Welcome to the virtual playbook of the first series of Project Albatross co-design workshops (see below).

These workshops will take place virtually on June 8 & 17 and in person at the Danish Architecture Centre (DAC) in Copenhagen for European based participants on June 22-25! 

This series of workshops will aim to radically re-imagine design learning experiences in order to generate new insights for defence practitioners, educators and game designers. We will do so by prototyping transformative learning features by experimenting with game design approaches for the community by the community.  

Thanks to a game design 101 crash course developed by veteran game designer Ilan Graicer, the virtual workshop on June 8th will provide a shared game design language to unite the multidisciplinary network of participants. For the second virtual workshop on June 17, this small groups will rely on this language to share their vision of potential transformative design learning experiences. These collective visions will then shape physical prototyping in Copenhagen in June 22-25, and more broadly, the project as a whole.   

We will join a critical mass of the Innovation Methodologies for Defence Challenges (IMDC) community with military student alumni and game designers to form small teams to create physical game prototypes. We will benefit from the support of a prototyping kick-starter delivered by game design specialist, director, and writer Thomas Howalt (IO Interactive, Square Enix, The Danish Film School), the mentorship of Ilan Graicer throughout the week and feedback from game design legends such as Louis-Martin Guay (Rayman, Splinter Cell & Far Cry) and global leaders in military design such as Ben Zweibelson and Ofra Graicer.

These workshops will ultimately feed the development of a proof of concept unlocking the development phase of project Albatross. 

Are you interested in being part of this journey? Please contact Project Manager Jonas Groesmeyer  

For your convenience, please find below a playbook following each activity with resources supporting them ranging from Youtube clips, books, and websites that delves into the many aspects of the promise of video games as a medium for transformative learning. Please note that this playbook will be continuously updated. 



Flying Pathways

June 8 – Game Design 101

In this session, you will learn more about Project Albatross in the broader emerging learning system of the Innovation Methodologies for Defence Challenges (IMDC) community, acquire a shared language to discuss and design games and share your own gaming experience in small teams.

1. A brief history of games (10-15 min. read)

2. Reference guide for board game terminology (5 min. read)

3. Intro to a “History of Play” Humanities seminar from University of Arizona, presented by Professor Ken McAllister (2 min.) 

4. Can we make better tutorials for complex games? (21 min.)


5. James Paul Gee’s Principles of Gaming (23 min.)

Group work preparation

We invite you to anticipate discussing these questions in small teams:

1. Tell us about the most recent (virtual or physical) game that you played. What did you like about it? What did you dislike? and why?

2. From your perspective, what were the goals, scopes, and rules of the game? What kind of strategy and tactics did you require to play, if any?

3. How would you teach this game to a new player?



June 17 – Transformative Design Learning Experience

Facilitators will invite you to bring to awareness who is the learner/player and the transformative experiences s/he must go through to become a designer in defence and security contexts. Then, you will reflect on the tensions between a learning and a playing experience in small teams in order to consider how the former could inform the latter. Insights generated from this workshop will shape game prototyping activities in Copenhagen between June 22-25.

Many thanks for taking the time to prepare by consulting these resources:

1. JSOU’s Paper Roll Exercise (30 min)

Ben Zweibelson provides a compelling example of a transformative design learning experience with the paper roll game.

2. 7 Games so powerful you won’t be the same afterwards (19 min)

Rob Pearson offers 7 examples of transformative video games that may inspire you.

3. Tracy Fullerton’s on Player Experience Goals from the reference on Game Design Workshop (2018) (1 min)

This excerpt summarizes the concept of player experience goal.

4. Brian Upton’s Introduction to Situational Game Design (20 min) (Text or Video version)

Situational game design is prone to transformative learning as it involves the constraints players bring themselves to the game.

Upton Intro


5. Jane McGonigal’s Gaming can make a better world

Group work preparation

We invite you to prepare discussing these questions:

1. What kind of learners are officers? What kind of players are officers? Are learners and players the same? 

2. What would you consider to be a transformative experience that a learner should go through to become a designer in a security context? 

3. Together with a facilitator, you will be invited to reimagine this transformative experience as player experience goals.



June 22: Experiencing Game Design Through Game Review: Mission Zhobia or Disco Elysium  

For the in-person phase of the workshop, you will be invited to ice-break with fellow participants with a game review exercise in small teams. With this exercise, we will bring to awareness and warm-up your innate game design capabilities. While Mission Zhobia offers the example of a typical serious game to learn about implementing a development mission, Disco Elysium mobilizes 24 mind bending perspectives on the reality of a detective inquiry.

Prepare a critical review of Mission Zhobia (free) to be discussed in small groups (1 hour). Alternatively, prepare a critical review of Disco Elysium (3 hours+). Disco Elysium is available on PC on Steam, Epic Store or GoG and on MacOS via the Apple Store as well as on PlayStation 4-5 and Google Stadia (at your own costs).  

Group work preparation

1. What do you think about the player experience?  

2. What do you think about the learning experience? 

3. To what extent do you consider this game to be transformative? Why? 

4. What would you keep versus what would you change in this game? Why?




June 22: Physical Game Prototyping

After deciding what kind of player experiences  you would like to leverage to shape the prototyping of game feature(s), Thomas Howalt, a veteran Danish game designer behind the Hitman series and instructor at the National Film School of Denmark, will present a keynote on physical game prototyping. This keynote and the supporting resources below will be essential for us to move forward. Physical prototyping remains the main activity most game designers use to translate game concepts into concrete game features before moving to digital development. Howalt will also provide insights on how to share constructive feedback on physical prototypes. These insights will be useful both for the gallery walk in person and the feedback session online on Thursday, June 24th.

Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop Chapter 7 offers a thorough summary of physical prototyping as a method:

Fullerton Prototyping



June 23: Mantras for Foundational Prototyping

Prior to experimenting with physical prototyping, Philippe Beaulieu-B. will share game design mantras distilled from the two online workshop sessions (June 8 and 17) and the state of the art in design in security and defence contexts as well as game design. These mantras will offer references you will be able to rely on or disrupt in your team to inspire prototyping.

For those who are interested, Creative Director Corey Barlog offers an inspiring example of translating game design concepts into reality through his experience with God of War (2018). Corey Barlog does not shy away from sharing the numerous trial and errors required to bring a game to life from concept to prototypes to the screen.



June 24: Narrative Design

Gameplay would be meaningless without an explicit or implicit narrative to engage and immerse the player-learner. In this session, your mission will be to try to bring or refine a narrative to make your game feature(s) meaningful.

For more background on narrative game design, please consult these resources:

1. In the Art of Video-Games Storytelling, Creative Director Neil Druckman explains how he relied on narrative design to engage the player and to create situations conducive to learning.

2. In this article, Emily Naul and Min Liu shares how narrative is critical to serious games

Story Matters

3. Lessons from the Screenplay shows how the Wachowskis are using exposition to engage the viewer in learning about the complex world of the Matrix

4. Obsidian shows how they relied on branching dialogue to create player agency in the narrative


5. Dylan Holmes, 2012, “A Mind Forever Voyaging: A History of Storytelling in Video Games”

6. Narrative Design in Fallout

Exercise in teams

How would you bring dramatic elements to a game that seems devoid of narrative like chess or go? What difference would it make to the player experience?

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