Mark Keplinger speaking

If you weren’t able to attend our Symposium this season, you missed out on some great speakers. Fear not though, this blog post is here to give you all the highlights.


Dave Dubin – University of Illinois, School of Information Sciences

Game Design, Past and Future

The primary thrust of Dave’s talk was that commercial success is not the only measure of success for a game. He went on to list a number of unique games which were never formally published, but nonetheless found passionate and loyal player communities.

Some of the unique game experiences Dave mentioned were:

  • Empire – A game of economic, political, and military strategy created at Reed College in Oregon. This game was never sold, but was played by Reed students continuously for over a decade, and constantly refined along the way.
  • World Peace Game – Another game of politics and negotiation, but this time for 4th graders! Elementary school teacher John Hunter created the game to show his young students that they could have a positive effect on the world. Learn more about Hunter and the game in his TED Talk and website.
  • Reacting to the Past – This educational series of games from Barnard College is part roleplaying, and part debate team. Students take on the roles of various people from the past. They speak and write in those roles and use real historical sources to impact their decisions.
  • Capture the Flag With Stuff – Take your capture the flag games up to the next level like they do at Carnegie Mellon, by adding STUFF. Because using just flags is boring.
  • Matrix Games – Psychiatric social worker Chris Engle wanted to create a game system where players took on the roll of countries, but instead of numbers or stats, the different attributes would be represented by words and ideas. In 1988, the first of many Matrix Games was born. Several games have used this core concept, you can also find out more about the history in this article by Engle.
  • The Quiet Year – This is a game where players build a community, while also creating a free-form map of themselves and their surroundings. Not quite a roleplaying game, but definitely a kind of collaborative fiction. You can download the rules for free online, or order your own set of rules and special cards.



Mike Hinson – Elf Creek Games

Playtesting and Development

Mike talked about the importance of playtesting in game development. He explained that development is the refining stage that you reach once your game design stabilizes somewhat. If it wasn’t clear, playtesting is the act of trying out and assessing your game through play!

Some key points from Mike’s presentation:

  • Playtesting is the most important part of development. Every change you make should spark at least one playtest!
  • Playtest your game as much as you can, with whoever you can.
  • Listen to feedback from playtesters, but remember, this is your game, you get to make the decisions about how it should play and feel.
  • Set goals for your playtests.
  • Ask your playtesters open-ended questions to get the best feedback
  • Development never truly ends. There are always changes you could make to your game. This can be daunting, but exciting too! Remember that many of the most popular games on the market have been through multiple rules editions.


Mark Keplinger – Titan Games

Trends in the Game Industry

Mark has a good handle on the different trends in the game industry since he manages Titan Games in Champaign. He shared some of his insights with us.

Current game trends:


After the presentations there was plenty of open time to mingle and ask questions. Of course there were lots of exciting ideas discussed, but there’s not enough room in this blog to recount them all! Even if you couldn’t come to Symposium, hope to see you at Boot Camp and Pitch Night.

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