Great Question: Why Are We Designing Games In Art?

As he entered the classroom yesterday, one of my sixth grade art students asked, “Mrs. Gentili, why are we designing games in art?”

“That’s a great question, ” I replied, “Let’s talk about it with the class once everyone settles.” And we did.

We have been engaged in a project-based-learning unit on Game Design for the past few classes. Students are working in cooperative groups to learn about board games (Explore), design board games and 3D printed game pieces (Create), and develop marketing materials for the game (Share). Guardians of my students can follow along by accessing Google Classroom summaries. The driving question for the unit is: Can we design a board game with 3D printed game pieces that is fun to play?

To start the discussion, I asked the class, “So, why do you think we are designing games in art class?” My students had terrific responses including the need for color and attractive game boards and using one’s imagination to develop games, which were all excellent springboards to talk about the role of designers in product design today. Too often we talk about STEM in education, but as I explained to my students, the most brilliant automotive engineer could design the most brilliantly engineered vehicle, but without style and comfort, it will not sell. Style = Design and that’s where we come in. And that is why STEM has officially been changed to STEAM (A for Art). Including art in the product design process incorporates aesthetics and empathy for the user experience.

Last Saturday I attended my 40th high school reunion (would you believe I graduated at 10?). When I graduated from high school, jobs for those with a degree in art were limited to teaching, layout and design, interior design, plus a few more. Keep in mind that specialized Masters degrees were not sought routinely as they are today. My parents groaned when I decided to go to art school, telling me I would never find a job and that I should go into education instead. I stuck to my guns, went to art school and entered the printing industry while in school. I didn’t go into education until twenty years after graduating from college, after twenty years in the printing industry.

Most Artistic

Now, forty years later, due to the advent of technology, there are infinite career choices for art students, and one of them is product design and development. This is why we are designing games in art class. Artists have been using the Design Process in their studios as long as there have been artists in studios. Applying the Design Process to collaborative game design, as we are doing in class, not only meets the visual art standards, but also meets the standards for technology and engineering. In addition, the 21st Century skills of collaboration, communication, and creativity are fostered and students apply their social and emotional learning strategies while working in groups. Please see the end of this post for the standards.

The Design Process
The Design Process – Source:


I wrote the Game Design unit over the summer. This class of sixth grade students are piloting it for me. After this trial run, I will tweak the unit as needed (design, test, revise) and share the unit with my 3D art education professional learning network. Energy is high as my students work together on this unit. Games and game piece design are fun, after all. Much more fun than designing door stop wedges, which is the other unit I wrote last summer…not even kidding.

MA Frameworks Visual Arts

2.10  For shape, form, and pattern, use and be able to identify an expanding and increasingly sophisticated array of shapes and forms, such as organic, geometric, positive and negative, or varieties of symmetry/Create complex patterns, for example, reversed shapes and tessellation

4.4    Produce work that shows an understanding of the concept of craftsmanship

4.9    Demonstrate the ability to conceptualize, organize, and complete long-term projects, alone and in group settings

•       Conceptualize: plan, generate ideas, make preliminary sketches, participate in discussions, imagine outcomes, and set goals;

•       Organize: choose materials and techniques to attain the desired look and feel; maintain work space and personal schedule; review progress of work with others; and revise work appropriately;

•       Complete: prepare work for presentation or exhibition

4.10  Demonstrate the ability to develop an idea through multiple stages, responding to criticism and self-assessment

ISTE Standards for Students (2016)

3.d       build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.

4.d    exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.

7.b    use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.

7.c    contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.



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