Board game design with Joshua Gillingham

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Episode summary

Based in Vancouver Island, Joshua Gillingham is an author, game designer, and editor. Board games are a great way for people to learn from, as they are very engaging and bring about different challenges. In this episode, explore how to get into the mind of the player, Joshua’s background in learning design, and what you can learn from the rule books of popular games.

About Joshua Gillingham

Joshua Gillingham is an author, game designer, and editor from Vancouver Island, Canada. His fantasy trilogy ‘The Saga of Torin Ten-Trees’ is an adventure inspired by the Norse myths and the Icelandic Sagas. Joshua is also the co-author of ‘Old Norse for Modern Times’ alongside Ian Stuart Sharpe and Dr. Arngrimur Vidalin.

In partnership with Outland Entertainment, Joshua is the founding Worldsmith of the trans-media Outland 'Althingi' World set in Viking Age Iceland, featuring his original card game Althingi: One Will Rise and the groundbreaking anthology Althingi: The Crescent & the Northern Star.


Key takeaways:

  • Give learners/ players agency: Learning is an internal process, so figure out how learners can take the information you’re providing, and make it a part of their lives. Learners need flexibility and relevant information so that what they learn can be applied for the long-term. To understand different perspectives within the company, consider conducting small group discussions. Prompts and reflective questions are a great way to give agency.
  • The role of ‘randomness’ in games has the advantage of surprise and chance. It frustrates the stronger skilled player, whilst the less-skilled player can see an opening and a chance. In learning design, this could be done through suprise questions. Strategically, make sure you give learners a bounded space, e.g. a physical game, to keep them on task, but provide enough agency so they are engaged.
  • Leveraging physical space on game boards: Learning Designers can build a physical space for people to learn from. For game designers, every piece on a board has a cost attached to it, so ask yourself “is this enhancing the experience?”. Be clever with using the most from as little as possible. 

Segmented time stamps:

  • 02:13 What do we mean by ‘space’ in game design?
  • 04:39 How Learning Designers can give players first-level agency
  • 07:52 The notion of ‘roles’, and why Learning Designers need to consider this more in their strategy
  • 09:50 Strategies for building ‘randomness’ in game design
  • 13:07 Learning from the rule books of the most popular games
  • 16:10 On the space of physical boards
  • 20:29 Multiple pathway learning

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