Game Design During Fifth Term

  • Learning
Ron Widelec, Upper Division History Teacher
This past spring, nine students, including a visitor from our new campus in São Paulo, Brazil, signed up to spend a month learning about game design. This course was part of Fifth Term, a period of four weeks during which upper grades students complete group and individual projects on subjects that spark their passion.
The students learned all about game mechanics by spending the first week playing and analyzing a wide variety of different kinds of games, ranging from the very simple tic-tac-toe to the highly complex, like Settlers of Catan. Along the way, we learned about games of annihilation, exploration, collaboration and many more. We also complied exhaustive lists of game materials, rules and mechanics.

Students playing with games they designed themselves

Once they were fully versed in game types, we dedicated some time to game modification—trying to change the rules, materials and mechanics of a game to see how it would impact the game play, complexity and most importantly, the level of fun the players’ experience. Students came up with new and innovative variations of chess, tic-tac-toe and many more games.

Students play games they designed themselves.

Finally, we were ready to begin to design our own games. Through a process of brainstorming, iteration, play testing and reiteration, students were able to design a variety of games, including geometric strategy games, role-playing games, card games and even an exploration game loosely based on physics and string theory! 

Students playing with games they designed themselves

Students then began to use the iLab facility to develop their boards, cards and other materials. They used 3-D printers to develop pieces and the laser cutter to design boards. These pieces and boards were designed using Photoshop, Illustrator, and other graphic design programs. On June 13, students presented their games during the Fifth Term showcase and got to see students, teachers and parents play their games. 

Students playing with games they designed themselves


  • Fifth Term
  • iLab
  • Project-based Learning
  • Upper Division
  • Upper Grades Program