Game Design Merit Badge – Games have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. From ancient board games to modern video games, they’ve been loved by people from all walks of life. But have you ever wondered who creates these games? The answer is game designers, and their work is much more than just fun and games—it’s an art and a science.
Game designers wear many hats. They are builders who create worlds for us to explore. They are engineers, piecing together the rules and systems that make the game tick. They are scientists, testing and tweaking to make sure the game is fun. They are dreamers, coming up with new and amazing experiences. And they are also teachers, helping players understand the rules.
When designing a game, the goal is to make it fun, interactive, and social. The game should be easy to learn but hard to master, so that it’s accessible to new players but still challenging for pros. It should also be well-paced, immersive, and have lots of replay value. And of course, it should be affordable so everyone can join in the fun.
In short, game design is a skill that combines creativity and technical know-how to create games that bring joy and connection to people everywhere.
Game Design Merit Badge Requirements
|1. Do the following:|
(a) Analyze four games you have played, each from a different medium. Identify the medium, player format, objectives, rules, resources, and theme (if relevant). Discuss with your counselor the play experience, what you enjoy in each game, and what you dislike. Make a chart to compare and contrast the games.
(b) Describe five different reasons that people play games. For each, give an example of a game that fits that reason.
|2. Discuss with your counselor five of the following 17 game design terms. For each term that you pick, describe how it relates to a specific game.|
Thematic game elements: story, setting, characters
Gameplay elements: play sequence, level design, interface design
Game analysis: difficulty, balance, depth, pace, replay value, age appropriateness
Related terms: single-player vs. multiplayer, cooperative vs. competitive, turn-based vs. real-time, strategy vs. reflex vs. chance, abstract vs. thematic
|3. Define the term intellectual property. Describe the types of intellectual property associated with the game design industry. Describe how intellectual property is protected and why protection is necessary. Define and give an example of a licensed property.|
|4. Do the following:|
(a) Pick a game where the players can change the rules or objectives (examples: basketball, hearts, chess, kickball). Briefly summarize the standard rules and objectives and play through the game normally.
(b) Propose changes to several rules or objectives. Predict how each change will affect gameplay.
(c) Play the game with one rule or objective change, observing how the players’ actions and emotional experiences are affected by the rule change. Repeat this process with two other changes.
(d) Explain to your counselor how the changes affected the actions and experience of the players. Discuss the accuracy of your predictions.
|5. Design a new game. Any game medium or combination of mediums is acceptable. Record your work in a game design notebook.|
(a) Write a vision statement for your game. Identify the medium, player format, objectives, and theme of the game. If suitable, describe the setting, story, and characters.
(b) Describe the reason that someone would want to play your game.
(c) Make a preliminary list of the rules of the game. Define the resources.
(d) Draw the game elements.
You must have your merit badge counselor’s approval of your concept before you begin creating the prototype.
|6. Do the following:|
(a) Prototype your game from requirement 5. If applicable, demonstrate to your counselor that you have addressed player safety through the rules and equipment. Record your work in your game design notebook.
(b) Test your prototype with as many other people as you need to meet the player format. Compare the play experience to your descriptions from requirement 5b. Correct unclear rules, holes in the rules, dead ends, and obvious rule exploits. Change at least one rule, mechanic, or objective from your first version of the game, and describe why you are making the change. Play the game again. Record in your game design notebook whether or not your change had the expected effect.
(c) Repeat 6b at least two more times and record the results in your game design notebook.
|7. Blind test your game. Do the following:|
(a) Write an instruction sheet that includes all of the information needed to play the game. Clearly describe how to set up the game, play the game, and end the game. List the game objectives.
(b) Share your prototype from requirement 6a with a group of players that has not played it or witnessed a previous playtest. Provide them with your instruction sheet(s) and any physical components. Watch them play the game, but do not provide them with instruction. Record their feedback in your game design notebook.
(c) Share your game design notebook with your counselor. Discuss the player reactions to your project and what you learned about the game design process. Based on your testing, determine what you like most about your game and suggest one or more changes.
|8. Do ONE of the following:|
(a) With your parent or guardian’s permission and your counselor’s approval, visit with a professional in the game development industry and ask them about their job and how it fits into the overall development process.
(b) Alternatively, meet with a professional in game development education and discuss the skills they emphasize in the classroom.
1. (a) Game Analysis and Comparison
Here’s a simple chart and a paragraph to answers the requirement:
|Game Name||Type of Game||Player Format||Objectives||Rules||Resources||Theme||Enjoy||Dislike|
|Basketball||Physical||Team||Score points||No hands, time limit||Ball, hoop||Sports||Teamwork, exercise||None|
|Chess||Board||2 players||Checkmate king||Move pieces in specific ways||Chessboard, pieces||Strategy||Thinking ahead||Slow|
|Poker||Card||2-10 players||Get best hand||Betting, card ranks||Deck of cards||Gambling||Risk, strategy||Losing money|
|Super Mario||Electronic||Single||Save princess||Jump, avoid enemies||Console, controller||Adventure||Fun levels||Hard bosses|
I’ve played four different games: Basketball, Chess, Poker, and Super Mario. Each game is different. Basketball is a team sport where you try to score points by shooting a ball into a hoop. I like the teamwork and exercise. Chess is a 2-player game where you move pieces to checkmate the king.
I enjoy thinking ahead but sometimes it’s too slow. Poker is a card game with 2-10 players where you try to get the best hand of cards. I like the risk and strategy, but losing money is not fun. Super Mario is a video game where you try to save a princess. I like the fun levels but some bosses are hard to beat.
I talked with my counselor about these games. We talked about what I like and don’t like in each game. It was interesting to see how each game is different but they all have things that make them fun.
Also Read : Sports Merit Badge
|Type of Game||What It Is||Example|
|Physical Games||Games you play with your body, usually outdoors.||Basketball|
|Board Games||Games you play on a board, moving pieces around.||Chess|
|Tile Games||Games using special tiles you place next to each other.||Dominoes|
|Dice Games||Games where you roll dice to decide what happens.||Yahtzee|
|Card Games||Games played with a deck of cards.||Poker|
|Party Games||Games for many people, usually in teams and often creative.||Charades|
|Miniature Games||Games using small models to act out battles or scenes.||Warhammer|
|Text RPGs||Story games where you pretend to be someone else.||Dungeons and Dragons|
|Electronic Games||Games you play on a computer, console, or phone.||Super Mario Bros|
1. (b) Reasons People Play Games and Examples
People play games for various reasons, each contributing to the appeal and popularity of gaming in different ways. Below are five key reasons people engage in gaming, along with examples for each.
|Entertainment||“Super Mario”||People often play games simply for fun. Games like “Super Mario” offer a joyful experience, allowing players to navigate through different levels while collecting points.|
|Social Connection||“Among Us”||Many enjoy games as a way to connect with friends and family. In “Among Us,” you team up with others to complete tasks or find out who the imposter is, creating a social experience.|
|Skill Development||“Chess”||Games can help improve various skills. Chess, for example, requires strategic thinking and planning, which can sharpen your mind.|
|Stress Relief||“Animal Crossing”||Some games serve as a form of relaxation or escape. “Animal Crossing” lets players build and manage their own island, offering a break from the real world.|
|Competition||“Fortnite”||For those who love a challenge, games offer a platform for competition. In “Fortnite,” players go head-to-head in a battle royale, striving to be the last one standing.|
Also Read : Programming Merit Badge
2. Understanding Game Design
Game design is like cooking a great meal; various ingredients come together to create an unforgettable experience. Let’s discuss five game design terms to understand how they shape specific games.
|Thematic Elements: Story||“The Legend of Zelda”||The story in “The Legend of Zelda” is about a hero named Link who aims to save Princess Zelda. The story is the backbone that makes the game engaging and gives players a reason to complete quests.|
|Gameplay Elements: Level Design||“Super Mario”||In “Super Mario,” level design is crucial. Each level has platforms, obstacles, and rewards, making it fun but challenging. Good level design keeps the player engaged.|
|Game Analysis: Difficulty||“Dark Souls”||“Dark Souls” is known for being tough. The game’s difficulty level makes it more rewarding when you finally succeed, but it might not be for everyone.|
|Related Terms: Single-Player vs. Multiplayer||“Solitaire” vs. “Among Us”||“Solitaire” is a single-player game; you play it alone. “Among Us” is multiplayer; you need friends to play. The choice between single-player and multiplayer depends on whether you want to go solo or be social.|
|Related Terms: Cooperative vs. Competitive||“Overwatch”||“Overwatch” can be both cooperative and competitive. You work with a team to win (cooperative), but you’re also competing against another team (competitive). The balance of cooperation and competition makes it engaging.|
3. Understanding Intellectual Property in Game Design
Intellectual property means the unique things you create with your mind, like a game idea or a character. In the game design industry, this can include things like game concepts, characters, and even how the game looks (graphics).
There are ways to protect these ideas so others can’t just take them. This protection is often through copyrights, patents, and trademarks. For example, a copyright could protect the unique artwork of a game.
Protection is needed so people can’t just copy your hard work and make money from it without your permission. A “licensed property” means using someone else’s intellectual property legally. For example, making a “Star Wars” video game would need a license from the owners of the “Star Wars” brand.
|Copyright||Protects original artistic and literary works||The game’s storyline and characters|
|Patent||Protects new inventions or discoveries||A unique game mechanic|
|Trademark||Protects words, phrases, and logos identifying a brand||Game logo or series name|
|Licensed Property||Using someone else’s protected idea legally||A “Star Wars” video game|
So, protecting intellectual property helps creators keep their original ideas safe and allows them to profit from their creativity.
4. Experimenting with Game Rules
n this “Experimenting with Game Rules” project, I’m taking a closer look at basketball to see what happens when the rules get changed. Usually, basketball is straightforward: two teams aim to score points by shooting a ball into a hoop, and the team with the most points wins.
But what if the rules are tweaked a little? Will it make the game more exciting or just confusing? I’m going to find out by changing some of the rules and observing how it affects the players. It’s like a mini science experiment, but focused on basketball!
(a) Standard Rules and Objectives
Basketball is a game where two teams try to score points by shooting a ball into the opponent’s hoop. The team with the most points wins. You dribble to move the ball, pass to teammates, and play defense to stop the other team.
(b) Proposed Rule Changes and Predictions
|1. Double points for 3-pointers||Makes players shoot more 3-pointers, possibly ignoring defense|
|2. No dribbling allowed||Will slow down the game and make it harder to advance the ball|
|3. All players must touch the ball before a shot||Promotes teamwork but might make scoring more difficult|
(c) Playing with Rule Changes
- With double points for 3-pointers, players focused more on shooting from long distance, neglecting other parts of the game.
- With no dribbling allowed, the game’s pace slowed down, and players found it harder to navigate towards the hoop.
- When all players had to touch the ball before a shot, teamwork was more noticeable, but scoring opportunities were reduced.
The predictions were mostly accurate. Double points for 3-pointers did make players focus on long shots, just as predicted. The no-dribbling rule made the game slower, and the requirement for all players to touch the ball did emphasize teamwork but at the cost of fewer scoring chances.
In summary, changing the rules of a game can have a big impact on how it’s played and how much fun people have. It’s a good way to see how important rules are in shaping the game’s experience.
5. Creating Your Own Game
Designing your very own game is an exciting journey that lets you be the boss of how everything works. First, you’ll need to figure out the basics like what kind of game it is, who’s playing, what they’re trying to achieve, and what the game feels like.
This is your vision statement. Maybe your game is a card game for two players where the goal is to collect certain combinations of cards, all set in a fantasy world with wizards and dragons.
Next, think about why someone would want to play your game. Is it super fun? Is it challenging? Does it make you think? Then, jot down the rules so everyone knows how to play, and list out the resources, like cards, tokens, or points.
Finally, sketch out what the game elements look like, such as cards, game board, or characters. But remember, before you go full speed ahead, get a thumbs-up from your merit badge counselor. Happy designing!
(a) Vision Statement
Medium: Board Game
Player Format: 2-4 players
Objectives: Be the first to reach the end of the board by solving puzzles and overcoming challenges.
Theme: Adventure in a jungle to find a hidden treasure.
Setting: A dense, perilous jungle filled with obstacles.
Story: Players are explorers on a quest to find an ancient treasure hidden deep within the jungle.
Characters: Each player can choose from one of four explorer characters, each with unique skills.
(b) Reasons to Play
People would want to play this game because it combines strategy, problem-solving, and a bit of luck. The jungle setting and quest for a hidden treasure add excitement and a sense of adventure.
(c) Preliminary List of Rules and Resources
- Each player picks a character and starts at the beginning of the board.
- Players roll a dice to determine the number of spaces to move.
- Landing on a puzzle space means solving a puzzle to move ahead.
- Landing on a challenge space means overcoming a physical task.
- Special cards can be collected to help skip challenges or solve puzzles.
- The first player to reach the end of the board wins.
- Game Board
- Character pieces
- Puzzle cards
- Challenge cards
- Special cards
(d) Draw the Game Elements
At this stage, you would sketch out the game board, showing the different types of spaces (puzzle, challenge, start, and end). You’d also sketch the character pieces, dice, and cards. These drawings don’t have to be perfect but should give a clear idea of what each element will look like.
Before proceeding to create a prototype, make sure to get your merit badge counselor’s approval for your game concept.
Below is some information that might help you complete the existing requirements.
Core Game Elements
Every game is built around four core game elements: player format, objectives, rules, and resources. A fifth element, theme, is also central to many games.
1. Player Format
This is all about who can play the game. How many people can play? Do players need to team up? Can players join or leave in the middle of the game?
|Type of Play||Example|
|One-against-many||Luigi’s Ghost Mansion|
|Team competition||Soccer, Capture the Flag|
2. Objectives (Goals)
What are players trying to achieve? This could be anything from scoring points, solving a puzzle, or collecting items.
|Chase/Race/Escape||Tag, Candy Land|
|Build||The Settlers of Catan|
|Avoiding a Loss||Twister, Jenga|
|Story Advance||Role-playing games|
|Explore||Legend of Zelda|
3. Rules, Mechanics, and Systems
This is the guideline that everyone follows. It tells you how to start the game, what you can do during the game, and how the game ends.
- Setup: Things you do once at the beginning.
- Progression of play: What happens during the game.
- Resolution: What causes the game to end and how you decide who wins.
These are the things players can use or control in the game. This can be anything from pieces on a board, to the amount of time you have, to clues you’ve collected.
|Explicit||Chess pieces, health in a video game|
This is the story or setting that makes the game more interesting. A good theme can make the game more fun and easier to understand.
|Engage Players||Playing as a specific character|
|Easier to Learn||Racing games with real-world rules|
|Tell a Story||Role-playing games|
So, a game is usually made up of who can play, what they’re trying to do, the rules they have to follow, the things they can use, and sometimes a story or setting to make it more fun.
Developing Your Game
When prototyping, think about the following:
- Component list: What are the game pieces? Boards? Cards? Displayed resources?
- Setup: What, if anything, must be done before play can begin?
- The sequence of play: Precise description of what players must do, in what order, to play the game. This can be a game turn sequence or a flowchart, depending on the game structure and medium. For an electronic game, what interface screens will there be?
- Play progression: How does the game move from start to finish? Are there multiple levels or phases that must be completed in some sequence? Are there different rules for different times or circumstances?
- End-game and objectives: When does the game end? What are the game objectives? How do players measure their progress toward game objectives? Can the game end in a draw?
- Difficulty levels: If the game has multiple levels of challenge, explain how they work and how they differ from one another.
6. Testing and Refining Your Game Design
Testing and refining your game design is like making a tasty dish; you’ve got to taste it and tweak the recipe until it’s just right. After you’ve cooked up your initial game idea into a working prototype, it’s time to see if it’s actually fun to play. But you won’t know that until other people try it out.
So, gather some folks to play your game and listen closely to their feedback. This is your chance to figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how you can make your game the best it can be. It’s all about playing, learning, and tweaking until you’ve got a game that everyone enjoys.
(a) Prototype Your Game
Make a working model of your game. This could be a board, cards, or even a simple digital version. Make sure it’s safe for players. Write down what you did in your game design notebook.
- For board games, make sure the pieces have no sharp edges.
- For digital games, include a warning for those sensitive to flashing lights.
(b) Test Your Prototype
Play the game with other people according to your designed player format. See if the game is as fun as you thought it would be. If the rules are confusing or if there’s a way to cheat the game, fix it. Make at least one change to the game rules or goals, then play again. Write all this down in your game design notebook.
|Initial Rule/Feature||Issues Found||Changes Made||Reason for Change|
|Collect 3 gems to win||Too easy||Collect 5 gems||Make the game last longer|
|Use 2 dice||Too random||Use 1 dice||More skill, less luck|
(c) Repeat the Testing
Keep testing the game like you did in part (b). Make changes and see if they make the game better or worse. Do this at least two more times and write down what happened.
|Test Round||Rule Changed||Expected Effect||Actual Effect||Keep or Revert?|
|1||Collect 5 gems||Longer gameplay||Players engaged more||Keep|
|2||Use 1 dice||Less randomness||Players liked it less||Revert|
Remember, the aim is to create a game that people enjoy and understand easily. Keep track of all your steps and thoughts in your game design notebook.
7. Conducting a Blind Test to Perfect Your Game Design
Conducting a blind test for your game design is like taking off the training wheels when you’re learning to cycle; it’s where you see if the game can stand on its own. In this crucial step, you hand over your game to people who’ve never played it before and observe.
You give them the rules, the pieces, and then step back to watch how they navigate through the game without any help from you.
The goal is to see if your game is fun, easy to understand, and engaging, all while you take notes on what can be improved. It’s the ultimate way to make sure your game isn’t just good in theory, but that it actually works in the real world.
(a) Instruction Sheet
Before playing, make sure you have all the game pieces you need. Lay them out on the table. The aim of the game is to collect as many points as you can before the game ends. Here’s how to set it up, play, and finish the game:
- Setup: Place all game pieces in the center of the table.
- Playing: Each player takes a turn picking a piece and performing an action.
- Ending: The game ends when all pieces are taken. Count your points!
Objective: To collect the most points by the end of the game.
(b) Blind Test Feedback
I’d give my game prototype and instruction sheet to a group of friends who have never played the game before. I would watch silently as they read the instructions and started playing, jotting down any moments of confusion or frustration.
- Players were confused about how to earn points.
- Some pieces seemed more valuable but weren’t clear in the instructions.
(c) Discussion with Counselor and Changes
After sharing my notebook and observations with my counselor, we talked about how players reacted. I learned that instructions have to be super clear and that every game piece needs a purpose.
What I love most about my game is how engaged everyone was during their turn. Based on the tests, one change I’d make is to clarify the point system and the value of each game piece. This would make the game easier to understand and more fun to play.
8. Learning From Game Development Experts
Option A: Meeting a Game Development Professional
If you choose this route, first get permission from your parent or guardian and approval from your counselor. Then, arrange to meet a person who works in the game development industry. It could be a game designer, programmer, artist, or someone in marketing.
Ask them about what they do day-to-day, how they got into the field, and how their job fits into the bigger picture of game development. Take notes during the conversation so you can review them later.
|What to Ask||What You Might Learn|
|What is your daily routine?||Workflow and responsibilities|
|How did you get this job?||Career path and qualifications|
|What do you enjoy the most?||Highlights of the job|
|Any challenges?||Difficult aspects to consider|
|How does your role fit in the game development process?||Teamwork and interdepartmental collaboration|
Option B: Meeting a Game Development Educator
Another choice is to meet someone who teaches game development. This could be a college professor or an instructor at a specialized game development school.
Discuss the key skills they emphasize to their students and why those skills are essential for making games.
|What to Ask||What You Might Learn|
|What skills do you emphasize?||Essential industry skills|
|What courses do you recommend?||Academic path for game development|
|How do students apply what they learn?||Practical applications of coursework|
|Any advice for newcomers?||Tips for entering the field|
Either of these options will give you real-world insights into the game development process and can guide you on what skills and knowledge you’ll need to enter this exciting field.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
No, you don’t need to know programming. The badge focuses on the concepts behind game design, not just video games. You can create a board game, card game, or any other type of game.
Yes, working in a team is encouraged, but make sure each Scout contributes to the game’s design and development, and fulfills all the individual requirements.
Your prototype should include all the essential elements like rules, objectives, and resources needed to play the game. It can be as simple as a paper sketch or a basic digital model.
You will test your game by playing it with others. You should also make adjustments based on feedback and play it multiple times to ensure it works as intended.
A blind test involves giving your game and its rules to a new group of players who haven’t played it before. You watch them play without giving any instructions to see how well your game and rules are understood.
After you’ve tested and refined your game, you will discuss your findings and the whole design process with your merit badge counselor. Then, you can proudly say you’ve earned your Game Design Merit Badge!