Are you interested in games that let us play differently? Have you found some intriguing project on Shake That Button and would like to find some extra information to help you start to make your own thing? This community-curated list of resources is here to support you: it is focused on tools, materials, and things that you can use to craft alternative controllers.
In 2018 and 2019, I have taught the Introduction to Game Design undergraduate class at Concordia University, Montreál.
This course is a general introduction to game design theory, analysis and practice. This course’s purpose is to foster an understanding of game design through the interplay of theory (lectures), analysis (game playing), design, and writing.
I was part of the Program Committee, reviewing papers on serious games and simulations, for the joint International Conference on Entertainment Computing (ICEC-2019) and Conference on Serious Games (JCSG-2019) conferences, hosted in Arequipa, Peru.
I presented a talk on game making tools as sharing practices as part of the Sharing Games: Proliferation, Posterity, Practice panel of the CGSA 2019 conference.
Here is the description of the presentation and some of its slides.
Game making is a loosely connected set of situated practices which involve a diverse, entangled arrangement of materials, knowledges, and repertoires. The notion of industrial pipelines for digital game making is inadequate to describe this diversity. Different communities create tools and processes and then circulate and appropriate them in ways that combine play, work, and creation beyond professionalized, commercial development. The design of such tools both supports and is shaped by the practices around them. Examining this relationship is a messy affair, but is key to positioning such practices: questions of gatekeeping, political positioning, and critical literacy are intertwined with how such tools and practices materialize and present game making.
In my presentation, I will look at different digital game making tools in terms of their game formats, arrangements of use and circulation, and how they support hybridity of hardware / middleware / software. What roles do these features play in circulating diverse visions of game making? My case studies range from fantasy consoles (PICO-8), to free and open-source standalone game engines (Superpowers, Duality), web-based tools (Bitsy), smartphone game making tools (Flatpack), and in-game editors in commercial consoles (Nintendo’s Toy-Con garage). The focus of analysis is not on the game design features of games created with such tools, but on the usually hidden and assumed overall systems of objects and interpersonal relationships (Burckhardt, 2012, p.165) around them. Throughout this close analysis, I examine tension lines and highlight intersections for critical design interventions and an active engagement with how game making circulates.
Boluk, S., & LeMieux, P. (2017). Metagaming: Playing, Competing, Spectating, Cheating, Trading, Making, and Breaking Videogames. Minnesota, UNITED STATES: University of Minnesota Press. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/concordia-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4745543
Buechley, L., Rosner, D. K., Paulos, E., & Williams, A. (2009). DIY for CHI: Methods, Communities, and Values of Reuse and Customization. In CHI ’09 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 4823–4826). New York, NY, USA: ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/1520340.1520750
Burckhardt, L. (2012). Design is Invisible in Lucius Burckhardt Writings: Rethinking Man-made Environments: Politics, Landscapes & Design. (J. Fezer & M. Schmitz, Eds.). New York: SpringerWienNewYork.
Galloway, A., Brucker-Cohen, J., Gaye, L., Goodman, E., & Hill, D. (2004). Design for Hackability. In Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques (pp. 363–366). New York, NY, USA: ACM. https://doi.org/10.1145/1013115.1013181
Harvey, A. (2014). Democratization, depoliticization, and the queering of game design. GAME – The Italian Journal of Game Studies, 1(03), 13.
Freedman, E. (2018). Engineering Queerness in the Game Development Pipeline. Game Studies, 18(3). Retrieved from http://gamestudies.org/1803/articles/ericfreedman.
This MITACS internship was an important opportunity to work closely on hardware and product development. It also helped me in develop ideas on tool development and design, as well as in studying ways to make haptic design more approachable and flexible for game developers.
I was part of the student team organizing the accessible gamepad jam, in a participatory activity part of the accessXchange forum on advancing inclusive, accessible approaches to design and learning.
My main focus was on the use of the Micro:bit board as starting point for prototyping and experimentation on collectively making accessible controllers for existing games. I also participated in designing the jam process and collaborating with peers from EducationMakers and Milieux.
This is a game about how immigration systems and capitalist discourses of multiculturalism combine to oppress migrants. Visa applicants (or players) are tasked with cooking a typical dish of their country of origin using a cooking station. Immigration authorities then evaluate applicants according to their efficiency and potential to contribute to the new country’s society. Cooking becomes a standardized test, one step within a longer application process.
The game features a custom cooking station controller.
gambi_abo is a series of do-it-yourself (DIY) cardboard-based game controllers. Each controller has approachable and accessible building instructions for how to create controllers using easy to find interface devices. With gambi_abo, the public can make controllers for the games you choose, not the ones a certain company decides are the best for its platforms. You can learn more about this project in its website: https://enricllagostera.github.io/gambi_abo/about/.
Roots is an on-going collaboration between Rebecca Goodine and Enric Llagostera, started in January 2018. It is a research-creation game design project that actively involves intergenerational players in an experience that cultivates each other’s capabilities for care within a larger community. Gameplay is both haptic and visual in nature, with players working together to grow an onscreen digital garden through an alternative controller resembling an underground roots system. In the current Roots “well” design, players put their hands inside a soft padded well through holes in its sides. The game’s digital garden inside the top of the well can be grown and watered by connecting roots within the well’s interior to a circuit based ground cushion. Each root has a different feel, texture and weight, with softness and tactility acting as invitations into new and unfamiliar learning spaces.
This doctoral colloquium was a great opportunity to get early feedback on my research directions from peers and experienced faculty. I presented a position paper with an outline of my research proposal, titled “Critical controllers: how alternative game controllers foster reflective game design”.
In July / August 2018, I was one of the mentors at the Critical Hit Parallax summer program at Concordia University, in partnership with Indienova. I taught about game making tools, game design and helped to support students in their game jam projects. From the program’s website:
Critical Hit Parallax is hosted by TAG in collaboration with Indienova – China’s largest indie game portal. In previous years, TAG’s 10-week summer game incubator program, Critical Hit, attracted international attention with its focus on producing innovative experimental games through fast-paced iterative prototyping approaches. Many games from Critical Hit and Critical Hit alumni have gone on to do very well in international festivals such as Indiecade, IGF, Japan Media Arts Festival. As such, Critical Hit is now synonymous with innovative and experimental game creation, and both past and future participants benefit from this reputation as game makers, artists, students, and researchers.
Critical Hit Parallax borrows from the previous model but in a condensed 2 week form, foregrounding the same spirit of exploration with regards to alt/indie/experimental making. Teachers and mentors will be recruited from the game industry in Montreal and TAG/Milieux Research Centre graduate students. The participating international students will be introduced to research-creation culture in Canada, potential graduate studies at Concordia University, and the rich game development ecosystem of Montreal.
I went to Regina, Saskatchewan, from 29 May to 03 June, to participate at the 2018 Annual Conference of the Canadian Game Studies Association (CGSA). The conference was part of the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
In the event, I presented a talk in a panel which featured my fellow student members (Jess Rowan Marcotte, Dietrich Squinkifier, and Rebecca Goodine) of the Reflective Games research group, directed by Dr. Rilla Khaled. Our panel showcased and discussed the group members’ research-creation work, focusing on design approaches and how our projects aim to encourage critical reflection in games and their design.
My individual talk at the panel (about the design process of Cook Your Way, a political game discussing the experience of migrants in relation to issues of identity and otherness) also sparked interesting conversations with other researchers. Topics discussed ranged from the representation of power in the game to how the different layers of design in the game reinforced its message and reflection through play.
In September 2017, Anita Cavaleiro and I presented a talk about indie dev meetups in Brazil at the Indie Interfaces conference at Concordia University in Montréal. More info about that event can be found here.
From 2014 to 2017, I taught classes about game development at the PUC-Campinas university in Campinas, São Paulo. I started with game engine related classes and later assumed courses in project development, game design and game analysis. I also taught free courses about digital toys and game development. I aimed to bring new repertoires and references, as well as providing open and accessible materials for the students.
From January 2015 to July 2017, I was the course coordinator for the Digital Games course at the PUC-Campinas university. My responsibilities involved both pedagogical coordination between professors, as well as the organization of events, meetings, and helping the administration of teaching staff in general. I was also responsible for proposing new educational activities (such as specific projects for students) and representing the course in different external events.
From 2015 to 2017, indie/camp was a monthly meetup of indie game creators, students and people interested in games in the region of Campinas, São Paulo. It happened at Sesc Campinas and hosted a series of talks and workshops. I co-organized the event for its first set of months together with Anita Cavaleiro, who was its main organizer. I also hosted the talk about alternative controllers (gif above) in the December 2016 edition. The online community of the event can be found here.
This series of workshops, which I ran in both 2013 and 2016 at Sesc Consolação, São Paulo, is focused on introducing new audiences to the creation of board games. During weekly meetings, participants played existing games, discussed their design and experiences, and developed their own original games.
In April 2016, I presented the talk A critical analysis of the Brazilian independent games scene about how the independent games scene is configured in Brazil at the Different Games 2016 event at the NYU Magnet. It was a great opportunity to play interesting games and to get to know other researchers and game makers in an event focused on diversity and inclusion.
This alternative controller game was made for the Alt Ctrl Game Jam in 2015. I designed and programmed the game, using an Android controller attached to a broomstick as its controller, connected to a PC running the game logic. Players have to use the broomstick to keep an interstellar portal open and save the spaceships. My goal was to explore existing devices, subverting everyday objects and use them to invite players. You can download it here and there is also a preview video here.
A game about walking the legendary Tōkaidō road, enjoying the scenery and trying to heal other characters’ emotional issues. Each one has different needs you can talk and try to satisfy. I programmed and designed the game, together with André Asai, Eduardo Emmerich and Gabriel Naro, for the SPJam 2015 game jam.
In January 2015, Carolina Chmielewski and I organized a three-day free workshop about embodiment and play in Sesc Campinas. It was focused on both online and offline games, as we mixed experimental toy prototypes using smartphone sensors as controllers with traditional folk games and play. We also presented a selection of existing physical digital games, like JS Joust, Bounden and B.U.T.T.O.N..
During 2014, I taught game programming classes at the game development PRONATEC technical course at FIAP (São Paulo, Brazil). In this trade-school one year course, students were focused on becoming junior game developers and programmers.
In June 2013, I co-organized, together with André Asai, Amora Bettany and Pedro “Santo” Medeiros, the first editions of the SPIN, a free monthly meetup of independent game developers in São Paulo. The event gained momentum later and is now run by larger game developer organizations. It started as an informal meetup between makers who were eager to know their peers. More info about that period of the event can be found here.
In January 2013, I was hired by Virgo Games Studio in São Paulo, Brazil, as a serious games designer and developer. My role during my year at the company was to create prototypes, prepare game design proposals and documents, as well as writing educational materials. We developed educational and social impact game projects for corporate clients.
This paper was presented at the SBGames 2012, the Brazilian Symposium of Games and Digital Entertainment, and it can be downloaded here. Here is its abstract:
The discussion around gamification has been gaining
strength in recent years, and game scholars are
focusing on the term and the phenomena it describes.
The main goal of this paper is to contribute to this
discussion by understanding the gamification
phenomenon from the perspective of the persuasive
questions it poses, both as a discursive term and as
persuasive systems. The paper shortly reviews current
debates around the gamification term and present
definitions, as a basis for the analysis of gamification
and persuasion. A description of the rhetorics of
gamification is then made, discussing the positioning
of gamification in relation to video games and larger
cultural and societal contexts. Next, the persuasive
characteristics of gamification systems are analyzed
using concepts of persuasive technologies and
procedural rhetorics, highlighting the connections
between those characteristics and the gamification
As a result of my research during my MSc in Games at the IT University of Copenhagen, I wrote this thesis discussing criticality as a productive stance for game creators, drawing from different fields such as popular education and social movements in Latin America and views of criticality in design, game design and play. The thesis can be downloaded here. Here is its abstract:
Games and play are currently seen as having relevant impacts in changing a variety of spheres of people’s lives, such as work, education, and political action. However, many times games and play are uncritically deployed, as if they existed in a social and political vacuum, ready to be used whenever appropriate. The present research explores the concept of criticality as a productive perspective for problematizing such efforts of changing the world through games and play, with a special focus on game design, bringing to the discussion views from outside the game studies and design domain.
Criticality in game design is two-fold. First, it can mean creating games and play centered on the idea of performing critique and challenging dominant hegemonic values, beliefs and conventions, maybe supporting or creating spaces for change. With that in mind, I investigate existing formulations of criticality in play and games, analyzing the most important elements of that relationship that can affect game design. Secondly, criticality in game design can refer to taking it as a guiding principle or stance during the design practice of game designers, informing design goals, processes and other aspects of game design, turning it into a critical activity itself. In order to understand how criticality can affect design practice, I review and analyze a diversity of critical approaches to design and game design.
Finally, a synthesis of the more relevant elements and themes raised in these detailed analysis is produced, aimed at providing insight and productive questions to the practice of game designers engaged in critical efforts.
This local multiplayer game had two players playing asymmetrically: one controlling physical tokens and the other a virtual character. They had to compete and take turns creating a range of virtual obstacles via the physical tokens and escaping that fractured landscape. This game prototype was made for my MSc experimental game design class, and it used computer vision libraries to enable the interaction with the tokens. I made the programming, design and art.
This game is a local multiplayer game in which players compete to reach the top. However, their only way to go up is by using jetpacks fired by their singing. I made this game as an experiment about shared microphone input and competitive play during my MSc game design class.
The paper discusses how the serious game PeaceMaker articulates specific rhetorics when aiming to create critical reflection in players about the Israel-Palestine conflict. It discusses game design and procedural rhetorics connecting them with Foucault’s ideas of power. This paper was presented at the SBGames 2009, the Brazilian Symposium of Games and Digital Entertainment, and it can be downloaded here and here is its abstract (Portuguese only).
Através da análise do jogo político PeaceMaker, procuramos descrever e analisar sua representação de poder, utilizando os conceitos de representação e retórica procedimentais de Bogost, a construção das mesmas através do conceito de simulação proposto por Frasca e as proposições sobre poder de Michel Foucault. Pretendemos assim mostrar os meios pelos quais esse jogo aborda seu objetivo de provocar reflexão crítica sobre o conflito Israel-Palestina, assim como situá-lo em relação às melhores práticas para o design de jogos políticos, os “games for change”, propostas por Swain.
This short film tells the story of an exiled Uruguayan living in Brazil since the days of the military regime. He tries to gather enough courage to go back to his home country, but finds it difficult to tackle his past. The film won the Best Regional Short Film, Best Short Film Director and Audience’s Best Regional Short Film awards at the Paulínia Cinema Festival 2011, in Brazil. I wrote its screenplay.