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Video Games

Essential Games for Aspiring Video Game Students

23rd May 2024


In this instalment of our brilliant recent run of webinars with Nick Rodriguez, the Dean of Creative Technology at Screen and Film School, the discussion was aptly titled “Virtual Games Workshop: Games to Play Before You Start Your Degree”.

During this session, Nick offered a varied exploration of games he considers crucial for students to experience before delving into their video game studies. Nick’s tips and advice, stemming from his extensive knowledge and passion for the gaming industry, are invaluable. Here’s a detailed summary of the key points and games discussed during the workshop:

Read the rest of the series:

What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Games Designer

Designing Effective Levels in Video Games

Generating Ideas in Video Game Design

The Art of World-Building in Game Design

Introduction to Essential Games

Nick started out by stressing the importance of playing specific games to gain a foundational understanding of game design principles and mechanics. He made it clear that his list focuses primarily on games significant for their gameplay rather than their artistic value. Among the games he recommended were:

Whist and Trick-Taking Games

Nick highlighted the strategic depth and probability management found in classic card games like Whist and Bridge. Understanding trick-taking games, according to him, offers insights into fundamental gameplay mechanics, requiring players to predict outcomes and form strategies essential in game design.

Blades in the Dark

John Harper’s Blades in the Dark received praise for its innovative mechanics, particularly its use of flashbacks to streamline planning phases during heists. Nick underscored how this game represents modern tabletop role-playing, emphasising narrative focus and emergent gameplay, influencing contemporary RPGs like those from Critical Role.

Magic: The Gathering (MTG)

Magic: The Gathering was hailed for its complexities in game design, especially its procedural nature, syntax precision, and world-building challenges spanning over 30 years. Nick stressed its significance in understanding game design intricacies.

Slay the Spire

Nick lauded Slay the Spire for seamlessly integrating digital and physical game mechanics, leveraging digital effects impossible in a physical card game to offer a unique gameplay experience. Understanding the interaction between digital and physical game mechanics was highlighted as crucial.


Despite its simplicity, Tetris was deemed to be a perfect expression of a puzzle game by Nick. He pointed out its implicit difficulty curve and described it as a game with perfect mechanics standing the test of time.

Super Metroid

Super Metroid was commended for its pioneering role in the Metroidvania genre, teaching valuable lessons in level design, exploration, and player agency. Its influence on modern games was underscored by Nick.


Journey was recommended for its minimalist design and emotional impact, praised for its elegant multiplayer solutions and ability to deliver a profound experience stripped down to core mechanics.

Resident Evil 4

Nick cited Resident Evil 4 for its relentless player engagement and pacing, balancing intense action sequences with quieter moments seamlessly, akin to The Last of Us and Half-Life.

No Man’s Sky

The sandbox game No Man’s Sky was included for its player-driven narrative and sense of scale, emphasizing quiet discovery and player autonomy within a vast universe.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

Lastly, Batman: Arkham Asylum was praised for its perfect execution of core gameplay pillars, particularly its revolutionary approach to console melee combat, setting a high standard for character-driven games.

Honourable Mentions

Nick also mentioned several other noteworthy games, including the Civilization series, Minecraft, XCOM, Gone Home, Braid, Fez, and Papers, Please, for their contributions to various aspects of game design, from world-building to narrative innovation.

As with the previous four webinars, Nick’s workshop provided an extensive overview of games that aspiring video game students should play to develop a deep understanding of game design and mechanics. His curated list serves as a valuable guide for anyone looking to immerse themselves in the diverse and intricate world of video game creation.


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BIMM University

BIMM University provides an extensive range of courses in modern music, performing arts, filmmaking, and creative technology to over 8,000 students across 14 schools in the UK, Ireland, and Germany. We have a long-standing commitment to providing the highest quality in creative industries education, allowing students to maximise their career potential in an inclusive community built on a culture of shared passion, creativity, and collaboration. Berlin | Birmingham | Brighton | Bristol | Dublin | Essex | London | Manchester