How Do I Game Design?

Paris Buttfield-Addison (Secret Lab), Jon Manning (Secret Lab)
User Experience (UX)
Location: E147 Level: Novice
Average rating: ****.
(4.33, 21 ratings)
Slides:   external link

While video games are the most glamorous of the electronic arts, splashy graphics and amazing sound isn’t the defining feature of games. Rather, games are games because they are the world’s only interactive medium. Good interaction needs to be designed, and the master crafters of engaging interaction design are game designers.

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to apply the art and science of constructing enjoyable, engaging games. This is entirely non-electronic; we’re not talking about programming, game engine development, or how to approach a publisher with your totally rad idea about how you can have, like Mario only there’s explosions. Instead, we’ll be taking 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 is based on a series of small exercises in which participants rapidly iterate on game designs. It’s designed for interested students of game design, teachers seeking an interesting perspective on creative computing, and enthusiasts looking to understand how games work.

Topics covered in this workshop include:

  • Why games work, and how to analyse 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

QUESTIONS for the speaker?: Use the “Leave a Comment or Question” section at the bottom to address them.

Photo of Paris Buttfield-Addison

Paris Buttfield-Addison

Secret Lab

Paris is co-founder of Secret Lab Pty. Ltd., leading production and design efforts in the mobile game and app development space. A frequent speaker at conferences, workshops and training sessions, Paris enjoys discussing engineering, product development, design and other facets of the mobile and game development worlds. Recent conferences include Apple Australia’s /dev/world/2012 in Melbourne (and 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), a keynote at CreateWorld Brisbane 2010 (and a speaker in 2009 and 2011), IxDA’s Interaction 11 in Boulder (March 2011), XMediaLab Location-Based Services in Malmo, Sweden (January 2011), a tutorial and a session at OSCON 2011 and OSCON 2012,, and many others.

Paris is the co-author of the books ‘iPhone and iPad Game Development For Dummies’ and ‘Unity Mobile Game Development For Dummies’. The books cover game development on mobile platforms such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android devices in languages/frameworks such as Objective-C, CocoaTouch, Open GL ES, Unity, C# and JavaScript. They also cover game design techniques, principles and patterns. Recently, Paris released ‘Learning Cocoa with Objective-C Third Edition’ for O’Reilly, covering iPhone and Mac development.

Paris is a highly experienced software developer, product and project manager. Key experiences include Objective-C/Cocoa on the Macintosh and iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad platforms, Java on Blackberry and Google Android and C# on Windows Mobile. Open GL ES and Unity are also favourites.

Paris recently spent 2 years leading Meebo Inc.’s mobile strategy; Meebo was one of the world’s fastest growing consumer internet companies and was acquired by Google in 2012. Paris is currently working on his next book, also with O’Reilly, whilst working towards the completion of his PhD in Human-Computer Interaction, focusing on the iPad.

Photo of Jon Manning

Jon Manning

Secret Lab

Jon is the co-founder of Secret Lab, the world’s least not-evil mobile development studio. Jon heads up the development team at Secret Lab, developed mobile applications for Meebo (acquired by Google), and is a PhD student at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

Comments on this page are now closed.


Picture of Paris Buttfield-Addison
Paris Buttfield-Addison
06/02/2013 12:04pm PDT

Hi Nathan!

We’d recommend you take a look at Jesse Schell’s book “The Art of Game Design” ( if you’re keen to review some similar material before our workshop.

If you’re looking for a higher-level book “A Theory of Fun” by Raph Koster is also excellent.


Picture of Nathan Stocks
Nathan Stocks
05/31/2013 7:02am PDT

What do you recommend we do to prepare for this tutorial? Any books to read, things to try out/learn beforehand that would help?

Picture of Paris Buttfield-Addison
Paris Buttfield-Addison
04/16/2013 3:35am PDT

If anyone has any questions, comments, or miscellaneous thoughts on this.. we’re here and listening!


Sponsorship Opportunities

For information on exhibition and sponsorship opportunities at the conference, contact Sharon Cordesse at (707) 827-7065 or

Contact Us

View a complete list of OSCON contacts