This is the syllabus that I use to teach both the undergraduate Level Design and Game Architecture and the graduate version, Spatial and Temporal Design. There are some minor differences between the courses in terms of assignments and grading, but the content is shared. This syllabus shows the application of patterns and Pattern Language to teaching the subject. See the previous article.

Level Design & Game Architecture

Readings and Assignments Template:

Lecture Slides:

Catalog Description:

Analyzes game-level designs in a variety of genres and forms. Building upon basic drawing and design skills, students have an opportunity to develop paper prototypes and simple game…


I developed the ideas in Pattern Language for Game Design in part through teaching the above courses at Northeastern University so it seems fitting to go into some detail about how I use the book in those classes. While the specifics are tied to this course I think that they will provide a good sense of how the process of building a Pattern Language can be part of any game design course.

On a high level, I introduce the concept of Patterns and a Pattern Language by presenting the original source material by Christopher Alexander in his book A Pattern…


I am working on a paper on the use of game design patterns for publication in the journal ‘Information.’ The paper will be submitted at the end of July and should be published a month or so later. Here is the abstract:

The idea of a pattern language as conceived by Christopher Alexander in 1977 generated interest from many disciplines, but failed to have the transformative effects I would have anticipated. Attempts to implement Alexander’s ideas either were too narrowly focused, ignored the role of a pattern in solving a specific design problem, or failed to place patterns in an…

Pattern Language in Game Design

The process of deriving a game design pattern can be challenging. I discuss the process in detail in the book, but it can be helpful to see some examples of the results of an Exercise and the actual process used. So this article is me showing my work for the pattern ‘The Three Pillars of Meaning in Emergent Narrative’ which I created using Exercise 11: Emergent Narrative Patterns.


Most game developers will agree that we need a shared language to talk to each other about games. A language to communicate our ideas to each other and create a shared vision for a game, to talk to each other as we work through the problems of development, and to tell the world what we have made.

A distressing number of designers will be happy to tell you what that language is, and why it's the one that you should use. I’m not one of those designers. …


First off, this is not a legal document. I may need to prepare a formal EULA for the site at some point, but this is not it. This is a set of expectations and guidelines. Please abide by these, failure to do so in a significant and consistent way may result in the removal of your user account.


I have so many things that I want to do to make the Pattern Library website more useful, and so many things I want to do to advance the use of patterns in the gaming industry and beyond.

Let me address the website first as that is a nice concrete set of features:

  • Add Search Functionality to the Games Reference— The games reference will grow to a considerable size and as the information for each game is filled out the reference will become useful in its own right… at least if it is easy to search games by their title…


The Pattern Library website is intended to be a robust resource for the readers of the book Pattern Language for Game Design and for game developers and game development students in general. Everyone is welcome to use the site to record and share their patterns.

The site is developed solely by the author, Christopher Barney. That’s me! I am a professor at Northeastern University where I have been teaching game design for the past 5 years. Before that, I worked in the game industry, most notably as a developer on Poptropica.

I have been alpha and beta testing the Pattern…


This article explains how to enter games into the Games Reference on the Pattern Language for Game Design website.

Compared to entering patterns, entering games is very easy. While it is possible to enter a lot of detailed information on a game, each piece you can enter is simple and self-explanatory. The most important thing to know is that the more information you can enter about a game the better. …


This article is in reference to the website and the book Pattern Language for Game Design.

Pattern Confidence

It is essential to acknowledge that all Patterns equally valid. Different exercises create more or less reliable Patterns, and you should carefully consider your confidence in any generated pattern before you use it in your designs. I recommend using this rubric for assessing your confidence in a new pattern, and for updating that confidence as you use the pattern over time. All patterns start with a confidence rating of 0 and add 1 for each item below that applies.

Some of the items…

Chris Barney

Video Game Designer (Poptropica), Board Game Designer (Fall of the Last City), Lecturer (Northeastern University), Speaker (GDC, ECGC, BFig, Pax, DevCom)

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