There and back again....
A Social Worker, Game Design Lecturer, and the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation walk into a Welsh Castle. Stop reading if you've heard this before!
At present, all game design education teaches similar things, to a similar group of students. And, despite the push back Eric Zimmerman received when he announced his manifesto for a ludic century, he was right. Many commentators - industry, innovators, and academics can see we have a created a generation after generation that is literate in games as a medium.
But how do we invite others (non-gamers) to join? How do we support students to move outside their comfort zone? How can we invite others who may not have an interest in game design to experience the game design process in a meaningful way?
This page provides information on a summer course, designed by Dr. Mary Kayler, Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Innovation(CTE&I) at the University of Mary Washington, VA. Castle Quests: Digital and Playable Fiction was an undergraduate 3-credit, 3 week course (in collaboration with Bangor University, Wales) that centered around the notion of Castle Quests while traveling in Scotland and Wales.
A chance meeting at a Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA) event with Adam Mayes, Subject Responsible for Game Design at Uppsala University, Sweden and his wife Martine Pedersen, a social worker specializing in Narrative Therapy using games in her treatment with at-risk youth, lead to an invitation to join the course!
Adam Mayes has become interested to the point of obsession of using a systems understanding to bring games education to new audiences, and the opportunity to teach non-gaming students game design was too good to pass up. Martine Pedersen's frame of reference is from the perspective of a social worker with training in motivational interviewing, narrative and cognitive therapy and 10 years of experience in the field of working with drug users - the last 6 years with young people who has a problematic relationship to drugs. Privately, she has never been a big game player – except WoW. And Candy Crush. And Tetris. But not GAME-Games. She gets lost in the rulebook, and impatient if the game takes too long. But through Adam Mayes, she has seen "behind the curtain" of games, and the thoughts and ideas behind designs and topics in games. She finds it interesting how mainstream games influence our kids – both at risk and normal – and how we, as the adults, can talk kids into a problematic behaviour, even if the kids don't recognise it as problematic. Mary Kayler XXXXX
Each of us went into the course with preconceived ideas as to what could be achieved, how, and with what resources. What actually happened was a learning experience for both instructors and students.
Non-game Designers - Design a Game
This faculty-led international education experience and course drew upon constructivist theory and experiential learning to support students in the development of an interactive fiction adventure game. We travelled to various castles, roamed the mountains and countryside, and explored cities and small towns in both Scotland and Wales. These experiences were central to the heart and spirit of the course!
During our time in Scotland and Wales we individually captured images, sounds, and video to capture our castle quests. We took advantage of local experts, some participated in a political rally, and we eat well along the way! At the end of the early questing days in Scotland we would often talk about people, stories, and sites that might serve as an inspirational springboard for our interactive story. It wasn't until we left Scotland that we entered a classroom at Bangor University to begin our more formal brainstorming sessions and envisioned a game.
The students enrolled in this course were not game design students and only had the knowledge of the games they were aware of as inspiration - as such, their ideal was a linear choice based game. We found that our students didn't have the same literacy of game design students and, by the time Adam and Martine arrived, the students had already formed into a team with an idea of what they knew was a perfect story for their game. They had these assumptions challenged, constantly. They had their understanding of their work and were supported to move outside their comfort zones and, with that, the group slowly started to all apart.
Martine's social, group and narrative work was invaluable at this point, having the students look at their motivations, their skills, and reflect on what was needed. The group reformed, with a new power structure, new direction, and new confidence.
Students were placed into a 'hot house' and were able to produce work that was meaningful to them and to the overall conception of their game; integrating memorable people, historical information, and game design. What was amazing to witness was the process of 6 individuals, with various skill sets, developed into a 'game design team.' Students naturally broke into areas of game design - writers, coder, media and one butterfly who fluttered between the groups pollinating and informing the others. Students agreed that they were pushed out of their comfort zones and yet felt supported to keep the project moving forward. Students were empowered and came to believe "we can do anything." They made the commitment to each other before leaving Wales to finish their game even though the course was over!
Back.... We built a game!
Corey, Brooke, Lesya, Emma, and Madison formed the team to build out the game. They met on Sundays (when the fall 2016 academic term began) to work on and build out "Highland Haunting" which will formally launch on February 8, 2017 with a transmedia component for players to unlock the story and discover the mystery of Highland Haunting.
We are heading back for more, only this time to Sweden and Uppsala University in May 2017! Our course will be "Swedish Noir - Introductory Game Design and Playable Fiction"!
We'll keep you posted!