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Session 2 Summary: Game Design Tips & Intro to Programming

PGI3 Session 2
The second week of Pixelles Incubator 3 marked our first session with mentor presentations! The ladies of Pixelles talked about their experiences over the week, trying out different tools for game-making and analyzing their own game concepts. Some of them brought in the tutorial files they had made, paper diagrams and sketches, and others had actually tried to start prototyping their own game! One participant literally even made a whole tutorial in an hour and a half preceding the incubator meeting, and said she felt ultimately empowered by how easy it was. It was an encouraging week of discovery for all, now that the biggest hurdle, just starting, was vanquished.

Game Design Tips with Alicia

Our very own PGI3 coordinator Alicia has been talking all along about MDA — mechanics, dynamics, and aesthetics — and gave a succinct presentation on how to design a game around them.

Additional reading: there’s also a good run-down on MDA in a presentation we had in PGI2.

Paper Prototyping

Alicia talked as well about “paper prototyping”: sketching out your game on paper first, and using props (like quarters and dimes, a stack of playing cards) and diagrams (post-it notes with different outcomes, flow charts) to try re-creating your game concept on a few sheets of paper. Rather than spending time tackling unknown tasks at the computer, use your paper prototype to make clear what your goals are, and to take inventory of what exactly it is that you even need to code and make art and sound for. Consider your game design and ask yourself: Can I even play this? Is this a fun (or whatever other emotional state you’re trying to trigger) game?

→ Here is an example of a very simple game found in a Google Doodle, that was step-by-step paper prototyped.

What is a Concept Document?

In most game dev studios, a game’s first form is a pitch document — a general idea you can express in a few sentences and maybe an illustration or diagram. The next stage is the concept document! Even independent developers find it useful to make a concept document to fully flesh out their idea and figure out how to communicate what is exciting about it, and how that takes shape within the game world.

Word format
PDF format

This is an optional exercise, but it is quite useful as a template to organize your ideas. It gives you another kind of framework for your concept, and gives you a bit of a head start on copy for things like a game description or a controls manual. Try it out!

Intro to Programming with Aurelie

PGI3 Session 2
Aurelie LeChevalier, currently a gameplay programmer at Ubisoft, was our mentor for the week! She bravely managed to make a 20-minute presentation about the basics of programming logic. Using visual diagrams, she went through the very basic make-up of a simple game, demonstrating the underlying structure that is present no matter what programming language you choose to use.

She talked a bit about her experiences in game-making, from small to big projects, and the gender make-up of AAA game companies as well. Thank you so much Aurelie!

Meet Up: New Location at GamePlay Space

Of course, we encourage you to go online to discuss at our Facebook Group! There’s still no substitute for face-to-face interactions though, so we encourage you to meet with us again at our weekly Extra Sessions. Meetups are on Saturdays, happening weekly from January 17th to February 21st, from 2 to 5pm. Upcoming dates below:

* A note that this week’s location is different from last week! Please double-check the address!

Email Mentorship

Need specific advice about certain software, bugs, or just general modus operandi? As a Follow-Along, this year you can additionally sign up for individual email mentorship. If you’re interested in this as either a mentee or a mentor, please email moms@pixelles.ca and we’ll get you all set up!


  1. Analyse your game in terms of MDA: does it have all the basic elements?
  2. Write a concept document for your game using the example template. Remember you should use lots of images, even ones from Google image search, to get your point across. Include at least one very basic illustration/diagram of what the game screen will look like to the player.
  3. Get your game’s environment set up — have the tool, basic scene, and your placeholder data ready to work on for next week. It’s okay if your character doesn’t move, for example, but have a placeholder image (if your game has characters) to represent it.
  4. Try making the beginnings of a prototype. Start with one mechanic, one “action verb”, such as ‘clicking to advance story’, or ‘moving a block’. The more basic, the better. A paper prototype is also totally okay!
  5. If you hit a wall, it’s okay. Come out to the meet up or contact the group via email or Facebook. As long as you’re started this week, we can suss out where you may be having problems and adjust, for next week!

Don’t hesitate to send us any questions, ask for feedback, or bounce ideas. Use the FB Group! You can send us e-mails at moms@pixelles.ca.

Next week: Prototyping & Scope!

Posted in Pixelles Game Incubator 3

Pixelles is a non-profit initiative committed to helping more people make and change games. We're based in Montreal, and have already succeeded in building a supportive community of game creators, both hobbyist and professional.

E-mail: info@pixelles.ca
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