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Expressive Design with Videogames

Lawra Clark, Blake Andrews
June 21, 2022 to July 20, 2022 (5 classes)
Section 1: Tuesdays, 3-6pm ET Section 2: Wednesdays 3-6pm ET
Online (Zoom)
$750 Scholarships available learn more...
Applications closed on June 5, 2022

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"Show, don't tell" is a familiar suggestion working in literature and film, but games have their own suggestion: "Do, don't show." The primary conceit of a game, that you're doing something, is challenging to approach from a design standpoint. How do you let players explore a system on their own terms while still conveying a particular mood or story? How can characters be meaningfully different from each other in the way they operate? How do you make players feel a certain way, or even give them space to feel anything at all? This class will get you started on understanding and working with the videogame as an expressive cultural form. We will be using GameMaker 2D, with no prior programming experience necessary. We’ll start with very basic “action game” mechanics and then explore different ways of representing things, people, feelings, etc. through various design approaches and techniques. Knowledge gained through the topics covered will be broadly useful to many creative contexts and projects, not just the videogame!


Course of Study

  • Week 1 (6/21, 6/22) - Intro to GameMaker: overview of interface, drawing with code, working with objects
  • Week 2 (6/28, 6/29) - Feel and Representation: representing characters and feelings with numbers
  • Week 3 (7/5, 7/6) - Narrative Styles: cameras, environment, simple AI, ways to think about story
  • Week 4 (7/12, 7/13) - Goals & Incentives: manipulative game design, group ideation techniques, playtesting
  • Week 5 (7/19, 7/20) - Your Own Game: setting up and sharing games on the internet


Students are expected to participate during in-class exercises and at least one “show & tell” session, which is essentially just screen-sharing your work.

There won’t be a whole lot of outside work aside from the final week (before the 5th class meeting), so students should be prepared to devote a bit more time outside class there.

No special materials are required aside from a computer that will run GameMaker.

The only deliverable is the final game -- exercises and projects will be shared during class.

Is this class for me?

This class will begin assuming 0 prior experience with programming. Programming for games is quite different than programming for other things and so even with some experience there will be many things that are new (or weird)! Much of the design-oriented topics we’ll talk about are broadly applicable outside of games and also just fun to know, where videogames are just one possible use for them.

Meet the Teachers


Lawra Clark

LAWRA SUITS CLARK is a videogames artist, designer, and educator living in New York, and a co-founder of Babycastles Gallery, a 501c3 Non-Profit dedicated to showcasing contemporary independent videogames and other media by marginalized creators. Babycastles is an internationally active volunteer run arts organization based in Manhattan, and plays host to a wide array of events, workshops, and exhibitions. Lawra's personal work involves climate fiction, absurdist futures, death positivity, ambient play, and game mechanic as poetic device. They are currently an instructor of game design and development at NYU Tisch and NYU Tandon.

They/Them · website · twitter · instagram


Blake Andrews

Blake Andrews is a game designer, illustrator, animator, and instructor living in New York. They have taught game design at both Bloomfield College and Pratt Institute. Since graduating from New York University’s Game Design MFA program, Blake has been involved with installations and events at Babycastles, Wonderville, and Red Parry. The Babycastles installation, Ribbit’s Frog World, involved several large indoor pits of mud. Blake’s games are confrontational both mechanically and narratively. They frequently use a distinct low fidelity, crude, cartoon style. Their hundreds of small games are hosted on websites like Glorious Trainwrecks and Outside of digital games and art, Blake shows an enthusiasm for alternative controllers. One of their collaborations with Frank DeMarco, Scrapeboard, has the player scraping a real skateboard, without wheels, on metal pads in order to defeat enemies like Kool Man. Scrapeboard has been featured at alt.ctrl.gdc, a Puma release party, a LilyPichu video, and in The New Yorker.

they/them · website · twitter · instagram


Our programs are conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, code examples and video. Online programs are held over Zoom.

Please take care and be well. We hope you are comfortable in your housing, living, and working situation in general. Never hesitate to ask us for advice and reach out if you have accessibility requests or need any assistance during your time at SFPC. We will work closely with you towards co-creating the most accommodating learning environment for your needs.

reach out with questions about access...

How do I apply?

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What is the role of play in your life?

Applications open until Applications closed on June 5, 2022.

You can expect to hear back from us about the status of your application on June 13, 2022. Please email us at with any questions you have.

more about what we look for in participants...

How much does it cost to attend?

For 5 classes, it costs $750 + processing fees, for a one-time payment. We also offer payment plans. Participants can schedule weekly or monthly payments of the same amount. First and last payments must be made before the start and end of class. *Processing fees apply for each payment.

SFPC processes all payments via Withfriends and Stripe. Please email if these payment options don't work for you.

Upon payment, your space in the class will be reserved. We offer scholarships for those who cannot pay full tuition. Read more about scholarships below.

I can’t pay for SFPC. Can I come at a reduced rate, or for free?

If you can’t pay full tuition, we really still want you to apply. Our application will ask you how much you can pay. We will offer subsidized positions in all of our classes, once each one has enough participants enrolled that we’re able to do so.

We have also started a scholarship fund, and we will be offering additional scholarships as community members redistribute their wealth through SFPC. We direct scholarship funds towards participants who are low-income, Black, Indigenous, racialized, gendered, disabled, Queer, trans, oppressed, historicially excluded and underrepresented.

Right now, tuition is SFPC’s main source of income, and that is a problem. It means that we can only pay teachers, pay for space, and organize programs when participants pay full tuition to attend. Tuition is a huge barrier to entry into the SFPC community, and it disproportionately limits Black participants, indigenous participants, queer and trans participants, and other people who are marginalized, from participating. Scholarships are not a long term solution for us, but in the short and medium term we hope to offer them more while we work towards transforming SFPC’s financial model.

How can I help others to attend SFPC?

For SFPC to be the kind of place the community has always meant it to be, it needs to become a platform for wealth redistribution. If you are a former participant, prospective participant, or friend of the school, and you have the financial privilege to do so, please donate generously. There is enough wealth in this community to make sure no one is ever rejected because of their inability to pay, and becoming that school will make SFPC the impactful, imaginative, transformative center of poetry and justice that we know it can be.

What if I can’t go, can I get a refund?

  • Yes, we can give you 100% refund up to 10 days before class starts
  • 50% refund after 10 days, until the first day of the class
  • No refunds can be given after the first day of the class

Interested in more learning opportunities at the School for Poetic Computation? Join our newsletter to stay up to date on future sessions and events, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter. Support our programming through scholarships. Get in touch over email.