Teorimoduler - IDI

TDT42 - Theoretical foundations of game design

Dag Svanæs is the responsible teacher for the course. For more information please contact (dags at .


The course introduces theories and theoretical concepts of play and games and how these are applied to digital game design. During the course definitions of play and games and theoretical concepts such as the magic circle, gamification and playification and how these are applied to digital game design will be discussed. We will be analysing various games and play forms, analog and digital, to gain a better understanding of the role of play for digital gaming and vice versa.

Teaching Approach

The course is taught through workshops where the students present the articles in the course followed by group work and discussions.

Workshop times 2023:

Friday 8. Sept.10:15-12:00KJL23Introduction to the course.
Friday 6. Oct.10:15-12:00H1 (Main building)Presentation of topic 1 by group 1.
Friday 20. Oct.10:15-12:00H1 (Main building)Presentation of topic 2 by group 2.
Friday 3. Nov10:15-12:00H1 (Main building)Presentation of topic 3 by group 3.
Friday 17. Nov10:15-12:00H1 (Main building)Presentation of topic 4 by group 4.
Friday 24. Nov10:15-12:00H1 (Main building)Q&A for individual essays.

The presentations are done in groups, and are not graded but mandatory.

The grading is based on your individual essay.

Deadline for individual essay: November 28th (23:59)


Workshop 1

Topic 1: Play vs Game.

· Huizinga, J. (2016). Homo ludens, a study of the play-element in culture. Kettering, OH: Angelico Press. - Chapter 1.

Additional literature:

o Henricks, T. S. (2015). Play and the Human Condition: URBANA; CHICAGO; SPRINGFIELD: University of Illinois Press. -

o Caillois, R. (1961). MAN, PLAY, AND GAMES. Chapters 1 & 2

o Suits, B. (1978). The Grasshopper: Games, Life anf Utopia. Canada: Broadview Press. Appendix on Play

Workshop 2

Topic 2: The magic circle, protective frame or game frame – the role of the "magic circle" for play.

§ Stenros, J. (2012). In Defence of a Magic Circle: The Social and Mental Boundaries of Play. Paper presented at the Proceedings of DiGRA Nordic 2012 Conference: Local and Global – Games in Culture and Society.

Additional literature:

o Kerr, J. H., & Apter, M. J. (1991). Adult play : a reversal theory approach. Amsterdam: Swets & Zeitlinger. Chapter 1

o Montola, M. (2009). Pervasive games : theory and design. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Morgan Kaufmann publ. Chapter 1

o Deterding, S. (2017). Alibis for Adult Play. Games and Culture.

Workshop 3

Topic 3: Game Design Concepts

· Lazaro (2008), Four Fun Keys, In Isbister, K., & Schaffer, N. (2008). Game Usability (1 ed.). Chapter 22

Additional literature:

o Salen, K. (2004). Rules of play : game design fundamentals. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Chapter 23,24 and 25.

Workshop 4

Topic 4: Gamification/Playification

· Eichberg, H. (2015). Play as Production - Production as Game?: Towards a critical phenomenology of productivity. East Asian Sport thoughts, 4, 25-44.

Additional literature:

o Deterding, S. (2014). Eudaimonic Design, or: Six Invitations to Rethink Gamification In Rethinking Gamification, Fuchs, M., Fizek, S., Ruffino, P., & Schrape, N. (Eds). Germany: Medson Press.

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