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Designing a Game for Academic Application and Appealing to a Game Hobbyists feat. Sam Mendez – 97

Episode Overview

  • Episode Topics and Interviews
    • Sam Learns through Typing – 4:54
    • From Gamer to Designing Learning Games – 7:49
    • The MIT Game Lab – 10:59
    • Unfundable – 15:15
    • Development and Playtesting – 21:54
    • Last Words of Advice: Playtesting and Matching Outcomes – 28:29
    • Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Rapid Fire Round – 32:19

In this week’s episode of Board Gaming with Education Dustin interviews Sam Mendez, a student at MIT studying Comparative Media and also the designer of the board game Unfundable. The two talk about Sam’s game that puts you in the shoes of a Public Health Researcher as you compete with colleagues for funding. We learn about Sam’s background in gaming and his experience with the MIT research groups, like The Game Lab, and their roles in introducing Sam to the academic side of game design. Sam then goes through his experiences with playtesting his game and the differences between developing for academic applications and developing to appeal to games hobbyists.


Unfundable: unfundable.fun

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/samuelanimates

Thank you to Purple Planet Music for the wonderful contributions of their songs “Soul Train” and “Retro Gamer” for our Sponsorship and Interview Segments. These song can be found in full on this music archive. Also, thank you to Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) for his creative commons 4.0 contribution of “Getting it Done” for our Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Rapid Fire Round.

Thank you to Dallas Welk, the editor of this episode!

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Updates from Board Gaming with Education – 0:55

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Sponsorship for the Episode: Evolution Education Edition – 2:15

“Chosen by the world-leading scientific journal Nature Magazine as the best example of natural selection in a game, Evolution brings Darwin’s theories to life in a vivid game of strategy that is both educational and entertaining.

In Evolution, students selectively develop species for survival while avoiding the looming threat of extinction. Adaptability is key as each situation has a number of successful pathways to survival. Food supply running low? Grow a long neck to access vegetation in the trees high above. Each trait added shows realistic effects on ecosystems that mirror those of the natural world. An overabundance of plant food leads to overpopulation, which in turn leads to an increase in carnivores. Of course, with many meat-eaters on the prowl, other species will develop defenses in turn. Explore the effects natural selection has on both the environment and the creatures living within.”

Who is Sam Mendez? – 2:39

Sam Mendez is a Comparative Media Studies student at MIT and the designer of the board game, Unfundable. We learn about Sam’s background in animation and public health research.

Samuel R. Mendez is an artist and researcher exploring topics of community engagement and health equity. He is interested in the role that arts and media can play in changing the typical power dynamics and presumed roles of public health communication. He recently finished his graduate studies in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and is beginning a PhD program in public health in the fall.

Sam Learns Typing through Games – 4:54

Sam talks about his experience learning typing through a gamified typing experience playing Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing.

From Gamer to Designing Learning Games – 7:49

We learn about Sam’s history with gaming and how he got his start in designing games to be used as academic tools.

The MIT Game Lab – 8:59

Sam shares some of his experiences with various games based research groups at MIT.

Unfundable – 15:15

Sam goes through the basic concept of his game, Unfundable, a board game where you take on the role of a researcher at a university competing for grants.

Development and Playtesting – 21:54

Sam recalls his time reaching out to playtesters outside of academic spaces and how it affected development decisions involving the competitive nature of the game.

Last Words of Advice: Playtesting and Matching Outcomes – 28:29

Dustin asks Sam to give advice to anyone who might have an interest in designing games and what they might expect when presenting to hobby gamers as well as in educational settings.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Rapid Fire Round – 32:19

Dustin challenges Sam with some rapid-fire statements to see their unsolicited opinions on them. Be sure to tune in to hear his answers!

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