Metagame Project

Your final project for FMS 321 is the design of a metagame, that is, a game that itself comments upon other games or reflects upon some aspect of gaming. In the same way a research paper engages in an intellectual conversation with previous research and ideas, think of the metagame as entering into a conversation with other games.

The metagame need not respond to a specific game. Your meta-game can comment upon a genre of games, a general game mechanic, the platforms used to play games, the game industry, or even on the players that play games. Borrowing from Boluk and LeMieux’s inclusive characterization of metagames, your metagame should reflect on practices “within, around, outside, and about” videogames (319).

In short, you are going to develop a small game that both demonstrates hyperawareness of the world of games and expands what we will later learn Anna Anthropy calls our “vocabulary of ideas” about games.

The Tools

There are many tools you can use to design videogames that do not require programming experience. We will focus on Twine in our class tutorials, but here are some other possibilities:

  • Game Maker 8 (8 bit fun, think the original Legend of Zelda)
  • Pico-8 or Voxatron (two “fantasy consoles”—costs $15 or $20)
  • Unity (3D game engine, not for beginners)
  • Inklewriter (interactive narratives)
  • Construct2 (create HTML5 games with no programming experience)


I’ll evaluate your metagame using this criteria:

  • Unexpectedness (the extent to which the game defies expectations or produces surprising results or reactions)
  • Craft (the care put into the digital composition of the game)
  • Intention (the sense of intentionality and deliberateness of the game)
  • Theme (the level of engagement with concepts from this class)
  • Argument (the degree to which your game has something meaningful to say about the world of games)

Artist’s Statement

In addition to the game itself, you must also write an artist’s statement that explains and reflects upon the game.

Your artist’s statement is a 3-4 page essay that outlines the goals of your project. You should consider the following questions (not necessarily all of them or in this order): What were you trying to achieve? What kind of intervention does your game make into the world of games? What effect or meanings were you after? What subtextual meanings were you trying to evoke? What mechanics or narrative moments are especially meaningful? If your game’s argument is not evident from the game itself, take time in the artist statement to highlight that argument.

I’ll be looking for evidence that you’ve absorbed and thought about many of the issues we discussed throughout the semester regarding play, games, point of view, representation, procedural rhetoric, countergames, and so on.

Finally, conclude your artist’s statement by evaluating how your project lived up to your initial goals. What difficulties and epiphanies occurred along the way as you created your project, and what would you do differently next time?

Alenda Lux

In the final days of class we will share our games with each other. A playable “beta” version of the game will be due Monday, April 30. The class will vote on the “best” game in several different categories, such as Best Overall Game, Best Metagame Concept, Best Writing, Best Nonplayable Character, and Best Weirdest Game. Winners and runner-ups in this class competition will share their games at Alenda Lux, Davidson’s all-day celebration of student work on Wednesday, May 9.

Publishing Your Game

Final versions of games and Artist Statements are all due by Wednesday, May 9. Here is how to share your project with me (and the world):

  1. Publish your game online. You can use a free Twine hosting site such as Philomela or upload the HTML file to your own domain using your domain’s file manager.
  2. Share a Google Doc of your Artist Statement with Make sure you give me permission to comment on the document. Include a link to the game in your Artist Statement.
  3. Post a paragraph introduction to your game on your game log site, along with a working link to the game.
  4. Upload the HTML file of the game to Moodle.

Twine Tips

If you’re using the Harlowe story format:

  • RTFM
  • To change your game’s appearance, edit the CSS.

If you’re using Sugarcube: