Playtime Online: How Can We Support Aspiring Teen Game Designers?


About This Episode

You can check out Gamekit now in its beta phase, at!

Institute of Play kicked off the new year with a behind-the-scenes look at its latest venture for teens: Gamekit! Offering students in grades 6–12 the chance to take on the role of game designer, Gamekit connects teens to a community of professional game designers through moderated design challenges.

This month, the creators of Gamekit will spend the hour discussing the value of game design concepts in and outside of the classroom, illustrating how students can use Gamekit’s self-directed exercises to understand a range of design challenges.

This webinar is especially directed at educators, mentors, parents, and teens interested in game design but lacking the external support in their communities. In addition to an exclusive demo of the Gamekit website, the Playtime panelists will reveal:

  • How Gamekit’s website serves as a resource for supporting aspiring game designers.
  • Why game design is a great way for students to understand systems
  • How Gamekit can be used in individual and group settings as a curricular tool

Tune in to find out how you can become a game designer today!

Episode Highlights

5:58 Alice introduces Gamekit
14:10 “I think it’s really important for young people to have the experience of seeing failure as something you really can learn from and improve upon.”
16:12 Bob discusses iterating the design of and playtesting Gamekit
23:10 Greg, Shula, along with students Rocco and Liam kick off the demo
32:20 “We could also do one of these stacking games…” “What about flicking?” “Oh!”
38:20 Greg and Shula playtest Rocco and Liam’s new game “Power Coin”
40:12 Don discusses ways to use Gamekit

43:40 Does gamekit provide any tools for creating digital games?
45:38 I’m a student in a game design class at my high school. Do you think it is better for the students to start off modding classical games or to try to walk them through making their own game?
46:25 Was there a specific way that you envisioned the students would use the objects in the game kit. Was there a game that you thought they would make. If so, what game would it be?
47:32 What do you think is the most important thing for educators to know who are interested in incorporating more gamification into their curriculum and lessons?
48:55 Does the game kit cost anything, and when will the gamekit site be live?
49:50 What is the best way to analyze a game that you created? How many times do you suggest play testing?
51:21 As gaming is starting to make its way slowly into schools to promote teaching, can you see it evolving into something much larger as it to be used in schools across America to help teach any subject if not all subjects?

Twitter hashtag: #playtimers


  1. Brenda Wilkerson
    Posted January 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    We have a game program for high school students. We would definitely incorporated into our curriculum. I’d like to see the type of challenges that spark students’ ability to problem solve

  2. Bonnie Taylor
    Posted January 24, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Always looking for new ways for students to explore and engage beyond the classroom.

  3. Amna Siddiqui
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Q: Will Gamekit also help as a resource for supporting the design of digital or online games?

    A: Gamekit will help with design of all games.  Some exercises will focus on digital platforms.  Others will challenge players to develop paper games or even new sports.  Games come in all shapes and variety. But the conceptual lessons learned making one type of game can be transferred over to other forms.  It can be very good skill building for designers to challenge themselves to make games outside of their comfort zones.

  4. Amna Siddiqui
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Q: Using online space for learning opportunity is absolutely beneficial for all youths with a computer and internet! Really looking forward to your work. What game building tools will Gamekit use?

    A: In our first set of Gamekits we use the online tool Gamestar Mechanic and offline tools like dice and cards.  Pen, paper and math are some of the best game building tools out there.  As professional game designers, we rely a lot on pen, paper and math.  But we’ll also be introducing the community to other useful digital tools.  I imagine we’ll eventually have challenges centered around tools like Game Maker, Processing, Flash, Photoshop and some easy to use game engines.

  5. Amna Siddiqui
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Q: Do you find it hard to get away from the original design and move in a different direction without the help of a different party?

    A: That’s a good question. Sometimes there’s something so glaringly annoying about a game that you can’t wait to dig in and fix it.  Other times, you’re so attached to a set of rules that it’s hard to modify them for fear of ruining them.  In cases like that an outside perspective is very valuable.  That’s when you really want to bring in other people to playtest your game.  Playtesting should always be a part of your process.  Watching people play, stumble and enjoy your game is very edifying. It can quickly jar you out of a design rut, if you’re stuck in one.  Playtesters will give you a lot of feedback and probably a lot of suggestions. You don’t need to take them all, but you should pay close attention to their behavior and modify the game to get more of the behavior you want, and less of the behavior you don’t.

  6. Amna Siddiqui
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Q: How competitive is a career in game design? And how long does it take to actually get your foot in the door?

    A: Game design and development is definitely competitive.  A lot of people who grew up playing games are excited to start making them and expressing themselves through games.  That can make getting your foot in the door of a big established game company a little hard.  But that said, it’s an awesome time to be making and publishing games.  There are so many new venues for games from consoles to smartphones to Facebook to a growing board game market.  There are always companies looking for smart and talented game developers, from designers to artists to programmers.  That is if you don’t limit your vision of games to big console games.

    Getting a job at a game development company requires a portfolio of work that shows off your game development chops. Building up a great portfolio can take a while, but the good news is that work is within your control.  And it’s fun work! The best way to do it, is start making games, playing them with your friends and publishing them on the internet and various app stores. Don’t let not knowing how stop you.  None of us knew how to make games before we started making them. You’ve got to dive right in, make some bad games, learn from your mistakes and eventually make some better games. Don’t know how to program? Learn. Or make card and board games. Don’t know how to design, start tinkering with games you admire.

    Do enough of this and you’ll find you already have your foot in the door.  Games are becoming more decentralized.  Small companies and teams and even individuals are making great, commercially successful games from hits on XBox like Braid and Fex to iOS smashes like Osmos and SpellTower. The barriers to publishing have largely disappeared.  You don’t have to worry about getting shelf space at Gamestop anymore to make a game.  So you want to get your foot in the door? Make some games and shove it in there! It’s all up to you.

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Greg Trefry
Greg is the Lead Game Designer at Institute of Play. He currently teaches game design and development at New York University and is the author of Casual Game Design: Designing Play for the Gamer in All of Us. Greg currently serves as Director of the Come Out & Play Festival, an annual gathering around street games in New York City.

Alice Chin
Alice is the Office Projects Manager at Institute of Play. She has worked with various organizations including Newsweek, IDEO and Miami Ad School. Alice is passionate about women's education and educational equity. Her academic work at Barnard College focused on language-based educational access in NYC public schools.

Shulamit Ponet
Shula is a Game Designer at Institute of Play. She works at  Quest to Learn's Mission Lab, where she designs game-based learning materials and experiences. When not at Quest, she can be found designing and playing location based games and running races throughout NYC.

Bob Holling
Bob is the Senior Experience Designer at Institute of Play. He has served a broad range of clients, such as JPMorgan, the Wall Street Journal, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Council for Interior Design Accreditation and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.