Can Do… Can Do… How to Start a Game Project.

Guest Blogger:  Kellian Adams

Kellian Adams has worked on over a hundred games with institutions across the US and Europe including the Smithsonian, the Met and the Science Museum of London. She was the senior producer, the director of the museums division of SCVNGR and now runs Green Door Labs, a gaming studio that focuses on games for culture and education.

Today I was proud to be on a panel for a really cool workshop on play at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

It was a great concept with some amazingly talented people but it’s interesting to me that when we get together to talk about games, how easy it is to get caught up in talk of what we CAN’T do when we’re concepting out games.

– We can’t build a totally new app for a one-day project

– We can’t have people running through spaces

– We can’t let people touch things

– We can’t build too close to the traffic on Mass Ave.

– We can’t give people permission to run amok

These are all true and very valid points. The trouble is that play is sort of an open, ambiguous idea… so when you START with the things that you can’t do, the options of things that you can’t do are just limitless. You could list impossibilities forever. Then you get so discouraged that you just forget about it and move on.

One thing I can tell you for certain that you really CAN’T do is that you can’t possibly predict all the ways that people could think of to break the rules.   And you CAN’T really predict all the types of technical obstacles that you’ll run into until you start testing things. That’s why it’s best to start with what you CAN do, because you usually find that the list is considerably shorter and more manageable.

Rather than starting with an idea (“I would like an Angry Birds Game for the Audubon Society but I don’t have developers or funding or staff resources”), start by listing your resources and see what kind of a project you CAN build with what you have.

For instance:

Where CAN you play? Only in the lobby? No problem! Work with a lobby game.

Where CAN you find help? Short of staff? College volunteers love to work building games. Maybe you have a resource of high school teachers or professors who can find you interns for a week or two.

What platforms DO you have? No money to build a unique app? Try running a paper game, a text game or an ARG. If you’re a TourSphere museum, TS is actually a great platform for story games.

What are your community resources? Moms? Knitters? Belly Dancers? Girl Scouts? Lumberjacks? You can always find creative ways to make use of local communities and everyone wants to play!

What stories CAN you tell? Every cultural space has game-worthy stories. Everyone knows that truth is stranger than fiction!

So again, I reiterate, start backwards. Not “what do I want to build?” and “what could derail me?” but “what do I already have?” and “what could I possibly build with these resources?”  When you make the decision that you want to build a game and your resources come first, you’ll know where you need to fill in the blanks and suddenly you’ll find that things fall into place more easily.

Happy building!

Thanks for the awesome advice, Kellian! Questions about location games and gamification? Feel free to leave a comment here or talk to Kellian directly at:



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