By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

School of Information Studies (iSchool) Associate Professor Scott Nicholson was featured on Syracuse TV (News Channel 9) last night in a local angle on the news that the Boy Scouts of America have introduced a merit badge in Game Design.

The Boy Scouts organization said of its newest badge, “Whether it’s soccer, a family night board game, or a handheld electronic device, games challenge us to overcome long odds, tell compelling stories, and work with or against one another.  Games motivate both young and old to find creative solutions, practice new skills, and keep their brains active. Scouts who work on the Game Design merit badge will likely look at the games they play differently and with a new level of appreciation.”  

Nicholson, director of the Because Play Matters Game Lab located at the iSchool, agreed, noting that, “Many students take my game design class expecting it to be easy because they like to play games, but the reality of developing a game is much more in-depth than just rolling dice or picking up a controller.”

He observed, “One notable fact about the badge is that it acknowledges that there are other types of games than those played on a screen.  Many people forget that games have been an important part of society for centuries because they focus only on video games.”

A game developer himself, Nicholson combines his backgrounds as librarian, computer programmer, gamer and statistician in classes and in his research as a library scientist. He discussed the scouting organization’s recognition that many different types of skills and thinking go into the design and development of a game.  In that multifaceted process, creators must develop a story for the characters, a journey for the player in uncovering that story, and the mechanisms that drive the game, he noted.  Also required are knowledgeof odds and probabilities, the ability to develop an economic system of resources management and supply and demand, and creation of interesting decisions for playersthat balance risk and reward. Nicholson added that designers also must work with a programming language, use technical writing to create rules, and for a digital game, have knowledge of graphic design, art, music, and other forms of multimedia.

“On top of all of that, if the player wants to make a transformative game, then all of this has to be done in a context of providing information to a player, both directly and through the decisions made engaging with the game,” he said.  

Nicholson invited anyone interested in creating games to join the Game Designers’ Guild, a community group that meets once a month in Hinds Hall.  The next meeting is March 22 at 5:30 p.m. in Hinds 011. More information is at:

The merit badge was developed over two years with game industry and game enthusiast volunteers creating and testing the merit badge requirements and pamphlet text, the Boy Scouts of America group said. The news release about the badge can be found on the Boy Scouts of America website.