Prototyping and Designing Games for Learning, begins Feb. 17, 2021 | MIT J-WEL

Prototyping and Designing Games for Learning, begins Feb. 17, 2021


Class Description

*Please note that the class is exclusive to individuals affiliated with J-WEL member organizations. Class space is limited. Members will be able to register until February 10. This class is 0.5 seat-week per participant; additional seats may be purchased by members.  If you have any questions about your organizations's seat weeks or if you need a link to register, please contact us at
This class/subject will cover practical game design, analysis, and production practices for teams developing games for learning. Participants will attend the class as a team (3-4 people) to conceive, design, develop, and thoroughly test a prototype for a learning game. Please note that you do not need to have a team prior to signing up for the class - participants will be able to find teammates during the first week of the program! By practicing this discipline, participants will understand the interaction and evolution of learning goals and game rules. All participants may elect to develop tabletop or non-digital game prototypes. Teams with prior experience in digital software development may elect to develop a digital prototype instead.

The class will meet in a weekly Zoom meeting over 14 weeks, which will be recorded for future reference. Each meeting will be 1.5 hours. Participants are expected to read material ahead of each class, respond to weekly writing prompts, and meet regularly with their game development teams outside of class to work on tasks relevant to their project. Outside of Zoom meetings, participants should expect to spend between 6 to 15 hours on prototyping every week to get the most out of the class. The series will conclude with teams presenting their projects on video, as well as a team document detailing the contributions of each team member. Participants who complete the coursework and their projects will be eligible to receive a certificate. Note: this subject will be recorded.

Participants actively working on developing a game (digital or analog) will get the most out of the subject. Participants may elect to start a new project with their team at the beginning of class or bring an existing project for further prototyping and feedback. If you are interested in joining the class but do not have a team to work with, please contact us ahead of time and we may be able to introduce you to other participants who have complementary skills. Please indicate what skills or experience you wish to contribute (e.g. teaching, curriculum development, game design, programming, art, music) when contacting us about joining a team.

View a recording of the information session for this class. 

Class Schedule, Wednesday Mornings, 9am ET (subject to change):

  • Week 1 (February 17): Game design terminology. Iterative design and development
  • Week 2 (February 24): Fundamentals of game prototyping
  • Week 3 (March 3): Theme, Meaning, Simulation and Representation
  • Week 4 (March 10): Designing for usability
  • Week 5 (March 17): Playtesting
  • Week 6 (March 24): Group presentations
  • Week 7 (March 31): Communities of play
  • Week 8 (April 7): Tabletop and digital game platforms
  • Week 9 (April 14): Playtesting
  • Week 10 (April 21): Player choice, skill, probability, and feedback loops
  • Week 11 (April 28): Cooperation and competition
  • Week 12 (May 5): Information in games
  • Week 13 (May 12): Playtesting
  • Week 14 (May 19): Group presentations

About Instructor Philip Tan


Philip Tan is a research scientist at the MIT Game Lab. He teaches classes in game design and production at MIT. His research translates the joy of expert challenge (e.g., in scientific, professional, and competitive fields) into playful forms that are accessible to laypeople. For six years, he was the executive director for the US operations of the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, a game research initiative.

He has served as a member of the steering committee of the Singapore chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) and worked closely with Singapore game developers to launch industry-wide initiatives and administer content development grants as an assistant manager in the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore. He has also produced and designed PC online games at The Education Arcade, a research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that studied and created educational games.


Date & Time: 
Saturday, May 1, 2021 - 09:00 to Wednesday, May 19, 2021 - 10:00