Games, Design & Game Design

Archive for the ‘Thesis Work’ Category

Where Is Done

In Design Practice, Exhibitions, Links, Self-Reflection, Thesis Work on June 15, 2011 at 10:25 am

The opening for our thesis show was last Monday afternoon/evening, and it was quite a day! In brief:

My final critique went as well as could be expected. The jury was up out of their seats, poking at things and asking lots of questions, which is always nice. Energy in a critique is a joy. There were some very cogent critical points brought up at all levels of the design, from the mechanics level to presentation to marketing/distribution, but overall the response was positive and I walked out feeling pretty good about it.

My department head invited me to be one of two student panelists on a round-table discussion centering around the central question/statement of the show (Where Is Where, indeed) and the relationship between art and design. The format was pretty odd to me, and I felt like the time alloted (an hour) was a little long, but it was a very interesting experience. My classmates told me afterwards that I was making the most sense, which means that I either succeeded at trying to state my opinions clearly and simply, or failed at speaking on the same level as the professionals and academics on the panel; either way, I’m glad that I had the chance to participate.

Oh, and then I got an award! My department gives out merit awards for “exemplary work,” thanks to one of our long-time and generous patrons Betsy Karp, and I was one of the three recipients in my cohort. So I am now an award-winning designer. Fear me, world!

Then the reception was loud, crowded and fun. Lots of congratulations and champagne, and the school’s news magazine interviewed me, which was weird but kind of fun in it’s own way.

Overall, a successful day, I think.

Much like the Milan project I’ll be keeping a list of press outlets that cover the SAIC AIADO+Fashion thesis show Where is Where.

(last updated 6/30/11)

Where Is Where

In Chicago, Exhibitions, Promo, Thesis Work on June 7, 2011 at 10:03 am

If you can read this, you’re invited. Both my thesis work Play With Your Food (link to info sheet) and my Milan work More Than It’s Worth (link to gallery) will be there!

Where Is Where

June 11– June 25

Departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, Designed Objects (AIADO) and Fashion

Public Reception Monday, June 13, 6:00–8:00 p.m. Sullivan Galleries, 33 South State St., 7th floor

Exhibition Hours 11:00am–6:00 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday

Free and Open to the Public

Showcasing design from the Departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO) and Fashion, this exhibition brings together work by more than fifty graduate students. Through their individual approaches, they present new design solutions, situating their works within the inter-spaces of cultural and built systems. The works explore the unseen aspects of our society—many of which have been forgotten or overlooked—by re-inhabiting space, challenging perceptions of interiority, and redefining values. The show is curated to highlight the individual works as separate entities through thematic and disciplinary juxtaposition.

What I’ve Been Up To

In Design Process, Game Design, Thesis Work on May 30, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Taking a break. Here’s some behinds-the-scenes of  what I’ve been working on (all pics are click-to-enlargeable)!

The show opens June 11th. Coming up quick.

Food Bit Models

Clay models of the food bits for Food Court Frenzy.

Food Court Frenzy Playtest

A playtest of Food Court Frenzy

Filling The Pants

Fillin' up the pants during Food Court Frenzy

Feed Them! Playtest

Playtesting Feed Them!

Feed Them! Playtest Detail

One heavily trafficked node in Feed Them!

Happy Farm

The chain we called "Happy Farm" during the Feed Them! playtest

Feed Court Frenzy Board

Vacuforming the new board for Food Court Frenzy

Food Court Frenzy Prototype

Another prototype for Food Court Frenzy


Casting the new food bits for Food Court Frenzy

Near-Final Food Court Frenzy

Most current prototype for Food Court Frenzy

Local (Chicago) Playtesters Wanted

In Chicago, Game Design, Promo, Thesis Work on May 17, 2011 at 11:08 am

Dear Chicago-ans: I am seeking folks who would be willing to play two of my thesis games, both as a round of validation playtesting, and as material for the instructional videos I’m planning to create for their installation. I can provide hearty thanks and post-playtest beers (or whatever) as payment. Due to the nature of the prototypes, I’m hoping to host the playtests in my studio in the Loop, but we can figure out the details depending on who is interested and how far away folks are.

Please contact me through the emails (n-dot-d-dot-paoletta-at-gmail) with questions or if you are interested! I’ll be putting the word out through other channels as well.

As enticement, some pictures of the current prototypes!

Food Court Frenzy Game Board Prototype

Prototype of the game board for Food Court Frenzy

Food Court Frenzy Prototype

The current prototype for Food Court Frenzy

Feed Them! Prototype

Current prototype for Feed Them! (much more dynamic)

Pre-Final-Final Critique

In Commentary, Design Process, My Thoughts On, Self-Reflection, Thesis Work on May 6, 2011 at 11:07 am

Yesterday I had my Critique Week critique. Crit week, as we call it, is a pretty interesting feature of how SAIC works. Basically, the second-to-last week of each semester is given over to individual 45-minute critiques of each graduate students work by a panel of faculty and visiting artists. Classes are suspended and each student is assigned a day and time to present their work. In the fall you present to a panel of faculty drawn from the department you practice in, and in the spring it’s an interdepartmental panel. Mine, as it turned out, was moderated by a Printing faculty member, and included Film/Video/New Media, Painting, Sculpture and one Architecture instructor (who I had had in the fall for our CTA group studio project).

It went surprisingly well! The fear with these things is not just that it could go poorly, as in the panel doesn’t like or understand the work (that’s not really a big deal), but that it won’t be helpful in furthering the work. I worked pretty hard to get two games to a fully prototyped stage (pics forthcoming), and it really helped, even though we didn’t get into deign details. Having physical things to evaluate makes it so much easier to communicate the idea, every time. The tone of the panel was generally positive and complimentary, with specific questions about how to make the work more effective in really communicating food issues, and some solid suggestions for next steps to take. So it went well, and it was helpful – first time!

Some takeaway points about these critiques (gleaned from my experience and talking to my classmates):

  • Something is better than nothing. Having a prototype or model, even if it’s rough, will provoke more useful discussion than sketches and words, especially in these interdisciplinary panels.
  • They want to help. It’s easy to think of critiques as adversarial, but the faculty seem to genuinely look forward to critique week, and they are interested in what you are doing. Take advantage of their expertise.
  • Don’t talk too much. The panel only sees what you show them and knows what you tell them. They don’t need to know, and probably don’t want to know, the tortured journey from first idea to final product.
  • Take notes. I set up my flip to record the panel (haven’t watched it yet!) and took notes during. Some people get a friend to take notes for them. In any case, you won’t remember everything, get some kind of permanent record.
  • Have specific questions. When the general discussion dies down, it helps to have a list of a couple specific things you want to get out of it, like “do you have any suggestions for how to effectively showcase this feature in the exhibition” or “what kind of packaging would you expect this to come in.” Anything, really, that can guide the conversation towards usefulness and avoid awkward “we’re out of things to talk about” silence.
I have more thoughts on critique week in general, after the jump.

Thesis Update: Just Work

In Design Practice, Design Process, Game Design, Product Design, Promo, Thesis Work on May 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Since getting back from Milan, I’ve had to refocus on this whole thesis thing pretty hardcore. On the plus side, as the semester winds down (one week of classes left!), all of the other classes are slowly falling away. Soon, it’ll just be us and thesis, battle to the death, for about a month.

On the one hand, it’s going to be a lot of work, because I really, really want to have a quality final product for the show in June. On the other hand, at this point it’s “just” work. The games have started gaining that momentum where it’s becoming obvious which parts to let fall away, which fold into each other, and which feed the development of the next stages. This is the fun part (twitter whining notwithstanding).

To that end, photos!

I have my critique week critique in a couple of days, so most of my energy is going towards having some playable prototypes for that. Hopefully after I’ll have some kind of insighful analysis. Until then, pictures of rubber pants should suffice.

Test Pants

Test pair for my final molding method, still on the mold.

More pics after the jump.

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Play With Your Food Info Sheet

In Game Design, Promo, Thesis Work on April 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm

While my thesis work has been a little bit on hold due to the mad dash to the finish line for Milan, I’ve finally managed to get some more work done for it in the last week (helped out by some press deadlines for the thesis exhibition).

The overall title of my project is officially Play With Your Food: Three Games About Eating. The three games are Feed Them!, Food Court Frenzy and Dinner Winner – the little that I’ve posted about them so far are under the “Thesis Work” tag.

The quick descriptions:

  • Feed Them! is a strategic resource-management game that models the complex factors surrounding the journey of food from production to retail outlets.
  • Food Court Frenzy is a tongue-in-cheek traditional board game focused on overeating and the relationship between how much food costs and how healthy it is.
  • Dinner Winner is an experimental game that uses the kitchen refrigerator as a board. It is focused on managing a households consumption of perishable foods.

Hopefully I’ll be better about posting process and progress after I get back from Milan.

Until then, I’ve prepared a one-page info sheet with more details and a couple of images – PlayWithYourFood_InfoSheet.

Food Court Frenzy!

In Design Process, Game Design, Product Design, Sketches, Thesis Work on February 21, 2011 at 9:27 pm
Food Court Frenzy! Promo

Food Court Frenzy! Prototype

Food Court Frenzy is my second game exploration that’s made it to prototype. It’s for 2-4 players (though I imagine it could have more, maybe up to 6). You have won a shopping spree at the local mall food court! Each player has 100$ and takes turns rolling 1 six-sided die and moving around the board. You have to buy and eat the food at the stall that you land on; money is handled with tokens, and food is represented by marbles. Cheaper food counts for more marbles, and vice versa. To eat, you place your marbles in your suspended balloon, representing your stomach. The first player who is unable to place a marble in their balloon, or who knocks over their balloon stand, ends the game. That player loses for sure, and then the player with the most money remaining wins!

There are a couple of other winkles (the circle in the center is the “Bully Circle”, with a chance of having a free turn, having money stolen, or being force-fed a marble), but that’s pretty much it. It is stupidly fun, at least for adults who don’t take themselves too seriously.

The next major design challenge (other than running some simulations on the board to see if the space distribution makes sense) is the actual units used as the stomach stands. I think anthopomorphic is the way to go, and just today started prototyping in acrylic.

Food Court Frenzy! Stand Prototypes

Food Court Frenzy! Stand Prototypes

I’m very pleased, and excited to keep developing this one! More pics (mostly from the initial playtest) after the jump.

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Feed Us! Continues

In Design Process, Game Design, Thesis Work on February 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm

I made revisions based on the first playtest, mainly altering the currency cycle, eliminating some un-necessary options and standardizing the card effects. I also decided to combine the two different kinds of card in an effort to make card drawing more elegant, but I fear that that decision is throwing off the ability for players to make strategic decisions in the mid-game.

I also put all the materials into InDesign so that players don’t have to decipher my scrawl.

Feed Us! Revision 2 materials

Feed Us! revision 2 printed materials

I playtested this revision with 3 players (the games for 2-4 at this point). It went pretty well – it dragged on for about half an hour past my target play time, for what I mainly think are structural reasons. We did have a player win, but it was party through me deciding not to keep battling for one of the Health meters, which would have drawn out her eventual victory even longer. I got some really good feedback about the pain points remaining in the system, without it all going down in flames.

On the positive side, there was some really strong synergy between the color of the various card combinations and their mechanic effects (those who were pursuing Environmental Health victories using cards like Local Gardens and Farmers Markets, those going after Economic Health using Big Box Store and Global Distribution, stuff like that). The inter-player competition element is strong, and replay value seems like it’s greater than 1-2 plays, which is good.

Next steps: do some real math concerning the currency cycle, figure out how to shorten the mid-game without making it an early-leader-wins situation, and decide on the possible addition of a random “crisis that effects everybody equally” element.

The game is in a place where I can send PDFs of the game materials to those interested; to actually play, it will involve about half an hour of printing and cutting out cards. Email me if you’d like to take a look!

More pics after the cut.

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Working Title: Feed Us!

In Design Practice, Design Process, Game Design, Sketches, Thesis Work on February 1, 2011 at 5:10 pm

The first game attempt for Games About Food has made.


In this game, each player will be setting and and maintaining an industrial food chain, taking food from basic resources to retail. Each player will have a contrasting Goal concerning the overall Health of the system – Environmental, Economic and/or Personal.

The goal of the game is to achieve your Goal first, by creating conditions where the level of Health or Healths concerned with your individual Goal card are achieved. However, if ANY of the three Health tracks hits 0, everybody loses and the game is over!

A finished game of Feed Us!

I started writing it last Saturday, finished the mechanics skeleton yesterday, and finished a written rules document this morning. I played it with one person (it’s for 2-4 people), which took about an hour and shook out the obvious math problems, and a couple of less obvious emergent properties. So it took 4 days to put together, probably about 10-12 hours total if put all together in one chunk. This seems like a baseline pace that I’d like to keep up.

Now that I have one design really started (with a playtest and all!), I’ll be revising it in parallel to working on a different idea; possibly “Dinner Winner” (thanks to my classmate for the title) a card game where the winner is the one who makes the best recipe out of the cards, and the loser cooks dinner with that recipe.

Some more pics of the very first round of Feed Us! after the jump. Click to embiggen.

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