Home > Upcoming Programs > Designing Games that Matter Onsite Program 2021
21 May, 2021
5:00 PM
Tatamagouche Centre, 259 Loop Route 6, RR#3 NS

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Designing Games that Matter Onsite Program

May 21-25, 2021 Friday 5:00pm to Tuesday 2:00pm

Designing Games That Matter is a four-day intensive with game designer Avery Alder, exploring how to design tabletop roleplaying games that are meaningful, dynamic, and transformative. We’ll approach design in ways that are intentional, hands-on, playful, and experimental. Participants will hone their critical awareness of the medium, and discover how to tell new stories that invite new people to the table. This intensive will utilize hands-on design labs, playstorming, personal reflection, and group discussion. Participants will leave with new project ideas, a repertoire of game design techniques and principles, and some hands-on design experience!

“What a wonderful intensive! I left it feeling confident in my ability to make and design games, and so much more secure about myself in general. Thanks so much!” – 2019 Participant

“Avery has an amazing way of making gentle and inviting space, and creating clear boundaries. This made the facilitation feel open & curious, and also safe/predictable/grounded. I really trusted Avery & Hannah to guide the process.” – 2019 Participant

“I loved Avery’s warm presence and lovely expert facilitation. She is a gracious host, a wise and gentle teacher. I appreciated her ability to honour members of the group.”2018 Participant

“Bringing Roleplaying to Everyone” was groundbreaking for me. It was a great chance to build, expand, and better incorporate some techniques for creating a safe, inviting, fun space for gaming participants. In the course of that weekend I had the chance to grow my comfort zone by running a roleplaying game for people I’d just met, where my experience in the past had just been in running games for close circles of friends. Walking out of “Bringing Roleplaying to Everyone”, I felt like I had the grounding and self-confidence to start running roleplaying games for tables of new acquaintances back in my hometown … hopefully spreading a passion for the hobby to people who’ve never had a chance to experience it before.”2018 Participant, Bringing Roleplaying to Everyone

“I’ve been playing table-top RPGs for decades, but I can honestly say I walked away from last weekend with a whole new recognition and respect for their potential as therapeutic tools, community-builders, safe playgrounds for self-discovery, and implements for social change. I found your intensive educational, boundary-expanding, enlightening, confidence-building, and frequently hilarious!”2017 Participant, Liberatory Story & Play

Friday: Connect

This is a partial day, starting with supper at 5:30pm. We’ll meet one another, identify our collective goals, and get a sense of what’s to come. Friday sets the stage for our intensive.

Saturday: Intent & Vision

Saturday explores the big picture of game design: how mechanics feed into one another, how they express hidden politics, and how they interact to create a tempo and cycle of play. We’ll play Avery’s game Dream Askew, and then use it as a case study to further explore these concepts.

Sunday: Discovery & Adaptation

On Sunday, we explore how to design in tactile, interactive, and play-oriented ways. We’ll explore new design concepts (like zones of use) and approaches (like playstorming). Sunday features two hands-on design labs, as well as time for breakout conversations.

Monday: Development & Testing

Breaking out the scissors and glue, Monday starts with a design lab focused on hacking and remixing other games. We’ll talk about the importance of including safety tools and scaffolding in your design, and explore some techniques to keep your work accessible and engaging. We’ll dedicate conversation and lab time to the work of game development and playtesting.

Tuesday: Wrapping Up

This is a partial day, ending with lunch. Participants will break into groups to talk about project ideas and paths forward, before everyone comes together for final evaluations.

Program Costs

We acknowledge that there are systemic barriers that make it difficult to participate and access programs. We work to support those who are unable to pay the full cost of programs, while providing a living wage for facilitators and covering the costs of learning programs.

We name the true program fee to allow those who are able to pay this cost to do so. We don’t want financial barriers to prevent anyone from participating in a learning program so we also offer a subsidized program fee, 20% of the program total, deposit only. Indicate your preference in the registration process. Those able to pay more, please consider offering an additional donation. This generosity helps to subsidize others to participate.

Program fee – $872 (including tuition, meals & private lodging). Commuter price- $712 (tuition, meals without overnight lodging). All prices are Canadian dollars.

Tatamagouche Centre is grateful for funding to support *applicants with mental health barriers as well as youth, elders, BIPOC applicants to participate in learning programs.

Please read our Covid-19 protocols for our onsite gatherings.


Registration Deadline: March 30th, 2021

A note on Travel Planning:

For those flying in for this program, we are located in the lovely village of Tatamagouche which is a 1.5 hour drive from the Halifax International Airport. We will be arranging a carpool trip from the airport in time for the program start, and to the airport once the program finishes. When booking flights please keep the start and end times of the program in mind so as to give yourself and others a chance to participate in the program from start to finish. If you prefer to arrange your own transportation to and from the airport, you can do so by contracting the Halifax Airport Taxi Service.

Leadership – Avery Alder

Avery Alder is a queer game designer hailing from Sinixt territory. Her work includes games like Monsterhearts, The Quiet Year, The Deep Forest, Dream Askew, Ribbon Drive, and a host of smaller, scrappier projects. She designs games that tug at the heartstrings, challenging the ways we look at relationships and community. Click here for Avery’s website.

Leadership – Rena Kulczycki

Rena (pronouns: they/them/their) is committed to building communities that include, engage and celebrate the gifts and wisdom of every participant. They believe that the transformational experiences we need depend on building cultures of mutual support and respect, where our limits can be challenged and our ideas collaboratively cultivated. To that end, Rena applies wit and skill to foster opportunities for authenticity and courageous vulnerability, centering voices from the margins, as we strive toward stronger (more magical!) communities of trust and support.

Rena studied Sociology & International Development in university, is trained in conflict mediation and facilitation, serves on the board of their housing co-operative, hosts and volunteers at youth camps and conferences on social justice, global issues and for trans and non-binary youth, has lived in rural and urban places across Canada, and comes from a family of immigrants from both Poland and Korea. Rena unites these experiences and their passion for positive collaborative change in their work to heal and mobilize communities towards justice, particularly around gender, race and class.

*Tatamagouche Centre recognizes the support of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.