First look: Game Design merit badge (and how you can help!)

A new merit badge rewarding you for creativity, fun, and strategy? I’m game.

Your Scouts will be too when the Game Design merit badge debuts next year.

Approved and listed on my Guide to New Merit Badges for a month now, the new badge is in mid-development. But lucky for you, I got a sneak peek from Janice Downey, senior innovation manager with the BSA.

And there’s more good news: If you’re attending the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, you can help get the Game Design merit badge off the ground.

Here’s the scoop:

How to help

Are you among the creative folks who get paid to design games? Or is game design one of your hobbies?

If so, you’re exactly who the BSA needs to help get this merit badge off the ground.

Janice and her team of professionals and volunteers need staff members to help introduce Scouts to Game Design MB at the next summer’s national Scout jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

If you’re planning to serve on staff — either full- or half-time — contact Janice to find out how you can help be among the first to deliver this exciting merit badge.

What kinds of games?

Janice says Game Design MB will allow Scouts to focus on one (or more) of these kinds of games:

  • Electronic (games for computers, game systems, or mobile devices)
  • Outdoor/Athletic (sports or games like capture the flag)
  • Tabletop (dice-based games, board games, card games)
  • Pen and Paper or Role-Playing Games

Awesome! Including different types of games means the BSA will reach Scouts with different interests. It also keeps the merit badge accessible for Scouts who don’t  have reliable access to a computer — while not limiting a tech-savvy Scout from creating the next Angry Birds-type hit.

What will Scouts learn?

Janice says that in addition to creating and testing an actual, playable game, Scouts will learn:

  • How to think critically about certain games
  • What makes games fun
  • Important game terms
  • How to design and implement rules
  • Problem solving
  • And more!

When will it debut?

No exact launch date has been set, but it will make a big splash at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.

What do you think?

Give me your thoughts on the Game Design MB and how it will help your Scouts develop knowledge and skills that will help them become Prepared. For Life.  Tell me in the comments below.


  1. I’m the president of a small game company (table-top game). I know I’ll be one of the first to sign up to counsel this merit badge. I’ll also be at the 2013 Jamboree as a 1st Assistant Scoutmaster.

  2. I’m the publisher of a book about board game design by some top tabletop folks, including Richard Garfield, Steve Jackson, Mike Selinker, and others. I know a volume like that would be a useful resource for scouts in this context. Is there such a thing as a reading list or tools list for the merit badge?

  3. I think this is a really Cool! MB. I can’t wait for my son to be old enough and ready to join boy Scouts! My only thought is this: It seems new Merit Badges come out fairly often, while the Cub Scouts don’t seem to get new Belt Loops and pins about every 10 years or so? Why can’t there be an equivelent Belt Loop and or Pin for some of the new Mertin Badges?

    • Stevie, actually there are new Cub Scout Belt Loops & Pins. In fact there in the past few years 13 new ones added, including Video Games Academics Belt Loop & Pin.

  4. Great idea! My game dev partner and I support a young scout who’ll be at Jamboree 2013. He’s already keen on game design, so I’m sure he’ll be over the moon to hear about this. Thanks for tapping into such an important thing to current scouts in such an inclusive way.

  5. Fantastic! I love the diversity of games that’s represented. Although I love video games as much as the next guy, I’ve been playing Pen & Paper RPGs for almost 30 years.

  6. As a webelo den leader and 15 years in the toy industry this is a wonderful update to the merit badge program. There are many fun and creative designers and inventors in our industry that could help fine tune the requirements. Lastly a forum should be created for the games to be submitted yearly to be reviewed by a panel of out peers….would hate for an inovative game idea never to be seen by those of us that could make it a reality.

  7. Good timing — my boy is designing a tabletop squad-level game right now so he should hit the ground running when this thing becomes available.

    I’m an avid tabletop/boardgamer (and Eagle Scout) and write game-theory analysis articles on the subject. I will be on the Counselor list as soon as this is available. Do you have any preview material I could look at or present to scouts and leaders?

    Feel free to contact me for development/review/technical writing on the project. This one has been overdue for awhile.

    Given the subject matter I imagine you’re already aware of this, but here is a short list of Eagle Scouts that are avid boardgamers —

  8. I’m in! I’m what you might call a dedicated hobbyist. I’ve designed a few boardgames, lots of miniatures based games, I write for GAMES magazine, I run a gaming camp for kids every August, I have run gaming conventions (large and small), am a member of HMGS (historical miniatures gaming society), and I blog about games constantly. I’m proud to say my soon to be Eagle Scout is following the way of the Jedi as well. I prefer non-electronic games, as they don’t require a lot of imagination or creativity.

  9. Game Design Merit Badge? Is this really a worthwhile Merit Badge, or just a “give away” so Scouts can have an easy addition to their sash? I seem to recall hearing somewhere that Lord Robert Baden Powell began the Scouting movement to get Great Britain’s youth outdoors. Especially after seeing how the Boers who had been raised outdoors were better able to take care of themselves than the urban-born British Soldiers.
    Many of the teaching points of this merit badge: critical thinking, problem solving, designing and following rules are common skills that are used when you leave the comfort of your backyard and head into God’s classroom (outdoors) as part of a patrol.
    Perhaps, as an adult leader, I should find better ways to encourage and support my Scouts to seek out real adventures and play the game of life. I perceive that many Merit Badges have been watered down to make them less challenging and “safer” so that the Scout can easily achieve the requirements instead of learn and acquire skills which may need and used later in life.
    I hope that if this proposed Merit Badge becomes a reality, my son and others choose to bypass it. If they do work on it, I will give them my full support; they deserve nothing less.

    These opinions are mine and do not reflect those of any organization.

    • I think you’ve missed the entire point of the merit badge program. Yes, there are a number of outdoor skills-related merit badges, but the bulk of badges are related to exploring career options. It’s been this way since the beginning (some of the original merit badges were Agriculture, Architecture, Business, Dairying, Masonry, Mining, etc).

  10. Mr. Schreiner, the same could be said for about 80% of all merit badges offered. I will agree that game design should not be Eagle-required (or even close to it) but sufficiently challenging requirements will make this topic a challenge.

    Frankly, focusing on design will put Scouts into a very different position from a gaming perspective. Consuming games is a very low-energy endeavor. Designing them (and producing a result that is challenging and engaging) is a far more difficult task. With care this could be a MB that boys will be proud to display.

    It doesn’t hurt that it’s handicap-neutral as well.

    I’m an avid gamer and can assure you that modern games (board games in particular) are far more engaging and intellectually challenging than the pulp stuff you find on the shelves at Kmart. There’s a lot here to work with. This merit badge has been overdue.

  11. I think it is wonderful that Programming, Game Design, and Animation will be added to the list of merit badges. These may cause a boy to develop an interest in scouting. I agree that these should not be added to the list of merit badges required for Eagle.

  12. This merit badge does seem to represent current scouts wants and needs. I often see my scouts playing games they have made up. I personally love to make my own games, wooden board games, and non ordinary outdoor ones, which I favor. I have made, a Ladder game, a Washers game, a Cornhole game, a Kuub game, and most recently a Aunt Sally game. When played all are extremely well liked and promote friendly competition and good fun.

  13. I am a youth (Intruder), and I read your blogs all the time, I personnally like this merit badge, but I believe there should an award for doing the merit badge, and then doing other electives, for example, lets say on cycling, when they add the mountain biking option a scout who already earned the badge could get an award for doing the mountain biking elective.

  14. Games are not going away, so let’s just give in and foster their healthy use. I hope that more than a paragraph will be dedicated to the dangers of FIRST PERSON SHOOTER games and adult rated games (many studies linked to the school shootings) and the real dangers of VIDEO GAME ADDICTION with this merit badge. It may serve everyone well to Google articles about people dying during video game playing and cause moms and dads to take a more active role in our children’s activities. Video games don’t make good baby sitters. Sadly, many people are too busy and/or lazy to change the way their children spend their free time. Many adults are already addicted to video gaming.

    • Um, I was “raised” on video games (and a military father and lots of discipline early on) and I can assure you there’s no more of an addiction to video games than there is to playing sports or music or going to school. People who bave died playing video games are generally playing for well over 15 hours at a time, and are unhealthy to the point of absurdity. There are more people who die playing sports or being in the outdoors than playing video games, directly.or indirectly.

  15. I am counting the minutes before this merit badge comes out so I can become a counselor for it. Our troop has monthly game nights where we play board games, table-top RPGs, and ragtoss. The scouts LIVE for those nights. I plan to propose to the troop that we dedicate a month of meetings as a troop to getting this merit badge. My job will be to facitiate and them to do all the work. We will break up into teams and the teams work together on game design. Each team will do one of computer game, board game, sports game or RPG game (their call). My role will be to give them the resources they need (computer tools, board game equipment, classic RPG games to study, etc) to assure that they can produce not the minimum required to get the merit badge, but something they can be proud of creating. Personally, I hope to build a “computer game development system” so that the team can not just design it, but actually create something they can share…
    Yes, I am excited… I am also hoping to share any materials I create for this merit badge with other troops (esp my computer game development system).

  16. There are about 40,000 people who work in the video game industry in North America. Most of the jobs are for programmers; about a third of them are technical artists of various stripes. Many of them have varying degrees of influence over the game “design”. The number of dedicated “designers” is relatively small. Still, it is a career, and the odds of designing a game are probably better than exploring space or becoming a successful cinematographer.
    Coming from this background, I see this merit badge as potentially very challenging and engaging. I intend to make it available for my troop – and not a cakewalk.
    From the brief descriptions I’ve seen, the emphasis here will be on creating the rules and mechanics for a game. The complications of dealing with a game engine, programming syntax and systems limitations may be best left to over-achievers.
    I actually prototype with Lego mini-models, color index cards, dice of various types (d4 to d20), and numerous Excel sheets of lists and interaction tables (Fish A vs. Bait A; Bait B; Bait C, etc.). I’m expecting to encourage the scouts to create hybrid products that combine dice, “cards” for time and space holders of events/rules together with RPG-lite stats on fixed (or semi-dynamic) play fields.
    What the scouts end up with may be as lean as Othello or as dense as Skyrim.
    I don’t expect that many of the scouts will go so far as to see their games pushed onto a functional video game form. That is several orders of magnitude beyond “design”.
    If you have scouts that are compelled to push beyond “playable design” I would recommend Game Maker – the community classes offered in our area teach this in week-long classes. It is humbling to make even a simple game with sprites.

  17. I just found out about this tonight. I think that this is a great idea for a Merit Badge and I plan to be a MB Counselor for this badge when it becomes available. Scouts play games all the time – card games during downtime at Scout Camp, capture the flag, there is even a Chess MB already. Games are fun and can strengthen social bonds among friends. I liken this to the Geocaching MB – a fun hobby that uses other skills that can help the Scouts in other walks of life. Scouts already know how to play games – what’s neat about this MB is that it encourages them to learn how to develop new games. It is also great that there are options for indoor and outdoor games. Thanks for the info about this one – it is one to watch!

  18. My son who just crossed over to boy scouts saturday started an after school gaming design class. It looks like the teacher relies heavily on “Kodu game lab freeware” , designed for pcs. The classes goals is to have the students design games for pc and xbox using simple visual programming language. Hopefully some of his experiences with this class will apply to this merit badge?

  19. I’m gonna try and get it over the last half of my spring break, it’ll be coll to be the first in my troop to get that merit badge.

  20. I’m too late to get it (I’m an Eagle Scout and turning 20 in August), but this badge sounds awesome. Definitely an area that the merit badges don’t fill otherwise.

9 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Scouts to get merit badge in Game Design « Player Attack
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  4. Game Design Merit Badge « Voice of Ameritrash
  5. Wanted: 36 volunteers to share their merit badge skills at the 2013 National Scout Jamboree « Bryan on Scouting
  6. Sneak a Peek at New Game Design MB | Scout Wire
  7. Weekly Assembly: Playtesting Next and Editors | The Gamer Assembly
  8. Android-genous in the Great Outdoors | Backpacker's Blaze
  9. Calendar of New Merit Badges | Troop 139 Ortonville, MI.

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