Courses and Activities

The Stanford Game Design Thinking Research Group studies the intersection of game design (as a science), behavior design, and neuroscience.



Fall 2021-Spring 2022: Digital Learning Design Workshop EDUC 254. Chris will be teaching the Game Design Thinking portion of the Digital Learning Design Workshop, which is a project-based course offered in Fall and Winter Quarters that students can take as part of the Digital Learning Initiative’s Student Accelerator. In hands-on workshops, led by prominent academic and industry experts, students will define specific learning problems, recruit teammates, develop an approach to learning and community building using digital technology, create prototypes, test them with target learners, and progressively refine them for potential entry in the Digital Learning Design Challenge.

Spring 2019: Designing Serious Games CS 247G. Chris Bennett is co-instructing with Christina Wodtke, Lecturer in HCI in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University. This project-based course provides an introduction to game design principals while applying them to games that teach. Run as a hands-on studio class, students will design and prototype games for social change and civic engagement. We will learn the fundamentals of games design via lecture and extensive reading in order to make effective games to explore issues facing society today.

Engineering Education and Online Learning EDUC/ENG 391

Fall 2018: Game Studies FILMSTUD 259/459. Chris Bennett is co-instructing with Shane Denson, Assistant Professor of Film and Media Studies in the Department of Art & Art History at Stanford University. This course aims to introduce students to the emerging, interdisciplinary field of game studies. We will investigate what games (including but not limited to digital games) are, why we play them, and what the functions of this activity might be. The bulk of the course will be devoted specifically to digital games, which we will approach from a variety of perspectives: from historical, cultural, industrial/commercial, media-theoretical, and formal (narratological/ludological) perspectives, among others. Thus, we will seek to understand the contexts in which video games emerged and evolved, the settings in which they have been played, and the discourses and practices that have determined their place in social and cultural life. In addition, we will ask difficult questions about the mediality of digital games: What is the relation of digital to non-digital games?

Spring 2018: Engineering Education and Online Learning EDUC/ENG 391

Chris Bennett also partnered with the Stanford Graduate School of Education to teach a one-credit Directed Reading course in Prototyping.

Spring 2017: Engineering Education and Online Learning EDUC/ENG 391

Spring 2016: Engineering Education and Online Learning EDUC/ENG 391. Chris Bennett is co-instructing this class with Professor Candace Thille in Stanford Graduate School of Education. Candace and Chris are teaching cross-discipline Masters and PhD students how to design and create effective online learning modules. Candace is using her vast knowledge and experience in developing Open Learning from Carnegie Mellon and Stanford, while Chris is bringing a practitioner view from 20 years of game design and development experience.

Spring 2015: Chris Bennett partnered with the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s Learning, Design and Technology Program to teach a one-credit Directed Research (EDUC 490) course in Game Design Thinking.

Fall 2014Getting to Trust in Conflict Environments: Chris co-taught a pop-up course at the Stanford with Peace Innovation Lab Co-Directors Mark Nelson and Margarita Quihuis, and Lab Security and Development Lead Karen Guittieri. Joining the teaching team was Colonel Robert C. Jones (ret.) of the US Special Operations Command. We explored how Game Design Thinking, behavior design and online sharing economy can disrupt the way we understand and build trust in conflict environments.


Spring 2014Collective Action: Ethics and Policy (ETHIC SOC 180M): Chris taught a game design unit to undergrads and graduate students inside of Mark Budolfson’s ethics course. Their aim was to design, prototype and test tabletop games to teach collective action principles to middle and high schoolers. Chris took the student games to Castilleja School in Palo Alto and Girls Inc. of the Island City and brought back valuable play test feedback that the Stanford students incorporated into their projects. The students then presented their games to a distinguished group that included Stanford faculty, sciences and directors from the California Academy of Sciences and the Director of the ACE Lab at Castilleja School.

What we learned was that even though middle and high schoolers learned collective action principles from playing the games, the Stanford students learned even more by designing the games. This is work that we will be expanding on in our future research.




Course Hero Education Summit: In July, Margarita and Chris co-presented on Game Design Thinking and posed the question: “How do we make students the best versions of themselves?”

Margarita Quihuis presenting at Course Hero Education Summit 2018


Eureka! Teen Achievement Program: Chris was invited back for a fourth summer of teaching middle and high school girls about Game Design Thinking at Girls Inc. of the Island City. This summer, we taught the girls how to take control of their own media presence as they learned how to edit and create Wikipedia articles about their local Girls Inc. chapter as well as women they personally admired.


Oakland Video Game Fest: In November, Chris was invited to be a judge and mentor at the 1st annual 1st Annual Oakland Video Game Fest, which was organized by the Gameheads youth program and took place at the Kapor Center for Social Impact. The weekend included a game jam where 18 students worked tirelessly to design and create playable video games around the prompt of ‘2040’.

GDT Workshop for Stanford LDT students: Also in November, Chris was invited by Karin Forssell, Director of the Stanford Learning, Design & Technology program, to teach a workshop on the principles of Game Design Thinking to her new cohort of Masters students.

Inflection Point with Lauren Schiller: In October, Margarita Quihuis was interviewed for Lauren Schiller’s podcast, where she spoke about behavior design among other topics. You can listen to her interview here.

Eureka! Teen Achievement Program: Chris was invited back for a third summer of teaching middle and high school girls about Game Design Thinking at Girls Inc. of the Island City. This summer, we delved into pressing issues that the girls were concerned about in their neighborhoods, communities and the wider world.

Bradley University:  In April, Chris gave an invited talk to students in the Interactive Media department at Bradley University, which has one of the top Game Design schools in the country.


MediaX Interactive Media and Games: Chris had an invited talk at the Interactive Media and Games speaker series put on by Assistant Professor Ingmar Riedel-Kruse and MediaX. The topic was Analog Minds: Learning Through Designing Tabletop Games, and you can watch video of the talk here.

Eureka! Teen Achievement Program: Chris returned to Girls Inc. of the Island City for a second summer of teaching middle and high school girls the basics of game design thinking. This summer program was very hands-on, and we concentrated on using physical spaces and movement for the games that the students prototyped.

Caritas Scholars: In March, Chris Bennett spoke to  The Caritas Scholars Program and Social Entrepreneurship Lab of 9-12th graders at Alma Heights Christian School in Pacifica about Game Design Thinking and how it can apply to their ongoing social entrepreneurship programs.


In April, Chris was invited back as a distinguished judge to the 2015 Caritas Awards Ceremony honoring these student groups.



(Event photos by Paul Mercado)

Castilleja Global Week: Chris was a featured speaker for the 2015 Senior class at Castilleja School in Palo Alto about trust models before their class trip to San Francisco to study gentrification. This occurred during their Global Week activities around the theme: ‘The City: Fortification to Imagination’. He facilitated a conversation around trust principles between the students and Nanci Kauffman, their Head of School. When the students returned from their field work, Chris helped them to deconstruct what they saw and how they felt about it, and the lessons we could take from that. Then Chris led a portion of the seniors through design thinking exercises to better empathize with those in their own communities.


Design School X: Chris acted as a ‘Game Design Spark’ for David Clifford’s prototype of a new school “to build in our students the agency to affect change, agility to seek out and navigate complex dilemmas and access to one’s purpose and character.” This was a collaboration with the K12 Lab at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.



California Academy of Sciences Game Design Camp: We had a wonderful collaboration with the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco as Chris and Karen Guttieri led a two day youth-focused Game Design Camp.  We helped campers (ages 14-18) to work together towards transforming important environmental issues—like climate change and ocean health—into exciting, interactive experiences. The lens we used was tabletop games, and the campers used their access to expert scientists at the Academy to hone their game prototypes and playtest them with other youths before their final presentations.


Stanford #DTK12 Curriculum Summit: Chris hosted a Leaders Lead session on how to brainstorm and kickoff creative tabletop game prototypes with middle and high school students. This was part of a two-day event to get design thinking teachers and administrators together to learn and collaborate, and was hosted at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.


Eureka! Teen Achievement Program: Chris designed and facilitated a multi-day game design program for 10th and 11th grade girls who were enrolled in the Eureka! Teen Achievement Program at Girls Inc. of the Island City. The girls designed tabletop games to teach valuable life skills to middle school girls These games were showcased at the Girls Inc. annual Eureka!thon event.

Eureka! is a national, three-year program created by Girls Inc. to encourage girls to explore career paths in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The program consists of four weeks of intensive programming during the summer and additional sessions throughout the school year.