Game Development

The MIT Game Lab is a research and development laboratory that makes games for research.

Games for research

The MIT Game Lab serves as an interpreter between academia and industry by creating playable, real-world demonstrations of state-of-the-art concepts and research. The lab provides a place for students, academics and industry professionals to work together, to develop feasible and engaging games, and to expand the boundaries of what is possible. We have created

“…a space where we can move swiftly from pure research into compelling applications and then partner with the games industry to bring the best ideas to market.”

We learn a lot through our process:

“The realities of production and the risks of venturing into new design territory informed the translation of theoretical concepts into a complete game. The academic participants better understood the challenges of creating something truly new and the need to balance novelty against the prior expectations and experiences of the audience.”

– Fernández-Vara, C., N. Grigsby, E. Glinert, P. Tan & H. Jenkins (2008) Between Theory and Practice: The GAMBIT Experience. In Perron, B. & M. J. P. Wolf, The Video Game Theory Reader 2. Routledge, London, UK.

Collaborative process and design

Our game projects are directed by our staff and researchers and are developed by students of the Game Lab, hailing from many universities, colleges, and institutes, including MIT. Projects begin with pre-production during the Fall and Spring semesters, typically involving numerous paper prototypes and concepts to focus the research and to create a base of knowledge to pass on to a larger development team, who then complete development of a game over the summer.

We always start the game design process with an initial research question or use in mind. Many of our partners are external to MIT and are either bringing a specific question they want to investigate or looking to collaborate with an MIT Game Lab researcher. We require research partners to be involved in our game design process from start to finish. This ensures that our games will be useful for their needs after completion.

Focus on the player

Our development process is iterative and player-centric. We involve players from target audiences throughout development to ensure that players will be able to engage with the game and lend their insight to the research process. Focus testing, user research, interviews, and co-design are essential methods for incorporating the player into the design process of our games.

Importance of polish

There are two approaches to prototyping: broad and deep. Broad prototyping occurs in the earliest phases of our design process, when a large number of rough experiments provide us with a comprehensive survey of what avenues are feasible for the project at hand. Summer prototyping goes deep, in which the goal is to discover all of the emergent possibilities, tradeoffs, and player responses through a brief but polished vertical slice of gameplay.

Audio, graphics, user interface, and gameplay are completely fleshed out for 5-15 minutes of gameplay so that we can honestly assess how the game operates in an entertainment market filled with commercial competitors. These prototype games are meant to be experiments or prototypes for something greater. We expect these games to provoke others into creating fuller experiences based on our attempts. We welcome developers or external partners who are interested in licensing these games for fuller development.