Game Design Like a Boy Scout: Week 10 - Wrap Up

After ten weeks of teaching a game design workshop to 20+ BSA Scouts, it was time for the Scouts to deliver their own games. This is where I discovered how interested and motivated our Scouts were to finish the badge.


If you missed it, here's the other articles in the series:
The Game Design Merit Badge is not like other merit badges. Many of the badges require active engagement with an activity, but the way a Scout completes the badge is by filling out a worksheet -- and that's it. This means that if Scouts attend workshops covering a particular badge and take careful notes, they're virtually guaranteed to complete the badge. Not so with game design.

Game Design has two additional components: the game design journal and the game itself. The game design journal includes sketches, maps, art, rules, and anything else related to the game that wouldn't normally fit on a worksheet. Several Scouts told me they have all the rules "in their head," but that's not enough to work with a game, and certainly not enough to replicate it as part of a prototype and blind test.

The other component is the game itself. It's not enough just to make a prototype of the game; it has to be blind tested three times, with subsequent improvements each time. We ran a game fair to allow Scouts to blind test once with their peers, but the bulk of blind testing presumably happened with their friends and family. So what games did we end up with?

Several games were ball or floor games with a twist, like Marco Polo meets dodgeball. These were very popular if a little chaotic. Others were board games that involved really creative rules; one board game involved wizards and warriors, complete with hand-made dice and chits to determine outcomes. The games ranged from the straightforward (guess which hole a ball will roll out of) to the complex (a full-fledged trivia game). My son's game was coded in Roblox and featured a BSA Scout searching for food while on a camping trip in an allotted time.

Of the 25 Scouts in the workshop, several didn't need or want to complete the badge -- it's optional -- so active participants were about half that number. Of 13 eligible scouts, seven completed all the requirements. That said, there's no time limit for completing a merit badge, so long as the Scouts turn in their requirements (worksheet, journal, and game) before they turn 18. I'm sure we'll have at least three to five additional completed games before the end of the year.

The final part of the workshop involves a Q&A session with a game designer. I took questions from the Scouts, and they chiefly revolved around two topics. The first was whether or not I "really" published a book on gaming. I gave out a copy of my non-fiction book for The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, but for them the proof was that it was on Amazon (it is).

The second question was if I had ever worked on a video game. The closest is the online text-based multi-user dimension (MUD), RetroMUD. I've been an administrator on RetroMUD for over two decades. You can learn more about the game on our web site.

Ever since my son joined the BSA Scouts I knew I wanted to be a merit badge counselor and take on the game design badge. It's not easy becoming a merit badge counselor (the requirements for training youth are stricter than ever, as they should be) but it was definitely rewarding to see the Scouts complete their games. It piqued some of the Scouts' interest in playing a D&D campaign on camping trips, so perhaps there's a D&D campaign for our Scouts in the future!

If you're inclined to teach yourself game design or want to run your own merit badge workshop, all the content I created and used for the workshop is available on my Patreon.
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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

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