247G Syllabus

Lecture attendance is required. Weekly lectures will occur in Lathrop 282 on Tu/Thu 1:30-3:30pm. “Lecture” is highly interactive, so watching recordings will not replicate the learning environment. We will take attendance.

Students are also asked to meet for studio sections. If you cannot make your assigned studio, please ask your team and the teaching team for an exception.  Studio sections are dedicated times for students to work on projects with their teammates. Finding time for teams to work together is always a huge hassle, and these studios will be based on student availability.  At least one member of the teaching team will be present during each section to check-in with groups and provide help. As well, CA’s will be teaching tools that are useful in making games, including Unity. ​ Student section assignments will be announced around the start of second week depending on student interests and availability. While you should attend your assigned section, please feel free to attend any of the CA sections throughout term for extra advice or learn a unique skill from a given CA.

Course Description

The CS247 series of classes are project-based courses that build on the introduction to design in CS147 by focusing on advanced methods and tools for research, prototyping, and user interface design. CS247 classes use a studio-based format with intensive coaching and iteration to prepare students for tackling real world design problems. This class will be entirely asynchronous with virtual “office hours” held on Discord, Zoom and in discussion forums.

The focus of CS247G is an introduction to theory and practice of the design of games. We will make digital​ and paper​ games, do rapid iteration, and run user research studies appropriate to game design.

This class has two projects, a social game and an environmental game. The social game project (P1) will explore how games can help mediate social interactions and create community. Examples include Space Team, Words with Friends, Among Us and Werewolf. The “Environmental” game will explore puzzles, story and play organized in space using architecture and levels. Games that use a model of actual physical space as an organizing principle cross many genres, from escape rooms to board games to VR games and more. Firewatch, Portal, and Escape from the Box are just a few. As well, this year we will offer the chance to make a physical Escape Room.

Prerequisites: 147 or equivalent background. There are no technical requirements, but students are welcome to learn Unity as they learn to play.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Explore what games are, how they work and how they create “fun.”
  • Practice the fundamentals of game design.
  • Effectively execute playtesting and do iterative development.
  • Design interfaces that are usable and communicate the game’s message.
  • Practice using different research and design tools appropriately.
  • Effectively communicate their learning about games’ power to create emotional experiences.

Teaching Principles

The humane option is the best option. We are going to prioritize supporting each other as humans: we value simple solutions that make sense for most. We are going to prioritize sharing resources and communicating clearly.

We will foster intellectual nourishment, social connection, and personal accommodation.

Class Schedule & Assignments

This class will be a combination of reading, critical play, design exercises and creation of games. We will have two projects over the 9-week quarter. A more precise schedule will be on Canvas. However, ​due to the unprecedented nature of the last two years, we reserve the right to change things as the class needs.

  • Week 1:​ Introduce Class, Core Concepts of Game Design and Practice Critical Play
  • Weeks 2-4: Project 1: Social Mediation Game – A Game for friends (or friends to be)
    • Picking and understanding your target player
    • Creating an effective Game Architecture
    • Understanding Aesthetics and Poetics in order to create experiences
    • Building skills in graphic and information design.
  • Weeks 5-9: Project 2: Environmental Storytelling
    • Narrative in Space
    • Designing effective puzzles
    • Level design
    • Playtesting with friends, family, and friendly strangers
    • Game Balance


For assignments and projects, we’ll generally stick to a 100-point grading scale. Complete/incomplete assignments will receive 0 for no submission, and 1 for sufficient completion. The teaching team reserves the right to award A+ at the end of the quarter for outstanding work. This will NOT be based on your numerical grade but instead be awarded to the top students. Students who argue they should get an A+ are automatically disqualified from getting one.

Final grades in the class will be calculated as follows:

  • 50% Projects
  • 10% Participation (a combination of attendance, asking questions and offering critique in class and on slack, and in class game exercises)
  • 10% Sketchnotes
  • 15% Critical Play
  • 15% Team reviews

For the CR/NCR option, the threshold for passing is 70% cumulatively.

Regrade Policy

If you feel you deserved a better grade on an assignment/project, you may request a regrade (via canvas or slack) within a week after the grades are released. Your request should briefly summarize why you feel the original grade was a mistake. A CA will reevaluate your assignment grade as soon as possible and issue a final decision.

Late Policy

Unsubmitted assignments will receive no credit.

For assignments (sketchnotes/critical plays), the late policy is as follows. You will receive a free 24-hour pass after the posted due date to turn in your assignment without incurring penalty. For every additional late day beyond this period, 10% will be deducted from the assignment grade. We will not deduct below 50% on account of lateness: if you sufficiently complete and turn in an assignment before finals week, you will receive at least 50% for the assignment.

For projects, you are granted a free 24 hours after the posted due date to turn in work. All projects must be turned in by the end of this timeframe to receive credit. If you have extenuating circumstances, please email the teaching staff to request an extension prior to the project due date.


Please gather for your game design prototyping kit (as many of these that you can get):

  • Six-sided dice
  • Multi-sided dice. Like this (Links to an external site.)​ or similar. (you can use a random number generator if you can’t get dice.)
  • Blank flash cards. Like ​this (Links to an external site.)
  • Index cards (Daiso is very cheap!)
  • Big index cards
  • Some chits to use for keeping track/ pieces to move on a board, etc. You can use buttons, pawns, or whatever.
  • Something to use as a board for board games. A large notebook (11×17 is good) or a flip chart. Stiffness is not important for rapid prototypes (you don’t need foamboard), but it might be useful. Construction paper might be nice.

You do NOT have to make any of your games digitally if you are not a CS student. You can be pure analog.​ If you do decide to make final versions as video games, you need to have them playable cross platform, i.e. from a browser, a PC or an iOS/Android device (for grading reasons).
If you are analog, we do require you to get training in the PRL labLinks to an external site. so you can deliver good prototypes.


All reading, videos and audio materials I give you will be accompanied by a request for a sketchnote, unless otherwise stated. More on sketchnoting on Canvas.

Deliverable / Documentation Checklist  

“Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most beautiful thing in the world, A limited, limiting clarity
I have not and never did have any motive of poetry
But to achieve clarity.”

-George Oppen

All work will be accompanied by documentation of your process. You’ll post your assignments/projects to our course blog (https://mechanicsofmagic.com/ (Links to an external site.) ) and link to these posts in your canvas submissions.

  • Multi-page deliverables (such as sketchnotes) are gathered into one post. Include a featured image and categorize appropriately.
  • All sentences should be complete, readable sentences.
  • Use Spellcheck. Get a second person to read your work, to check for clarity.
  • Photos must be in focus and oriented correctly.
  • Screenshots are clear, and big enough to make your point. Crop and zoom as needed. Use arrows and other callouts to point to the item you are discussing.
  • All statements are supported by your reasoning​, i.e. “The menu is confusing BECAUSE there is no visual hierarchy.” “I choose orange as an accent BECAUSE it contrasts with the main color, which is blue.” “I asked for registration after they have made a drawing BECAUSE the user sees the value in the app and is more likely to sign up.” NOTHING is obvious.
  • Support decisions with data whenever possible. ALWAYS list demographics and number of people you spoke with; use proper citation format if doing secondary research. Try this site ​http://www.citationmachine.net/ (Links to an external site.)
    “If we’re arguing with opinions, my opinion wins.” – Interviews with CEOs

Explain yourself clearly and thoroughly.

Read instructions, and when they are confusing, ask questions and I’ll cheerfully answer them. There are no stupid questions.

Affordability of Course Material

Stanford University and its instructors are committed to ensuring that all courses are financially accessible to all students. If you are an undergraduate who needs assistance with the cost of course textbooks, supplies, materials and/or fees, you are welcome to approach me directly. If would prefer not to approach me directly, please note that you can ask the Diversity & First-Gen Office for assistance by completing their questionnaire on course textbooks & supplies: http://tinyurl.com/jpqbarn or by contacting Joseph

Brown, the Associate Director of the Diversity and First-Gen Office (jlbrown@stanford.edu; Old Union Room 207). Dr. Brown is available to connect you with resources and support while ensuring your privacy.

Designing Our Class Environment

It’s possible for even well-intended students to accidentally alienate your peers. Comments can make unwelcome assumptions that don’t fit some lives, and it’s also possible for critiques and conversations to constitute what’s called harassment (Links to an external site.). Harassment means unwelcome or even hostile behavior, including speech, that intimidates, creates discomfort, or interferes with a person’s participation or opportunity for participation. That behavior will shut the person down in class, and that is simply not fair and not something we want. Harassment can involve nationality, age, color, creed, disability, gender, sexual orientation or any other protected status. It also extends to unwelcome sexual advances. A response that the participant was “just joking,” or “teasing,” or being “playful,” is not acceptable. If you have witnessed or experienced any harassment, please let an instructor know privately and promptly.


Please email the teaching team any OAE (Office of Accessible Education) letters prior to any assignment deadlines. They will be the point of contact for you.



We are all figuring this out together. Please email the CAs about any issues you may be having with internet connections that may be prohibitive (such as being able to share your video in discussion sections) or if you happen to be in a place with a drastically different time zone than the continental United States, so we are aware of the range of what needs students may have during this quarter. While the class is optimized for live lecture viewing (as there may be small discussion breakouts and Q&A times during the lecture), live attendance on Zoom is not required for those for whom technological or other conditions make it infeasible, and we will make accomodations for such parts of the course as needed for students. 

In the case that you get sick from Covid-19 (or a loved one gets seriously ill), please email CAs about the situation and we will work with you on a case by case basis. We hope that in situations where you have a mild illness you would be able to use your late days (similar to getting sick normally), but we understand that in some cases, Covid-19 is much more severe than other common illnesses. Please know that if your case is that of the more serious nature, we want to work with you to make sure that your health is prioritized and that you can still complete the course requirements at some point in time.

Sexual Violence and Harassment

Academic accommodations are available for students who have experienced or are recovering from sexual violence. If you would like to talk to a confidential resource, you can schedule a meeting with the Confidential Support Team or call their 24/7 hotline at: 650-725-9955. Counseling and Psychological Services also offers confidential counseling services. Non-confidential resources include the Title IX Office, for investigation and accommodations, and the SARA Office, for healing programs. Students can also speak directly with the teaching staff to arrange accommodations. Note that university employees – including professors and TAs – are required to report what they know about incidents of sexual or relationship violence, stalking and sexual harassment to the Title IX Office. Students can learn more at https://vaden.stanford.edu/sexual-assaultLinks to an external site..


Mental Health

This is a time of chaos and change, and it has affected all of us differently. If you are struggling with new or resurging mental health struggles, you don’t have to be alone. Stanford has a very robust support system with many ways to get help listed at CAPS. Below is a short list of useful links.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Honor Code

The Honor Code articulates University expectations of students and faculty in establishing and maintaining the highest standards in academic work. Examples of conduct that have been regarded as being in violation of the Honor Code (and are most relevant for this course) include copying from another’s examination paper or allowing another to copy from one’s own paper; unpermitted collaboration; plagiarism; revising and resubmitting a quiz or exam for regrading, without the instructor’s knowledge and consent; representing as one’s own work the work of another; and giving or receiving aid on an academic assignment under circumstances in which a reasonable person should have known that such aid was not permitted. See https://communitystandards.stanford.edu/ for more information on the Honor Code.