Teaching AESTHETICS in Game Design


Do you teach or work with game design? Are you interested in the aesthetic aspects of game design? Would you like to share and deepen your views on aesthetics in games with others? Would you like to have practical tools for understanding or teaching aesthetics of games? If you answer any two of these questions with “yes” this is the FDG-workshop for you!




The range of game styles that both consumers and designers wish to be made is increasing. For teachers of game design this requires that we educate the future designers of the game industry in the various style preferences that exist. Ranging from fine-tuning the hardcore gameplay of Counter-Strike or Starcraft to encouraging the experimental view of games found among indie developers, this can all be labeled as different types of aesthetics. This is however not simply a case of adopting existing curriculum from another field for several reasons. First, it is not self-evident that aesthetics theories from any given other discipline maps easily onto games, e.g. how to describe gameplay aesthetics or appreciating of beauty in game balance or game rules. Second, games are the product of multiple disciplines (e.g. 3D modeling, level design, computer science, story-telling, gameplay design) which all can have their own multiple views of aesthetics. Third, many students have no or few courses in the arts or other aesthetically-oriented fields so that the concept of aesthetics may be difficult to initially relate to. This workshop will address the need of being able to teach aesthetics in game design courses through bringing educators and practitioners from many fields together to develop a range of exercises that introduce students to the many different aesthetical possibilities of games.






The Teaching Aesthetics in Game Design full-day workshop will start with a short introduction describing the background and goal of the workshop followed by examples of different views of aesthetics. The participants will then be split into heterogeneous subgroups based upon the description of their backgrounds, and their view on aesthetics as expressed in their application letter. These groups will work together with the workshop organizers to plan the outlines for a series of exercises that together provide students with a comprehensive overview of aesthetics in games. The results from each subgroup will be presented to all participants at the end of the workshop and compiled versions of the exercises will be available online after the workshop.




Objectives and Expected Outcome


The result of the workshop will be a concrete set of exercises (e.g. discussion topics, analysis tasks, design exercises) to introduce game design students to various aspects of aesthetics in games. Besides giving the participants alternative ways of understanding the goals of a game design process, the exercises give the participants the possibility of either use the exercises piecewise into existing courses or to use the whole package as a one-day introduction on game aesthetics.






The workshop is aimed at educators teaching any aspect of game design that have an interest in aesthetics, both in relation to their own field as well as to game design as a whole, and wish to give students practical experiences of working with this. Practitioners from the industry that are interested in deepening their own understanding or developing in-house training opportunities are equally welcome, since they can benefit the workshop as a whole with their experience from actual developments. 

The workshop will be advertised through the organizers extensive professional networks as well as through organizations such as DiGRA and IGDA. Selection of those that have registered their interest in the workshop will be done so that the best possible spread between view on aesthetics, disciplines, nationalities, gender, and academia/industry is achieved. The workshop is limited to a maximum of 50 participants.




You are most welcome!


If you are interested in attending, compose a mail answering the following questions:

– Name:

– Current position, and in what company/university/school:

– Background (ca 100 words, look at the Organizer’s backgrounds for inspiration!)

– What is your current view on aesthetics in games? How is this reflected in your teaching or work?

– What are you hoping to gain from this workshop?

Send the mail to Simon Niedenthal (simon.niedenthal@mah.se) and do please use “[FDG2010 Aesthetics Workshop] Participant registration” as the subject line.






Staffan Björk works as an associate professor at Gothenburg University where he teaches games design, and also works as a senior researcher at the Game studio of the Interactive Institute. He was one of the developers of gameplay design patterns and results from his work have been published at the UIST, ACE, DiGRA, TIDSE, INTERACT and GDTW conferences. He is co-author to the book “Patterns in Game Design” and has 8 chapters in books, including “The Game Design Reader: A Rules of Play Anthology”. He has been active in promoting game-related research, being chair of the Swedish HCI organization (STIMDI) between 2004-2006, being one of the founders of the Digital Games Research Association, and co-organizing events such as Spelforum 2003, PerGames 2006, Pergames 2007, Visual Forum 2009.


Dr. Alessandro Canossa teaches "Game Development" and "Game Worlds as Fields for Expression" at IT University (Copenhagen) and passionately attempts to draw academic attention to game aesthetics. He also works with IO Interactive and Square Enix developing methods for locating, evaluating and designing for patterns of behavior in computer game players. He is working with a range of companies to improve user-oriented design practices in game development.


Sus Lundgren is a PhD-student at Chalmers University of Technology. Having a background in graphic design, interaction design and GUI design, she switched from industry to academia in 2001, working with game design research at the Interactive Insitute. Her licentiate thesis, “Facets of Fun: On the Design of Computer Augmented Entertainment” examined and presented five different design tools for designing “fun”. Currently she is in the last stages of writing her doctoral thesis; working title “Teaching Aesthetics of Interaction”. She has been teaching at Chalmers University of Technology since 2002; running courses on aesthetics of interaction and interaction design of graphical interfaces.


Simon Niedenthal is an associate professor of interaction design at Malmö University. He has a background in literature, photography, computer graphics and virtual worlds design, and his research interests include digital game aesthetics and design process. He has published in scholarly journals that include the Journal of Architectural Education, Leonardo, Game Studies and CyberPsychology and Behavior, and is a frequent contributor to the Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) conference. In 2008 he defended his Ph.D. thesis Complicated Shadows: the Aesthetic Significance of Simulated Illumination in Digital Games.