Games for Health 2014 Prototyping Workshop

To register specifically for the Games for Health Prototyping & Game Making Workshop you must attend our Tutorials & Communities Day either as part of a pre-conference only or Games for Health Total registration.

You can register now at:

About the Workshop

New to our 2014 program is a fun games for health prototyping workshop. Hosted by Professor Peter Smith (UCF), this workshop is designed to help people learn some basic processes and tools you can use to build game prototypes (both paper & electronic).

Often those who are seeking to build games for health are not necessarily those with the skills to make games. This puts you at a deficit on several levels, most of all, lacking capacity to explore ideas and opportunities to assist with research, and decision making over what to build, and how to communicate that to developers, partners, and funders.

While great game design should be left to the professionals, everyone who is interested in using and making games should at least try to become more familiar with the process, and find methods, beyond written memos, and napkin drawings to communicate and express their game ideas.

The Games for Health Prototyping Workshop is broken into three segments to help you learn more about game design, and identify methods you can use today to level up your ability to explore and test game ideas for health & health care purposes.

Segment I: The basics of prototyping & making games yourself

This introductory session will familiarize participants with the process of prototyping itself, discussing the reasons to prototype, the basic methods, and the specific tools that can be most useful. The workshop will cover creating both paper and electronic prototypes.

Also included in this segment is a review of some additional game making tools that can serve dual purposes as both inexpensive and possible tools for prototyping but also as environments for full-fledge production of games.

At the end of this segment all participants will be familiar with the basics of what prototyping can be useful for, some basic approaches, and extensively familiar with the tools, services, and environments that help you make prototypes and full-fledged games.

Segment II: Developing with 3 great prototyping and game development tools

During this segment we will spend some time becoming operationally capable with three tools for prototyping games:

  • Balsamiq : While not interactive, this excellent storyboarding tool is very useful for communicating ideas to oneself and others before developing more interactive prototypes. It’s built in templates for mobile, desktop, and social network experiences allows for rapid production of ideas.

  • Twine : Twine is an open source interactive fiction development tool that produces HTML compatible experiences you can publish online and to mobile platforms. It has been used by a number of developers to create games including Zoe Quinn who used it to produce the award winning game Depression Quest.

    Learning the basics of Twine takes no more than 30 minutes. We’ll spend some time learning those basics, and then discussing interesting ways to apply Twine development to maximize prototyping and development opportunities.

  • GameSalad : GamesSalad is a cross-platform development environment that enables production of prototypes and finished games on mobile, desktop, and browser-based platforms. Using a “scratch/lego brick” like approach to programming, GameSalad is a bit more involving than Twine but is an excellent step up for people with less development experience to build games, and prototype ideas for others.

Given it’s depth, the time spent with GameSalad will focus on familiarizing attendees with the development tool, and examining its strengths and weaknesses. Once familiar with it, we’ll look at some examples of projects that have used GameSalad, and discuss resources that can help you further learn the product.

Segment III: Paper Prototyping

The final segment of the workshop will discuss paper prototyping strategies for game design. For many developers paper prototyping is an important means to develop and test ideas for games, or segments of games. While entire courses are taught on paper prototyping we’ll quickly introduce the subject and cover some basics and then dive into a hands-on attempt at prototyping our own ideas together using some index cards, markers, and dice.

After our quick foray into building a paper prototype the workshop will review some additional information around paper prototyping including outlets to print materials (e.g. playing cards), places to order nicely made dice and playing pieces, and apps that can assist you further with your prototyping efforts.

Prototyping & Beyond!

Prototyping is not just for hardend game developers. Everyone involved in producing a game can benefit from prototyping and exploring game development in easy-to-use forms. Building a narrative in Twine can help you explore opportunities to design the kinds of hard choices people make everyday in health and health care. Creating a simple nutrition game in GameSalad can help you determine if choosing among three categories of food is more interesting than six, or if six categories is too bewildering to your target user. Using Balsamiq can help you communicate to a developer how someone on a social network might interact with your mobile game idea.

In short, the more you’re able to cross the chasm and manifest ideas in more game-like forms, the better chance you have that you can find good ideas, drop bad ones, and communicate further on the same page as your designers, artists, programmers, and development shops.

The Games for Health Prototyping workshop is a bootcamp for the under-initiated. Whether you’re determined to make your own idea, or you want to increase your vocabulary over games, the workshop will help you do just that.

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