Remember that time I wrote an ARLIS/NA Multimedia and Technology Review about the First Annual CUNY Games Festival's website? When it was announced they were accepting proposals for the next one, I just had to put my name in. I haven't blogged much about my research about game design students, probably because it would be an endless ramble, but that's what I proposed I'd talk about. Short story: they accepted it! Trey and I traveled to NYC last month for it and it was great! Let me summarize my experience by session.
Language and Composition
The first session was pretty much all about using games in teaching second language students. My college has a strong graduate program in TESOL so I thought this session would have some useful information to take home.
First off, Jed Shahar talked about using a variety of games in his developmental English course at Queensborough Community College. Throughout a semester, he peppered in Dog Eat Dog, Bananagrams, 20 Questions, Dictionary, and Spaceteam into class time. He saw these games as a way to get students speaking English together. The students had a hard time believing that playing these games were a part of class, but they got them talking! It seemed to me that the "most successful" was Dog Eat Dog, an RPG game that deals with colonization and assimilation. The students ended up writing a lot and getting very passionate about the game play, so much so that the game ended with the class ganging up on the teacher and overthrowing him in game!
Kristin Gorski (Columbia University) represented a whole group that was in the process of creating a game called Wordclusters. Wordclusters works similarly to Apples to Apples. Each person (or pair) tries to come up with a group of words (a wordcluster!) from their set cards that they can argue why they go together. This hones in on developing vocabulary and conversational skills. Kristin's group is going through a lot of playtesting within the group and with ESL students. That was one of the most interesting parts about her talk, in my opinion. It's clear that her group wants to make this game something that's truly useful to ESL students. So far in playtesting, they've found that a rule that allows others to "veto" a cluster can often offend players. They've also found that a response to a veto requires a high level of proficiency. This can be seen as a good or bad thing. Either way, it gets students thinking about English words and speaking to others in English!
The students that these speakers have worked with seem to see playing games as not real work. Kristin mentioned that her students preferred to play it on Fridays, while Jed talked about general apprehension of playing games in class at all. ESL students tend to be very hardworking and serious. Hearing their teacher say "Okay let's play a game for the last 20 minutes!" is difficult for some students to accept.
Institutional Programming with Games
The next session started off with a presentation by a faculty member at Winston-Salem State University (for those of you that don't know NC geography well, that's really close to where I am)! Jinghua Zhang discussed using game creation and playing in teaching students to program. Students created simple games using GameMaker: Studio that helped teach basic programming skills (I couldn't figure out if the games were created by the same students who were learning programming...I imagine not though?).
Carol Luckhardt from St. Mary's University discussed the structure of an intro course she teachers on game development. As a librarian who wants to work with these types of students, this was very interesting to me. Her class covers a lot of territory: understanding what a game is, the storyboard process, demo and collaboration in class using GameMaker, artificial intelligence, the business of games, and how to feel inspired about the future.
The last presentation this session was by a duo: Brian Chung and G.J Lee from The Sheep's Meow. They talked about using methodologies from art school in teaching game design! They talked a lot about having to teach students that it's okay to fail, just like in studio art classes. They do this by having students use Scratch to make something- a toy, a game, whatever- in 15 minutes, then start all over again. This is similar to a 15 minute gesture drawing in an art class. Try, fail, do it again. It helps them pay attention to the bigger picture, not the tiny details. This is actually similar to Global Game Jam, where groups of game designers all over the world design a game in 48 hours. Just like in art classes, the history of games should be discussed, as well as how there are many different types of games made by different types of people. There's also a lot of focus on getting feedback, just like in art.
Poster & Demo Session
Let's get this out there: those rooms were entirely too crowded. I felt really overwhelmed with the amount of people in two little rooms. I couldn't even find the poster for Metadata Games! I did, however, find Galina Letnikova's demo about a cool citation game. You give the students a sheet of paper explaining how MLA citations for books, journal articles, and newspapers work. Students split in groups and each group gets a packet of cut up citations and they have to put them together correctly! She would put hints that it's an article, book, etc. on certain common elements such as author. I really like her idea and I've been trying ever since to think of a way to do it in a class.
Educational Game Design: Strategy & Tactics
This was an overwhelming session for me.
A. There were a lot of speakers.
B. My presentation was in the next session so I was getting all antsy.
So here are more brief highlights.
Douglas Maynard, from SUNY New Paltz, talked about his experience gamifying a psychology course about games. It was fairly successful, but he bets that it had a lot to do with the fact a majority of the students were gamers. I imagine there would be difficulties if you tried to tell non-gamer students that there are no grades just XP. Like in games, students level up and the professor sends an email informing them! Assignments were called quests and d20s were rolled to see who got to lead discussions. It sounds like a lot of work to totally change how a class functions, but he reiterated that it should be done to support content and the learning objective.
Andrew Parker, New York City College of Technology, talked about working achievements and XP into online math homework. Having achievements for doing the homework early, doing it after midnight, etc. is a great way to encourage students to keep going and participate. It's an open source project that has 15-20,000 problems already created. I attempted to find it online but had no luck.
Andrew Battista, from New York University, and Nicole F. Pagowsky, remotely from University of Arizona, spoke about using digital badges in general education revisions. For anyone who works in academia and gets to hear about gen. ed. specifications and requirements, you know that having measurable achievements is important. They talked a lot about using badges in an information literacy course, which is especially useful to me as my library is hoping to get info lit. embedded more into the curriculum.
My citation game demo friend, Galina, talked about an interactive game to create research questions. The class is split up into teams and Galina discusses the concept of keywords and how to narrow a topic through Wikipedia then Gale Virtual Reference Library. The groups are then challenged to come up with as many research questions as possible and post them in the course's Blackboard forum. The class then comes back together and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the research questions. The "best" question's team gets a prize (at least I think that's how the winner is determined). This is a fairly simple, gamified approach to teaching how to narrow a topic that also emphasizes metacognitive learning (thinking about thinking).
And then there was me. I spoke about the ideas I have for creating library services for game design students. How did I get these ideas? Two years ago I conducted focus group interviews with 11 interactive design and game development undergrads at SCAD-Savannah in order to determine their information behavior. I've spoken about this twice before and even published an article on it, but this time my focus was just on the services that librarians could do in partnership with the students/departments. My favorite idea is creating a video game clip repository that includes full metadata about the games and clips. In my study, students complained about the difficulties in finding the game clips they need online. They either can't find them because they're thinking of search terms other than those associated with the clip, because the clip doesn't exist online, or they find it and it's terrible quality. Students use these videos for inspiration as well as for class assignments. I propose having an in-house game recording station in a library (a student suggested this in my study), then the students or librarian can transfer the clip to a repository and assign appropriate metadata to it. The cool part is, the GAMER Group has already created a metadata schema for games. In my imaginary game clip repository, we would use that for entire games, then have clip specific metadata required fields such as Marc LaBlanc's Taxonomy of Game Pleasures and Bartle's Taxonomy of Player Types. The GAMER Group is also coming up with controlled vocabularies for visual style and mood, and I can't wait to see them (nerd alert)! Another useful bit about this repository is the fact that other departments could benefit from it. In the presentation we watched a clip from Assassin's Creed Unity and threw around some tags about it and talked about what other departments would find this useful (history, art history, architecture). Needless to say, I'm going to create this somewhere someday. I'm now taking applications for assistants and financial and institutional sponsors.
Next, Kelly Blanchat from Queens College, and Lyndia Willoughby, from SUNY Plattsburgh, talked about using Twitter in information literacy instruction. They both have blogged about their presentations well enough that it feels silly for me to try to rephrase it. I think this would be a great way to introduce students to understand scholarship in general. However, thinking of my faculty and the student population, I wonder if they would take this seriously enough. It's something so unique that I think students would really pay attention and remember the class later, it would just a struggle for me to not go over databases more thoroughly. Kudos for Kelly and Lyndia for coming up with something so unique!
Everyone at the conference was incredibly nice and it was so cool to see so many academics wanting to incorporate games into their work. The Library Games session was the best, though (sorry, mild-bias). With a room full of game-loving librarians, the session had such a cozy vibe.
Until next time, CUNY Games Festival!