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MERIT BADGE CLINIC OD


State of Play Introducing the Game Design merit badge.


WHETHER IT’S CAPTURE the flag on


campouts, tic-tac-toe in the lunch- room, or World of Warcraft back home, virtually every Scout plays games. Starting soon, Scouts can begin earning a merit badge for playing games—and for creating their own. The new Game Design merit


badge teaches planning and critical- thinking skills, while introducing Scouts to an industry that’s bigger than Hollywood. Boy Scout leader and lifelong


gamer Tom Miller of Irvine, Calif., began planning the badge four years ago as part of his Wood Badge ticket. Two years later, he was joined by Salem, Mass., resident David Radue, who runs the Salem Board Games Meetup Group. Scouting talked with the two Eagle


Scouts to learn more about the badge and how to teach it.


WHAT ARE THE BADGE REQUIRE- MENTS? Scouts begin by learning gaming terminology and analyzing various types of games they’ve played. They then pick one game, tweak its rules or objectives, and track how the changes affect players’ actions and emotional experiences. After that, they design a new game, a process that includes writing rules, creating a prototype, and play-testing. Finally, as with other career-oriented badges, they learn about jobs in the game- development industry. The order of requirements is


important. “Unlike some of the merit badges, this one really needs to be done in sequence,” Miller says. “It builds up from the first requirement.”


20 S COUTING ¿ MARCH•APRIL 2013


WHAT IF ONLY ONE SCOUT IN A TROOP WANTS TO EARN THE BADGE? A Scout could play games with friends at school or have his family play-test his game. “You don’t necessarily have to work with other Scouts,” Radue says. “You can also [play-test a game] with just a counselor and a Scout, depending on the type of game you want to play.” Of course, normal Youth Protection standards apply. Sessions with a merit badge counselor must take place where others can view the interaction, or the Scout must have a buddy along with him. Does someone have to be a game


designer to counsel the badge? No. “While the merit badge will have a career focus, the counselors don’t need to be doing it as a career,” Miller says. “Anybody who has played games seri-


CAN THE BADGE BE EARNED IN A GROUP SETTING? Much of the badge involves group interaction, so Scouts are encouraged to work together. “The first half works very well in group set- tings,” Radue says. “The project portion also works very well in group settings, but we have specifically required each Scout to make his own game. We strongly encourage Scouts to work together to test one another’s games.”


ously would be able to be a counselor for the merit badge.” That’s true even though Scouts


must work with several types of games. “Most people who do gaming as a hobby don’t limit themselves to one genre or medium,” he says. “People who play video games will also tend to play card games and board games.”


HOW CAN AN AMATEUR GAMER EVALU- ATE A SCOUT’S GAME CONCEPT? The requirements include easily measur- able benchmarks Scouts have to meet. For example, they must go through at least three rounds of testing, changing one rule, mechanic, or objective each time. “We wanted to properly arm the counselors so that even counselors who are amateur board-game players would have the right kind of tools to effectively teach the merit badge,” Radue says.


HOW ELABORATE SHOULD A SCOUT MAKE THE GAME HE CREATES? HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD HE DEVOTE TO IT? Radue field-tested the board game, card game, and party game options with a group of Scouts who met during a three-week period. He found that they spent a little over eight hours each. “Somewhere between six and 10 hours for the project is very doable,” he says. “Everyone could complete a project in that timeframe.” Miller worked with Scouts to


create role-playing games and elec- tronic games. They spent roughly the same amount of time but could have spent much more. “You almost need to have the kids pull back to what would be closer to a playable, minimal


W. GARTH DOWLING


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