Tandem Transformational Game Design

Curator's Note

In our ongoing work, we refine a model of transformational game development we call “Tandem Transformational Game Design.” Tandem Design is a lightweight, flexible framework intended to help interdisciplinary design teams collaborate, understand each other’s contributions, and ultimately maximize everyone’s contribution through more clear, shared game design visions.

Tandem Design consists of two iterative process loops, 1) game-driven goal delineation where teams define their transformational goals and ground them in theory and 2) goal-driven game design where teams make and playtest game prototypes and 3) an alignment stage where multidisciplinary teams can come together to evaluate each other’s research and design artifacts and reorient team members. In this presentation, we describe the high-level goal of each stage of Tandem Design and provide several examples of the ways in which we performed those stages through the design of our collaborative transformational tabletop game, Outbreak.

As a design process, Tandem Design emphasizes that generating the right goals for the game is as difficult and worthy as creating prototypes, that goal definition can be an iterative process, and that transformational goals can and should be informed by the prototyping process. However, game prototypes do not always express transformational goals effectively, nor is it always obvious how insights from prototyping should influence the theory-building and goal delineation process. Alignment, or relating theory to the practice of game design, is therefore a critical aspect of our work.

In addition to applying Tandem Design to our own projects, our future work will explore different methods for achieving alignment between game design and research design processes. We have already explored discussion, ideation, and framework-building as possible alignment activities, but more types of activities are possible. Additionally, more evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of these activities is needed.

We hope that Tandem Design can help other transformational game design teams improve their development process. Go to tinyurl.com/tandemdesign to get access to our preliminary materials.

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