Making Open Work
May 8–9, 2017: Training & Tutorials
May 10–11, 2017: Conference
Austin, TX

How to design games and understand people

Jon Manning (Secret Lab), Tim Nugent (, Paris Buttfield-Addison (Secret Lab)
1:30pm5:00pm Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Collaboration and Community
Location: Meeting Room 19
Level: Non-technical
Average rating: ****.
(4.22, 9 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Anyone interested in learning about how to design gameplay and other interactive experiences

What you'll learn

  • Explore tools and techniques for building systems-driven interactions, applicable across a huge variety of fields


While video games are the most glamorous of the electronic arts, splashy graphics and amazing sound aren’t the defining features of games. Games are the world’s only interactive medium, and good interaction needs to be designed—the master crafters of engaging interaction design are game designers.

Jonathon Manning, Tim Nugent, and Paris Buttfield-Addison teach you how to design games and gameplay, demonstrating how to apply the art and science of constructing enjoyable, engaging games. This workshop is entirely nonelectronic: we’re not talking about programming, game engine development, or how to approach a publisher with your totally rad idea that’s “like Mario, but with explosions.” Instead, Jonathon, Tim, and Paris lead a deep dive into game design theory. Everything you’ll work on will be done with pens, paper, and human brain meat.

This workshop is based on the Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics framework (as devised by LeBlanc, et al) and uses a series of small exercises in which you’ll rapidly iterate on game designs.

Topics include:

  • Why games work and how to analyze and build engaging experiences
  • The Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics framework: What it’s good for and how to use it
  • How to deconstruct a game and understand what makes it fun
  • How to modify an existing game and know what you’re doing
Photo of Jon Manning

Jon Manning

Secret Lab

Jon Manning is the cofounder of independent game development studio Secret Lab. He’s working on the critically acclaimed award-winning adventure game Night in the Woods, which includes his interactive dialogue system Yarn Spinner, and Button Squid, a top-down puzzler. He’s written a whole bunch of books for O’Reilly about iOS development and game development. Jon holds a PhD about jerks on the internet. He’s currently writing Practical AI with Swift for O’Reilly.

Photo of Tim Nugent

Tim Nugent

Tim Nugent pretends to be a mobile app developer, game designer, tools builder, researcher, and tech author. When he isn’t busy avoiding being found out as a fraud, Tim spends most of his time designing and creating little apps and games he won’t let anyone see. He also spent a disproportionately long time writing his tiny little bio, most of which was taken up trying to stick a witty sci-fi reference in…before he simply gave up. He’s writing Practical Artificial Intelligence with Swift for O’Reilly and building a game for a power transmission company about a naughty quoll. (A quoll is an Australian animal.)

Photo of Paris Buttfield-Addison

Paris Buttfield-Addison

Secret Lab

Paris Buttfield-Addison is a cofounder of Secret Lab, a game development studio based in beautiful Hobart, Australia. Secret Lab builds games and game development tools, including the multi-award-winning ABC Play School iPad games, the BAFTA- and IGF-winning Night in the Woods, the Qantas airlines Joey Playbox games, and the Yarn Spinner narrative game framework. Previously, Paris was a mobile product manager for Meebo (acquired by Google). Paris particularly enjoys game design, statistics, blockchain, machine learning, and human-centered technology. He researches and writes technical books on mobile and game development (more than 20 so far) for O’Reilly and is writing Practical AI with Swift and Head First Swift. He holds a degree in medieval history and a PhD in computing. You can find him on Twitter as @parisba.

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Picture of Paris Buttfield-Addison
Paris Buttfield-Addison | COFOUNDER
05/09/2017 2:50pm CDT

Thanks to everyone who attended! We hope you enjoyed it. We’ll post notes and slides shortly.

If you have any questions, feel free to post them here!

Paige-David Peck |
04/14/2017 12:57pm CDT

I am in a Software engineering capstone class, and we are looking to ask questions for some speakers since we will not be able to make the conference this year. If you have time, could you answer my question?

What would you say is the best way to break out into the game industry, what worked for you and what didn’t.