Alumni and board game enthusiasts Kaity Bequette (MS '14) and Tom Ackerman (MS '13) put the knowledge they gained from the iSchool's community- and design-centric courses into game design, first as game developers and later as volunteers for CUDO Plays. A board game design competition hosted by the Champaign-Urbana Design Organization (CUDO), CUDO Plays unites gamers, makers, and designers to turn game ideas into reality. For three years, CUDO Plays has guided teams to bring their board games from inception to production, resulting in the creation of 34 games.
"Kaity and I both got involved as competitors in Season 2 (2014-2015). Along with our engineer friend Zac and our artist friend Annie, we made a game called War Trains that won the Best Replay Value award for that year," said Ackerman.
Bequette is now co-chair of the CUDO Plays committee, while Ackerman is a committee member and Season 4 competitor. "I never would have gotten involved in this if I hadn’t joined Dave Dubin's game group my first year as a master's student," he said. Dubin leads The iSchool Gamers, an informal club composed of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who share an interest in face-to-face games that are not mediated by computers or other electronic devices.
Expanding upon their mission of introducing new people into the board gaming community, the CUDO Plays committee recently started CUDO Plays Academy to teach board game design to elementary school students. This fall, third and fourth graders at Stratton Academy of the Arts in Champaign spent four weeks learning about board game design from CUDO Plays committee members.
Bequette noted that her experience at Stratton Academy showed her there is definitely a difference between administering a game design program to 18-70 year old hobbyists who have the resources and interest and administering it to 150 seven- to ten-year olds. She was pleased with the originality of the children's game designs and the different ways they applied mechanics to their games. Among the games the Stratton students created were a Christmas game where a player progresses across a grid to deliver a message to Santa and a role-playing game with a haunted house theme.
Interested in creating your own board game? It is not too late to sign up to compete in CUDO Plays Season 4. "We're always looking for playtesters to give feedback on the games in development, even if you don't think you can commit to making a game yourself," Ackerman said.