Playing for Keeps: Designing Keepsake Games With Shing Yin Khor - Atlas Obscura Experiences

Playing for Keeps: Designing Keepsake Games With Shing Yin Khor

Mon, Sep 9, 2024
4 sessions
$215 per person
Up to 25 people
See Dates
$215 per person
$215 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this four-part seminar, learn how to design a keepsake game that guides players toward building a story, artwork, or heirloom object as they play.

Course Description

Keepsake games create space for play to take physical shape—for players to become makers, crafting a tangible object of their imagination as they play. In this course led by experience designer Shing Yin Khor, you’ll design a keepsake game of your own, drawing from immersive experiential installation, game design, narrative-building, and theater principles. The class is a blend of short lectures and fast-paced interactive exercises that immediately puts theory into practice.We’ll explore what it means to create games that consciously and subconsciously invite people to make, as well as the process of creating personalized ritual that guides the making of heirloom objects. We’ll touch on the epistolary paper ephemera produced by journaling games and keepsake objects beyond paper journals. Throughout the course, we’ll discuss the practical and technical production design needs behind creating these games at small and large scale—including vendors, budgets and merchandising. By the end of our time together, you’ll not only have a draft of a keepsake game of your own, but also a deeper understanding of how games can be immensely generative, produce beautiful art, and actively resist throwaway culture.

This course is for anyone interested in game design, immersive theater, escape rooms and prop design, TTRPG games, players who want to bring more physical detail to their story-crafting, and writers and merch designers who’d like to think more about storytelling and in-universe design principles as applied to physical objects. No prior experience is required.

Syllabus at a Glance

This course includes four total sessions, each lasting 1.5 hours on four Mondays beginning September 9.

Session 1 (Monday, 9/9, 8–9:30 PM ET) | The Keepsake Game and Objects of Play

We’ll start with an introduction to keepsake games, looking at invitations to play and existing systems of collaboration audiences may already be primed to participate with. We’ll also begin thinking about our personal projects.

Session 2 (Monday, 9/16, 8–9:30 PM ET) | The Ritual Object

What do rituals mean to us? We’ll cover the ritual object and divination systems, from existing systems, to creating new anti-colonial and anti-imperialist divination systems of our own. 

Session 3 (Monday, 9/23, 8–9:30 PM ET) | The Narrative Object

We’ll talk about the role of the object in our lives, and how to imbue objects with story. We’ll cover in-universe story-building, looking at existing infrastructure that can be co-opted for play. How do we create play within bureaucracies and oppressive systems? We will also talk about safety considerations and integrating both emotional and physical safety into the design process.

Session 4 (Monday, 9/30, 8–9:30 PM ET) | The Actual, Physical Object

We’ll embark on the path of bringing these stories and physical objects to life, touching on merchandising, vendors, and production, letting manufacturing restrictions inspire creativity! We’ll wrap up by sharing and discussing some class projects with one another.


Between Sessions

Outside of class, students will have access to optional readings, as well as design, crafting, and writing prompts.

Course Materials 

While there are no specific materials required for this course, students are encouraged to have some basic art and writing supplies on hand, as well as some office supplies like index cards and Sharpies. Students may incur additional costs while prototyping their projects.  

Pricing Options

In addition to full-price tickets, a limited number of no-pay spots are available for this course. Please note that these tickets are reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course and who expect to attend all sessions. No-pay spots are distributed via a randomized drawing two weeks before each course begins. For more information and to apply for a no-pay spot, please click here. To learn more about our pricing model and randomized selection process for no-pay spots, please visit our FAQ page

Community Guidelines for Students

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About Your Instructor
Shing Yin Khor
Shing Yin Khor

Shing Yin Khor is a cartoonist and experience designer. They are the designer of several keepsake games, including A Mending (which blended embroidery with storytelling prompts to create a hand-crafted keepsake object, and raised over 190k in funding on Kickstarter), and the Indiecade-winning Remember August (an epistolary keepsake game about time travel and lost friendships, played using the USPS).

They lead the immersive production collective Three Eyed Rat, which has received multiple grants from the Burning Man Foundation, and makes games, large and small art installations, and strange little experiences that are especially interested in the intersection of science fiction and fantasy with new human rituals, and collaborative worldbuilding. They build strange objects of little utility, like fish marionettes and fortune dispensing machines, and are also a National Book Award finalist and Eisner Award winner, but not for those things.

What Else You Should Know
Group Size

There are 25 spots available on this experience.

Dates and Availability
  • Mon, Sep 9, 2024
    8:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m.
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