New article out – ‘Designing Games as Playable Concepts’ in DiGRA 2020 Proceedings

Designing Games as Playable Concepts: Five Design Values for Tiny Embedded Educational Games – article out in the DiGRA 2020 Proceedings

Hello everyone!

Currently I work as a research assistant in the Aalto Online Learning-funded Department of Media pilot project Playable Concepts under the supervision of games scholar doctor Annakaisa Kultima. During the spring, our team also included Solip Park (now doctoral student at Department of Media) and Tomi Kauppinen from Aalto Online Learning and the Department of Computer Science, with some additional support from programmer Teemu Kokkonen and game designer Noora Heiskanen. Our aim is to explore how tiny, embedded and partial games communicate – if they do – and how to teach new game makers to adopt games as a communication tool!

To further explain the framework, we wrote an article, and it’s now available in the DiGRA library (free for personal and classroom use!):

Designing Games as Playable Concepts: Five Design Values for Tiny Embedded Educational Games. 2020. By: Annakaisa Kultima, Christina Lassheikki, Solip Park, and Tomi Kauppinen.

Click to Access PDF in the DiGRA library.


Digital games transform our lives; they provide an opportunity to engage with other worlds in a playful way, in many ways similarly to what other forms of audio-visual communication (like movies, paintings or photos) have offered for a longer time. However, learning materials still use rather traditional ways for accompanying media, ranging from static figures and graphs to videos and animations. In this paper, we explore the notion of Playable Concepts: tiny games that are embedded as part of educational material instead of separate and standalone products. We argue that games could be in a similar role as static graphical elements in educational and communicational material, embedded in the text, together with other media formats. We suggest that the design space of Playable Concepts can be framed with five distinct design values: Value of Partiality, Value of Embeddedness, Value of Simplicity and Immediacy, and Value of Reusability.

Playable Concepts is a pretty exciting project in the field of game development education and educational games. In addition to the research, so far we’ve created a library of 12 moddable playables and a graphics and sound asset library for people to use that is CC-by-3.0, and written tutorials.

We’ve also organized a handful of workshops on the basics of game making for different audiences, including the Academic Mindtrek 2020 conference audience, the Turku Edu Game Jam for high school students, Aalto games students, and Aalto staff and educators in the A!OLE community. The global pandemic forced our concepts to become fully online, and so some of our workshops were carried out over Zoom.

PlayCo Workshop at Academic Mindtrek – Tampere, January 2020
PlayCo Workshop over Zoom – Topical content for March 2020
Asset library – CC-By-3.0 Licensed pixel art assets for games by yours truly

During the academic year 2020-2021, we’re further improving our learning resources, and looking further into science dissemination through games – How could researchers use playables as figures to help explain and illustrate complex concepts?

Take a look at the paper if you’re curious about our design framework, or head over to our Playable Concepts platform to start learning how to make your own playable concepts using Construct 3!

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