4–7 Nov 2019

How do I game design: Architecting games to expand your thinking

Paris Buttfield-Addison (Secret Lab), Mars Geldard (University of Tasmania), Tim Nugent (lonely.coffee)
13:3017:00 Tuesday, 5 November 2019
Location: Hall A7
Secondary topics:  Best Practice, Hands-on, Overview

Who is this presentation for?

  • Anyone




Paris Buttfield-Addison, Mars Geldard, and Tim Nugent introduce you to game design and architecture: the art and science of constructing enjoyable, engaging games. This is entirely nonelectronic; they’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, you’ll take a deep dive into game design theory and game architecture, using it to understand how people interact with rules and how to use it to improve your community, your company, your project, your software, and your teams. Everything you’ll work on will be done with pens, paper, and human brain meat.

Video games are the most glamorous of the electronic arts, but splashy graphics and amazing sound aren’t the defining feature of games. Games are the world’s only interactive artistic medium, and good interaction needs to be designed. Today’s master crafters of architecture and system design are game designers. You’ll leave with a fresh perspective on architecture, design, and community engagement by understanding how people are interacting with the fastest-growing form of entertainment in the world.


  • Why games work, and how to analyze, architect, and build engaging experiences
  • The mechanics-dynamics-aesthetics framework: What it’s good for and how to use it
  • How to understand what a game is doing and how to architect for fun
  • How to modify an existing game and know what you’re doing
  • How to apply this knowledge outside of games to teams, projects, designs, and architectures for software

You’ll learn to apply the art and science of constructing enjoyable, engaging games. Paris, Mars, and Tim base their lessons on the mechanics-dynamics-aesthetics framework (as devised by LeBlanc et al.) and on a series of small exercises in which you rapidly iterate on game designs. This multidisciplinary experience will help you be a better architect, team player, engineer, leader, or participant in your world, whatever that may be. (And it’s a lot of fun.) A software architect can learn a lot from the game-design world, and now you can learn everything you need to get started.

What you'll learn

  • Understand game design at an architectural, nontechnical level
  • Learn how that knowledge can be taken to everything else you do
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.

Photo of Mars Geldard

Mars Geldard

University of Tasmania

Marina Rose Geldard (Mars) is a technologist from Down Under in Tasmania. Entering the world of technology relatively late as a mature-age student, she has found her place in the world: an industry where she can apply her lifelong love of mathematics and optimization. She compulsively volunteers at industry events, dabbles in research, and serves on the executive committee for her state’s branch of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) as well as the AUC. She’s writing Practical Artificial Intelligence with Swift for O’Reilly and working on machine learning projects to improve public safety through public CCTV cameras in her hometown of Hobart.

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.)

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