H. Miranda, R. Nakamura

Universidade de São Paulo (BRAZIL)
Designers and computer engineers often have to work together in projects involving software and services. The recent popularization of methods such as “design thinking” are evidence of the perceived need for interdisciplinary solutions in the marketplace. Therefore, promoting the integration between students of design and computer engineering programs, so that they may share distinct perspectives and learn other approaches to problem solving can be beneficial to their professional development.

In this paper we describe our experience with bringing together design and computer engineering undergraduate students on a game design and development course. The course is offered to students in the final years of their respective programs, and from its inception, it was designed to promote sharing of experiences and collaborative learning. It has also undergone adjustments and changes since its first offering in 2010. Our discussion in this paper focuses on the most recent version, presented in the second semester of 2016.

An important matter to be addressed in a course presented to students with such different backgrounds as design and computer engineering is how to select content that will be meaningful and useful for all of them. There are game design courses focused on creative techniques, prototyping and evaluation, and game development courses focused on technical aspects of game software construction. Our course had to bring a balance between both fields, in order not to alienate some students. In fact, the first offering was too focused in algorithms and system architecture, and students provided feedback about the problem.

The design of the course evolved through the years, with student feedback, informal observation and the results of the student assessments. In the current version, we have moved towards blended learning strategies, with course materials provided before the weekly meetings. This way, time in the classroom is used for discussions using various methods and practical exercises involving game analysis, prototyping and testing. Student assessment tools also evolved, and currently the students develop two group projects during the semester: the creation of a board game prototype and a digital game prototype.

Students are free to choose the technology they will use for their digital game prototypes. This has been found to promote exploration of different software packages, as well as sharing of knowledge between individual students and student groups. It is uncertain if this strategy would work with students in the earlier years of their programs, however, as they may lack autonomy and experience.

In 2016, there were 39 students enrolled in the course, 10 of which were from the design program, and 12 were from the computer engineering program. There were also 14 computer science students, and 2 students from other programs. The students formed groups that created a total of 8 board game prototypes, and 7 game prototypes.

Overall, the integration of students from different programs has been effective; the adoption of group projects and blended learning strategies has been helpful to promote interaction between them. On the other hand, the workload of a course such as this is high, because it requires monitoring the current set of knowledge and competences, as well as expectations, of two distinct groups of students.