Thursday, May 28 • 2:15pm - 3:30pm
Gathering STEAM: Games and Learning

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Watch video of the session here.

A panel of three papers:

Games are not a Medium: The Media Archaeology of Tetris, Dragon’s Lair, and Space Time
Nathan Kelber

The last two decades have seen an explosion in games research. Since 1998, over a dozen game journals have been launched. Game studies now has conferences, majors, blogs, and even research chairs. The field has established its own debates, histories, and theory. The greatest area of growth has been in relation to the study of video games, one of the largest entertainment industries at the beginning of the 21st century. Clearly, something culturally exceptional about video games has ignited scholarly interest. They represent something new and altogether different from their predecessors.

And yet, video games remain games; hence they have a past, along with material, historical, and phenomenological connections to other types of games. If to date there has not been much consideration of video games in relation to their predecessors and contemporaries, this is in some measure changing--the academic exceptionalism of video games is coming to an end. Just as the advent of word processing forced bibliographers to reconsider the history of the book, the advent of computer gaming is forcing historians to reconsider the larger history of play. How are video games related to other types of games? This talk will bring together my media archaeological work on three disparate games (Tetris, Dragon’s Lair, and Space Time) to ponder games as transmedial phenomena. Is there something all these games have in common? Do they share a similar phenomenology?

Using a variety of instruments (electron microscopes, confocal scanning laser microscopes, and miniature cameras), I will bring audiences inside modern gaming machines to view their material mechanisms. More than an attempt to get at digital materiality, I will argue that game studies has not adequately accounted for the incredible diversity of games (video or otherwise) and that the current divide in game studies between digital and analog games has established a major gap in game history. One possible solution to fill this gap is to align game studies more closely with the speculative turn in the humanities, including the work of game historian Ian Bogost. Examining the diverse material circumstances of gameplay can shed light on how games exist across a variety of media, whether digital, analog, or otherwise. The presentation should be useful for those interested in game studies, media archaeology, and software studies.

For the Win: Gamifying Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society
J.J. Sylvia IV

In this talk I will discuss the challenges and successes related to the process of gamification in an Introduction to Science, Technology, and Society course that I taught. While learning through games involves students actively playing traditional games, gamification instead adds game mechanics to technology enhanced environments that are not traditionally understood as games, such as a college course. Although gamification has been widely used by businesses, most significantly in apps related to health and fitness – and to a lesser degree, in secondary schools – it has seen relatively little implementation in the higher education classroom. I gamified this course by drawing upon strategies of gamification by these businesses and secondary school courses.

At the conceptual, level I discuss the game mechanics were implemented and which worked best. Some of the primary examples will include narrative, avatar-based leaderboards, language modifications, experience points, quests, and badges. On a practical level, I demonstrate how these mechanics were implemented in the learning management system, Moodle, as well as how they might be modified for use in others systems.

One of the biggest challenges with this process of gamification was managing student concerns about expectations and grades for a non-traditional course, while maintaining interest in the narrative over the course of the entire semester. Although student concerns were ultimately alleviated, student interest in the narrative decreased greatly toward the middle of the semester.

The success of this gamification shined through in the innovative and creative projects that came about through the quests. Students used critical making technology to invent and update new products, such as robotic hands, an augmented reality musical interface, and 3D printed cell phone cases that hold headphones securely. Each of these projects also connected to scholarship within the field of Science, Technology, and Society studies. Further, students reported via anonymous feedback that certain mechanics such as the leaderboard helped to increase motivation throughout the course.

Playing Art Historian: Designing an Adventure Game for 20th-Century Art History Courses
Anastasia Salter and Keri Watson

Creating games that leverage the power of game mechanics to create transformative experiences are at the center of game development movements. As game designers and scholars focus on the ways in which games operate as spaces for exploration, critical thinking, and collaboration, games become increasingly significant as educational tools. The work emerging from the “Games for Change” and serious games communities is particularly helpful in addressing an apparent contradiction between games and educational objectives, as traditionally the idea of “fun” has fallen into a separate space from that of learning. At the same time, games, play, and interactivity have had a significant role in modern and contemporary art movements including Dada, Surrealism, Fluxus, and Conceptualism. Artists have used play and participatory projects to challenge traditional media, to respond to political upheaval, and to instigate social change. From Cory Arcangel’s video hacks to Theaster Gates’s built environments to Andrea Zittel’s sculptural installations, today’s most compelling artists are blurring the boundaries between reality and hyperreality, between the personal and the societal, and between art and life. Elsewhere, in the art games and electronic literature communities, game designers as artists are producing provocative works that explore the potential of games as experiential spaces: Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest places players in the role of the clinically depressed, Anna Anthropy’s Dys4ia is a raw autobiographical exposure of hormone therapy and gender dysphoria, and Jason Nelson’s flash games explore digital poetics. Genres such as electronic literature, a space for digital poetics and narratives with procedural and interactive components; interactive fiction, text-driven games composed with language parsers and object-oriented world models; and new media art further complicate the boundaries between games and other forms of interactive art.

These overlapping forms of play are rife with pedagogical potential, and it is from this intersection that we have drawn inspiration for a course-based online art history game. This game (under testing Spring 2015 in a mixed mode course on Twentieth-Century Art) will demonstrate how using a serious game to teach art history not only fosters interactive learning, but models one of the most compelling artistic trends of the post/modern era as well. These models, the mechanics of the adventure game genre (puzzle-driven and informed by a sense of participating in a goal-driven narrative thread), and our knowledge of modern art inform the game’s design. Students will play in teams and uncover and interpret artifacts from various art historical movements of the twentieth century. Working together, they will interpret primary and secondary sources including visual objects, letters, and essays, craft cohesive narratives for their objects, and compete for clues that will help their team overcome obstacles. In these ways the game will utilize cooperation and competition to enhance student engagement and invite students to question the continually changing category of experience that comprises the notion of art itself while learning to recognize a core group of images within twentieth-century art and interpret these works within the socio-historical and cultural context of their production. 

avatar for Olga  Scrivner

Olga Scrivner

Visiting Lecturer, Indiana University
Gaming, Visualization, Annotation, Virtual and Augmented Reality, Languages, Computers, Data Analysis, Travelling, Jogging, Golfing...

avatar for J.J. Sylvia IV

J.J. Sylvia IV

J.J. Sylvia IV is a Ph.D. student in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program at North Carolina State University. He is also a member of Duke's Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge. His research interests include the philosophy of communication, big data, affirmative critical... Read More →
avatar for Nathan Kelber

Nathan Kelber

Digital Projects Manager, Detroit Historical Society
Historian of play, games, and drama. Organizer of Network Detroit digital humanities conference. Manager of Digital Projects at the Detroit Historical Society.
avatar for Anastasia Salter

Anastasia Salter

Assistant Professor, University of Central Florida
Anastasia Salter is an assistant professor in digital media and texts & technology at the University of Central Florida. She is the author of What is Your Quest? From Adventure Games to Interactive Books (University of Iowa Press, 2014) and co-author of Flash: Building the Interactive... Read More →
avatar for Keri Watson

Keri Watson

Assistant Professor of Art History, University of Central Florida
Keri Watson is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Central Florida and specializes in modern and contemporary art and the history of photography. She has published on topics including Patricia Cronin’s public sculpture, Eudora Welty’s photography, and Judy... Read More →

Designated Tweeters
avatar for Jeffrey Moro

Jeffrey Moro

Senior Post-Baccalaureate Resident, Five College Digital Humanities
Jeffrey Moro is a Post-Bac with Five College Digital Humanities, with research interests in electronic literature, media archaeology, and critical code studies.@jeffreymoro 
avatar for Sara Humphreys

Sara Humphreys

Continuing Lecturer, St. Jerome's University (in the University of Waterloo)
Activist pedagogy, digital pedagogy, scholarly publishing, gaming - I am currently working on a book length project, "Manifest Destiny 2.0: Genre Trouble in Video Games" that studies how oppressive video games operate (under contract with the University of Nebraska Press). My next... Read More →

Thursday May 28, 2015 2:15pm - 3:30pm EDT
Room 106 Kellogg Center

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