Master's Programme in Transformative Game Design

60 credits

Are you interested in designing analogue role-playing games? Do you have experience in a helping profession or community work? In the Master's Programme in Game Design, you will learn how to design and implement analogue role-playing games for transformative purposes, including personal and social change. You will learn methods for studying a game's impacts, as well as cultivating more inclusive and just transformational communities.

Autumn 2024 Autumn 2024, Flexible, 50%, Distance learning, English

In the Master's Programme in Transformative Game Design, you will explore the complexities of analogue role-playing game (RPG) design and implementation with an emphasis on tabletop, live-action role-playing (LARP), and freeform games. You will learn best practices for designing these types of games and that maximises the potential for transformative impacts on players, including leisure, educational, and therapeutic settings.

The programme explores the following questions:

  • How might analogue role-playing games help catalyse processes of personal and/or social change?
  • What are the most effective ways to frame game activities when designing for transformation?
  • How can implementation and facilitation practices guide players toward intended learning objectives?
  • How can the communities surrounding play activities be structured to increase feelings of safety, trust, inclusion, and justice among its members?
  • How can researchers best assess the impacts of transformative games?

The syllabus features topics as diverse as ritual, symbolism, myth, social justice, conflict, immersion, motivation, and bleed, drawing insights from design and play cultures around the world. Academic writing is important as well as exploring several forms of research methods, including Research through Design, participant-observation ethnography, quantitative surveys, and other approaches to studying the impacts of games on players.

The programme has a strong emphasis on safety, calibration, and framing structures around analogue role-playing games that can maximise their transformative potential, including the cultivation of nourishing communities surrounding play activities. Prior knowledge of analogue role-playing games is desirable because it enhances your own learning experience, but is not required.


The programme leads to the degree of Master of Arts (60 credits) with Game Design as the main field of study.

During year 1 you will study courses (30 credits) from the specialised core of the degree, within which theory, design, research methods, and academic and professional writing on transformative analogue role-playing games are emphasised. You will learn specialised terminology and techniques related to transformative game design and methods for designing, facilitating, playtesting, giving feedback, and analysing games.

You will also learn safety and calibration practices and perspectives on community building. Courses within the core are Introduction to Transformative Game Design, Transformative Game Design 1 (Design focus), Transformative Game Design 2 (Implementation and Player Skills focus), and Cultivating Transformational Communities.

While the primary method taught is Research through Design, you will also learn quantitative and qualitative data collection methods and participant-observation ethnography, which are commonly used in impact studies in this field. You will be taught the foundations of academic research and writing, with extensive feedback from both peers and instructors for major assignments to improve your writing skills.

Year 2 includes the courses Deep Games and Advanced Game Design Research Methods to help expand your skills. Deep Games combines seminars with workshops to explore – theoretically and practically – how to design games that can illuminate the human condition and contribute to a meaningful life. Advanced Game Design Research Methods prepares you for your thesis work by presenting theories and methods from the social sciences and humanities that are relevant to game design.

In the final semester, in the Master's degree project (15 credits), you can choose to build upon your design work from previous courses for your thesis or you can embark upon another project related to transformative game design in consultation with a supervisor.

Courses within the programme

See the programme outline for courses within the programme.

This Master's programme is done entirely online and is run at a half-time study pace*. Completion of the programme at this part-time pace takes two academic years in total for 60 ECTS credits. Courses are taught in English.

The majority of assignments take place asynchronously, meaning assignments are due at a specific time and date based on your own time zone. The written assignments can include group discussion board posts, personal reflection journals, game design documents, playtest plans, and academic papers. The goal of these assignments is to improve your written communication, collaboration with others, and planning skills.

Most courses also feature mandatory synchronous playtest sessions conducted over video conferencing software in which you will play games created by your classmates and provide feedback. These courses typically feature no more than three synchronous sessions of 2–4 hours in length. You are responsible for organising and attending playtests based on your group's schedule. Most courses also feature peer review, in which you are expected to give, receive, and integrate feedback in academic writing in a timely fashion. Thus, peer collaboration and communication are central pillars of the coursework.

*You will not need nor receive a Swedish residency permit to participate in this programme.

Change-makers, like you, are found in various sectors of society, including education, health, government, business, and culture. Role-playing is already a common practice in many of these sectors, e.g., health care simulations, game-based learning in schools, professional skill training in businesses, art-based play for well-being, RPGs as therapeutic interventions, and Serious Games for government workers.

The programme adds theories and best practices from leisure communities around the world that have expanded the boundaries of what role-playing can be through experimental design and subsequent discourse. You will be able to infuse your professional practices with these insights, whether designing games in analogue or digital formats in the future.

These tools are applicable in a variety of different occupations and are especially useful for workers in helping professions, such as educators, therapists, youth workers, capacity-building trainers, simulation designers, spiritual directors, coaches, social entrepreneurs, etc. However, these tools can also inspire the work of leisure game designers who wish to maximise the potential for players to experience transformative impacts, develop personal insight, cultivate empathy for others, and construct sustainable communities for the future.

Career Support

During your time as a student, UU Careers offers support and guidance. You have the opportunity to participate in various activities and events that will prepare you for your future career. Learn more about UU Careers.