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Twitch Plays Game Design:  Crowd and Cloud for Distributed Play

T/Th at 10:30 - 11:50am GHC 4307

05-499C, 05-899C

The cloud and the crowd are driving new ways for players to engage with games, from live streams of gameplay to massively multiplayer control of a single game. In this course, students will explore the design space of crowd- and cloud-enabled games. They will identify existing game design techniques for playing at scale, study games currently designed for spectatorship, and discover problems faced by different stakeholders (spectators, players, streamers, curators, designers). Five assignments during the course will have student teams research, design, and develop for this new style of game play. In a team-based final project, students will either produce an intervention that addresses a problem identified by the class, or design an original game that takes advantage of the crowd and cloud in play.

Key Resources

Course Slack: twitchgamedesign.slack.com

Course Twitch channel: twitchgamedesign

Research paper repository: bit.ly/APGRepo

Course Staff

Jessica Hammer


[contact policy]

Jeffrey Bigham



Anil Unnikrishnan

Teaching Assistant



Are there prerequisites?

The course does not have formal prerequisites, although skill in game design, human-computer interaction, or computer science will help with many assignments. Other skills that may be useful for the class include sketching, visual design, library research, and conducting interviews. Teams will be composed of students with complementary skills.

Will I get to play games in this course?

Yes. You will be able to say that you are doing your homework while playing video games.

Can I work by myself instead of on a team?


I’m already on Twitch and have a million followers, will I learn anything from this course? Should I be teaching it?

While you probably know a lot about Twitch and likely have good experience to offer, this course isn’t about making people popular Twitch streamers. It’s about how we design for the future of richer audience participation games of which the current version of Twitch is a rather simplistic early example. You’ll still learn a lot!

I’ve never made a game before, will I be okay?

Probably! Teams will be purposefully balanced to include people with different strengths. That said, a strong background in at least one of game design, human-computer interaction, or computer science will help you.

Who will get to see my work?

We’ve scheduled visits from industry professionals, including representatives from Twitch. We can’t announce the details yet, but we’re excited! We’ll also be streaming at least some student presentations on Twitch itself, so you can share your work back to the community it most affects.

What should I do if I have a disability?

Our goal is to help all students succeed in the course. We are happy to offer accommodations as needed, but we have many more options available for documented disabilities. Please let us know as soon as possible. We also suggest you contact Disability Resources (412-268-2013 / access@cs.cmu.edu).

What should I do if I’m experiencing academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings of anxiety or depression?

Your well-being is important to us! Please take care of yourself. That might mean eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

CaPS: 412-268-2922

Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the police:

           On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323

           Off campus: 911

This page and contents are copyright Jessica Hammer and Jeffrey P. Bigham except where noted.