Can my testers be my family, scout troop or friends?
Yes! Your testers can be whomever you like. However, be sure to pick people who you think will follow your instructions for testing the game and then give you honest feedback about what they thought of your game. If you have friends whom you trust, then they would be excellent people to playtest your game. But if you think your friends might take charge of your testing session or tell you only what they think you want to hear, then maybe you might want to ask some people who you don't know as well, such as members of another patrol or some of your brother's or sister's friends.
How can I learn to program my game?
Programming can be very challenging to learn, and so programming knowledge is not necessary to earn the Game Design merit badge. However, some people do have a knack for programming, and if you have an interest in learning to program, we encourage you to do so. Carnegie Mellon University created an easy-to-use programming language called Alice that was designed to teach students how to program a computer, either a PC or Macintosh. Alice is free to download from http://www.alice.org, and the website contains videos and other materials that will teach you how to use the language.
Can I work with a buddy?
Many games are made by teams of designers or game makers, and so it's okay to have one or more friends help with such things as building game pieces or assist with programming. And certainly you need to gather friends or other people you know together to help you playtest your game. Just remember that you are the one who must earn this merit badge, and so you need to learn everything you need to know to satisfy the merit badge requirements and be the one leading anyone else who is helping you to design and make your game.
Can I use games I already have and modify them?
Yes, you can build your own version of a board game like Clue or Monopoly, program a game similar to Breakout or Angry Birds, or create a campaign for an existing role-playing game. However, be sure to change the game elements (such as the artwork and the game theme or story) so that it becomes your own game and not just a copy of an existing game. It is also important for you to change the game rules and then bring together some friends to play the game with the changed rules so that you gain an understanding of game mechanics and what makes a game fun to play.
How do I get started?
Just as there are many types of games, there are many ways to approach the Game Design merit badge. To help you get started, think about what you like to do.
Do you like making things? If so, consider designing a board game for which you would need to make the game board and game pieces.
Do you like playing sports? How about coming up with a new type of sports game? Perhaps you might somehow combine the rules of two different games -- such as baseball and capture the flag -- into brand new game.
Do you want to delve into programming? Download a free-to-use programming language like Alice, or a purchased one like Game Maker.
Do you like to tell stories? Write a new scenario for an existing role-playing game.
Whatever approach you take, be sure to review the merit badge requirements to make sure that what you want to do satisfies those requirements, and then talk to a merit badge counselor before starting any real work.
How can I start a game group?
You have lots of tools at your disposal to do this, including eVite, Facebook, BoardGameGeek, Google Calendar (and groups), and Meetup to generate interest, create and publicize events, and get people interested. If you are doing this at a school or college and want recognition, you need to check with you school administrators on how to find and advisor become an official club or group.
In requirement 4a, can you give me an example of how to change the rules of a game?
Sure – let’s take chess as an example. One of the standard ways to change the rules is to limit the amount of time a player may take for their moves – this is commonly known as ‘speed chess.’ If a player runs of time, they lose, no matter what their position is on the board or which player still has the most pieces. Another variation, standard in Shogi, is that instead of moving a piece, you can put a captured piece back on the board as your own (if you did this with standard chess pieces, you would have to somehow mark the piece to show that it was operating as a different color). Finally, you could change the movement of different patterns – like adding the ability to go one square side to side and front to back to the bishop or one square diagonally to the rook.
If I take a Game Design class in High School or attend a specialized summer program, can I use the what I’ve done in class for the Merit Badge?
While your counselor has the final OK, it is most likely that you will be able to use a game created in class or for a camp as your project, so long as you’ve kept a good design notebook and have done the testing outlined in the requirement.
In requirement 1b, what does “play value” mean?
For the purposes of this merit badge, play value is the reason that someone plays a game. Most people play games “for fun”, but what does that mean? In checkers, for example, the fun may come from competing against a friend or family member. In a sport the fun may come from working together as a team. When you think of play value, ask yourself what makes a particular game worth playing.
I want to make an electronic game, but I do not have access to a computer. What should I do?
You might be surprised to learn that most game rules can be prototyped in paper/with physical parts. Paper prototypes are cheap, quick to work with, and very easy to change. However, some concepts like twitchy reaction-based button pressing do not translate very well to paper. Make a list of the mechanics you want in your electronic game, and then see if you can think of a way to represent them in a physical way. For more information about paper prototyping, see the Prototyping in Paper and Limitations of Paper sections of the Design Process Lesson of Ian Schreiber’s Game Design Concepts course.
I want to make an electronic game, but I do not have programming experience. What should I do?
There are many game development tools that are free or inexpensive. Some are the exact same tools that professionals use to make games, but others require little or no prior experience. Scratch, Gamestar Mechanic, Kodu, and Game Maker are all free development tools that are relatively easy to use and have lots of online support. In addition to these tools, the student page of the National STEM Video Game Challenge has a link in the center of the page that lists over forty software packages related to game design and development. The Challenge also has a comparison chart to help you gauge how much programming knowledge is needed to use the different tools. Lastly, some computer and console games also include development or modification (mod) tools that can be used to make new levels and change the game rules. These editing tools are often easy to use. Any of these tools can be used to meet the merit badge requirements.