Writers, artists, game designers — storytellers of every sort — have long utilized the power of world building. Now educators are utilizing it too. Constructed universes are powerful and flexible frameworks for designs to emerge from. You can read about world building and its applications here and here; today, we’re discussing WorldLab, a design process for collaborative world building.

There are countless world building tools available online. Last summer, I found myself digging through checklists and toolboxes, trying out platforms and software, and reading books by world builders. Each tool offered or implied a different approach to constructing a world…

“3D mock-up of a Muka Tree” from Museum of Rilao

Three hundred audience members at the University of Southern California left their seats. They stood up, gathered into small groups, received decks of colorful cards, talked, and wrote. The groups comprised members from fields spanning education to urban planning and game development to linguistics. Over the course of the ten-hour workshop, a website filled up in real time with writing, photos, and artwork with as much diversity as its creators’ backgrounds — all describing the island nation of Rilao, which, strictly speaking, does not exist.

Built from the DNA of multiple real world cities, the Rilao Project is a vast…

You have an idea for a story or a game, and you want to build a universe for it to live in. Or maybe you have the foundations of a universe, and you’re wondering how to flesh it out, if your idea’s worth pursuing, or how to distinguish your work from the world building giants’. Luckily, and dauntingly, there are thousands upon thousands of articles, books, communities, apps, and directories of yet more resources to guide you through the process of creating worlds to ground and inspire your designs.

Sorting through hundreds of web pages with repetitive or contradictory information…

The fantasy and sci fi genres don’t get much respect from literary critics. Often, the argument is that speculative fiction is just too speculative, too fantastical to be anything more than entertaining. For the longest time, I bought into this line of thinking, even as I picked up the next volume in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or drew up a map of some new imaginary land. Like so many others, I believed in the shallowness of my hobby.

Then, one morning last summer, I woke up with a simple question that had never before…

Sam Hollon

World builder. Design thinker. Student. Writes on education, creativity, and culture.

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