Sarah Carlson has been a gamer for as long as she can remember.
Now, she’s applying that passion at Troy University as one of the first students enrolled in the new Game Development and Design minor, which began this spring semester at the Troy Campus.
“I’ve always played games when I had time, and I’d thought about game design as something I want to do,” said Carlson, a sophomore interdisciplinary student.
Game Development and Design grew from a single class, History Through Games, which Dr. Scout Blum created in 2016.
“I was using board, roleplaying and card games to help students get a feeling for how these games presented history and how that was different or similar to how historians present history,” said Blum, a professor in the University’s Department of History and Philosophy. “They also had to develop proposals for their own games. What I found through the class was it really inspired a lot of engagement from the students and helped them with critical thinking skills, getting them into discussions they wouldn’t have had otherwise. As I went along, I pretty quickly wanted to have more game design at TROY.”
The minor draws from several different departments at the University, including history, art and design, and business, with the goal of students creating, developing and marketing original games.
The minor begins with one of two introductory classes from which students can choose: History Through Games or History of Game Design.
“History Through Games looks at historical themes, playing games to see those themes,” Blum said. “History of Game Design is looking at how games have evolved over time from early Egyptian games to modern games. The students then take game development, a class that walks them through process of turning their game idea into a prototype.”
Business and art classes are also a requirement for the minor, but there are plenty of elective courses as well from a variety of fields, such as creative writing and computer science.
“Business and art are two key components,” Blum said. “The minor is geared toward tabletop games, but they can focus on video games if they want to. The electives feed into what the theme of their game is, which is conceptualized in the introductory course, and the additional knowledge they need. Eventually they do a capstone class where the students finalize their prototype and get it ready to go out to market. At the end, they will have a fully realized game.”
Sophomore computer science major Madalyn Bond took History Through Games and fell in love with the class, leading her to adopt the Game Development and Design minor this semester.
“It’s about working through problems and finding solutions, making something unique and original,” said Bond, who is well into development of her game, titled Images of the Silk Road. “We all collaborate, get ideas from each other — this is a good idea, this is not a good idea — and it really helps to have other people to bounce ideas off of.”
Bond hopes to be able to eventually sell her game to the public.
“I would like to get it functioning fully and be able to market it,” she said. “We’re just further developing it, doing more prototyping and art marketing. It doesn’t necessarily seem like a traditional class. It’s a lot of hands-on work, so I have a lot of fun with it.”
Carlson’s game, which doesn’t yet have a title, takes players through historical murder mysteries as they play.
“My game is about serial killers, finding, preventing and looking through different real-life cases,” Carlson said. “I’ve researched about the resources available at that time and how detectives discovered these killers. I want to make it so people can learn about detective agencies, how they work, and maybe find a new love with video and board games.”
The classes in the minor help students mold their ideas into reality.
“We talk about the types and the aesthetic of the game, the art, the marketing, it’s all rolled up into one big minor,” Carlson said. “We look at how the game is going to play, who it is marketed toward and how the game will appeal to both us and the audience.”
Because the minor just began, Bond and Carlson are the only students currently enrolled, but both expect more in the fall semester.
“It’s a really great opportunity for computer science students, because some of the other classes you take for the minor are computer science classes anyway,” Bond said. “It’s definitely good for art majors, too. We are not currently working on video games, but we do have the opportunity to make video games, so that’s something appealing to students as well.”
Blum said the minor, while fun, also involves a great deal of work.
She hopes to eventually create an exhibit displaying the students’ games once they are completed.
“One of the things about game design is it’s iterative — you play test things to see what works and fix problems as you find them,” Blum said. “We’ve already started play-testing the current students’ games. I’m hoping at end of semester we’ll have some way to show off the games the students have created.”