Honrs390E Section 1, Fall 2012

Course information

Course title
Honors Colloquium: Games and Museums
Mondays and Wednesdays, 4:00PM to 5:15PM in Ball House 200
Paul Gestwicki
Office Hours
Posted online
Ronald Morris
Office Hours
MWF 7:30–8:00AM and by appointment


This semester, we will study the connections between game design, museums, and learning. We will do this in true immersive style: after a few weeks of fundamentals, we will dive into a design process, with the goal of producing content for the Indiana State Museum. We will focus our efforts on analog games such as board games, card games, and short-form role-playing games, and each student will create a high-quality, shippable product. These will be shared with the Indiana State Museum for use in their educational programs.

This colloquium is part of a two-semester immersive learning course. At the end of the semester, Professors Gestwicki and Morris will evaluate the games and choose the design that is most amenable to interpretation in digital form. An interdisciplinary team will be recruited from this class as well as Dr. Gestwicki's game programming course, and this team will create the digital version of the game.

Because this is a three-credit course, you should expect to invest nine hours per week of attention to it.


The following books are strongly recommended.


The following games comprise the games canon for our colloquium. This collection was designed to reveal important information about game design, particularly the breadth of mechanics used in "designer games." The canon is broken down into categories; note that these are structured for academic study and not to be interpreted with violent orhthodoxy. During the course of the semester, you may propose alternatives to satisfy the categories for purposes of achievements. For more details on any of these games, we recommend reading about them on BoardGameGeek.

Modern classics
  • Carcassonne
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Tikal
  • Dominion
  • A Few Acres of Snow
  • Eminent Domain
  • Ascension
  • CARD-tamen
  • Pandemic
  • Shadows Over Camelot
Variable phase
  • San Juan
  • Puerto Rico
  • Race for the Galaxy
Worker placement
  • Fresco
  • Dominant Species
  • Agricola
  • Caylus
  • Lords of Waterdeep
Short-form Roleplaying
 Available at the Educational Resources desk at Bracken Library
 Available through course reserves (main circulation desk at Bracken Library)
 Notable for potential museum-oriented content expression


An outline of the course is shown in the table below, although we will make changes as necessary to accomodate our learning and design processes.

Week 1Fundamentals of Game Design
Week 2Serious games
Week 3Student research presentations
Week 4Games canon; begin design process
Weeks 5–7Prototyping
Week 8Midsemester debriefing
Weeks 9–13Prototyping
Weeks 14—15Final presentations and delivery

A team visit to the Indiana State Museum is tentatively planned for Thursday, September 6th, arriving there at 1PM. Those who cannot attend due to other unavoidable complications are expected to make a trip on or before that date.

In accordance with university regulations, we will meet during our final exam slot, which is Friday, December 14, at 2:15PM.


Each student will receive a grade at the end of the semester. Your base grade is determined by the number of achievements you earn. The unlocked achievements are listed below.

Find an educational museum game aside from those shared by the instructors and write an analysis of it
Play a game outside of the canon and write an analysis of it.
Read one of the recommended books (or an approved alternative) and share a summary with the learning community in an essay or presentation.
Reflective Practitioner
Create an artifact (such as an essay or video) in the last two weeks of the semester to reflect upon the semester's experience, explicitly drawing upon game design literature
Nigh Completionist
Play and write analyses on games from five different categories in the canon (or their approved alternatives).
Play and write analyses of a game from each category in the canon (or their approved alternatives).
Visit the Indiana State Museum as a guest and write about the experience.
Visit another museum as a guest and write about the experience.
Quality Assurance Expert
Participate in over 90% of the prototype evaluation sessions.
Master of Automata
Use machinations to model one of your designs and share the experience with the community in an essay or presentation.
Make significant comments on five other students' posted game analyses or essays
Expert Reviewer
Make significant comments on ten other students' posted game analyses or essays
Attend a game-related community event and write about it

Achievement acquisition maps to base letter grade according to a simple linear function. Earning ten or more achievements will be interpreted as an A, nine is A-, eight is B+, and so on.

Certain elements of the course are mandatory, in large part due to our partnership with the Indiana State Museum. For each of the following items that a student does not complete, his or her grade is lowered by one letter rank.

To be clear, prototype evaluation during each iteration is absolutely critical to our process. The quality of improvement each iteration should be commensurate with the expected time spent on the project during and outside of class meetings; in the event that a prototype is "completed," one can always start another project! The letter grade penalty is applied independently for each iteration's evaluation.


It is important that our learning community be adaptive in the face of change. Hence, the games canon, achievements, and assessment plans may be modified during the course of the semester. Any such changes would be made in consultation with the learning community.


We will be using Google Docs and other connected technologies to coordinate community activity. If you do not already have a Google account, you will need to create one. Using two-step verification is strongly recommended.

The instructors may access email through services not affiliated with the University. Please note that such messages necessarily pass through the campus firewall in an unencrypted format, and they may be stored on servers not owned or managed by Ball State University. It is therefore advisable to restrict confidential information to office hours or appointments.

All students have free access to The Writing Center.

Academic Integrity

Students and faculty are bound by the Student Academic Ethics Policy of the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Intellectual Property

It behooves you to be aware of fundamentals of copyright law and the university's intellectual property policies for student-created work.

Notice for Students with Disabilities

If you need adaptations or accomodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with the instructor, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment as soon as possible.