see each other's responsed in Edmodo.

3 Guided Practice


  1. Students: If you've been ignoring the introductory comics up to this point, make sure you read them on the next 2 episodes. You will use the information! This is a test.
  2. Students: Play through Episodes 3 and 4 of Gamestar Mechanic's introductory quest, "Addison joins the league".
  3. Teachers: Episodes 3 & 4 explain goals, components, space, and rules and how they affect the engagement and playability of a game. They also include several missions that ask students to "mod" or repair a game specifically in terms of the element being discussed. Play through these ahead of time so you may help students who struggle here.


Does it provide multiple opportunities to practice, with scaffolding from easy to more difficult?

Yes. Episodes 3 & 4 explain goals, components, space, and rules and how they affect the engagement and playability of a game. The games introduce a concept and build on it increasing challenge and complexity to model the concept of Flow or ZPD for students.  

This exercise also includes several missions that ask students to "mod" or repair a game specifically in terms of the element being discussed. The mission shows students how to make the necessary adjustments and explains the problem, allowing them to determine the specific adjustment. 

Does it check for understanding?

If students do not successfully mod the game, they cannot move on. 

Is there an opportunity for students to question and get clarification?

There is ample help built into the mission in various places (see picture). The facilitator should also prep ahead of time to be able to move about the room providing clarification as necessary.  

4 Independent Practice


Making your first Game

  1. Students: Watch the Introduction to Episode 5. Read the comics about balancing.
  2. Students: Play through Episode 5. The last mission in Episode is a build mission. Here you have the opportunity to make a game for the first time. Think about the concept of a balanced game as you create your first game.
  3. Students: Post your game to Edmodo.

Getting & Giving Feedback

  1. Students: Play each other’s games once they are created and give feedback. Answer these questions in your Edmodo reply:
    1. Is the game balanced?
    2. Is it fun?
    3. If it is not balanced, tell which of the 5 elements could be changed to balance the game.
  2. Students: Copy / paste your feedback to the comments or review section of the game in Game Alley.
  3. Teachers: Here is a wikipage you can use as a resource for this section.


Does it give ample opportunities for individualized practice?

Creating a Clean Slate game is a hands-on activity that engages students in the game design process.

Can students display mastery?

Students display mastery by designing a game that is challenging but not frustrating (balanced). Students are given a template that forces them to consider various rules and space concerns. 

Does it provide a form of assessment (diagnostic, formative, or summative; authentic/performance)?

This is an authentic assessment, in that students are asked to create a game that classmates will play and provide feedback on. Students have been studying the concepts behind the basic elements of a game, and how the balance of fun and challenge in games creates flow. To finish their game, students have to figure out how a user is going to interact with a system that hasn't been invented yet. Further, the iterative feedback loop provide for by publishing games to the class for feedback, gives students the opportunity to have their design tested and assessed by peers.

5 Wrap-Up

Extending Learning & PBL:

I use this lesson as a kick off to an entire unit on Game Design. I introduce my students to game design, as defined above, with Gamestar Mechanic to teach kids the principles of game design and systems thinking in a highly engaging environment. My students complete a pretty comprehensive study in the five elements of game design, as defined by Gamestar Mechanic. After that, I provide students with an opportunity to go deeper within various other design and development environments.

  • For the rest of my project on Gamestar Mechanic, Click here 
  • For Gamestar Mechanic's official curriculum, Click here.
  • For my extension activities, including Portal 2, Stencyl, Scratch, and ARIS, Click here.
  • For a great App Flow with Portal 2, check out Steven's flow here.

Good luck, great games, and don't forget to be awesome.