On Monday I taught my first game creation class. I have decided that since I have worked with game education programs for so many years doing research and running conferences it was time to put my ideas to work and see if my research would be applicable in the real world.
The first class had 13 students attend who are in the 6th grade in an Austin public elementary school. The school is diverse both racially and socioeconomically and the class had 4 African American students, 4 Latino students, 4 European-American students, and 1 Asian-American student. Some of the students who had signed up for the class were not able to attend on the first day so these numbers will change as the class progresses.
One of the goals for this class was to try out some theories regarding how to increase the number of women in technology careers. While the number of women in STEM fields is increasing there is still a long way to go before parity will be reached. I had run STEM classes and empowerment classes for middle school girls in the 90s and witnessed and advised some of the girl technology classes in the past 10 years, but even with all of that support, women are still not entering STEM fields in the same numbers as men.
After doing several years of research on this topic I have come to the conclusion that both genders benefit from mixed-gender classes. Girls and boys need to learn how to work together in a technology setting so that they will be comfortable with each other in the classroom as they progress through their education. If boys become used to technology classes where they are the vastly dominant gender in high school or college, then they will not notice the missing women in their workplace.
In an effort to try and fix this I implemented a potential solution when I created the class before I started the class I let the students know that, it had to be 50% female and 50% male for the class to go forward and if we lose anyone we need to recruit another person of the same gender to replace them, using the idea that the boys and girls had to be equally invested in the attendance of the students who had signed up for the class. This rule was implemented as a way to look at how to increase the number of female students in mixed-gender technology programs.
Since we didn’t have everyone show up on the first day I am not sure how practical this will be to implement perfectly since I am working with such a small number and one student missing class really challenges the numbers.
However, we did have 7 female students and 6 male students attend the first class and they were all equally excited to be there and happy with the mix.
First of all, GLS is the most warm-hearted conference I have ever attended. The feel is more like going on an amazing cruise with the best people you can imagine to hear really interesting sessions and have great conversations. I now know why so many people attend GLS every year, it’s because you just want to come back and hang out some more with these amazing people.
From the sessions that I attended I came away with some interesting ideas about how failure is helpful and necessary in games and education.
An interesting concept that Colleen Macklin discussed during her keynote was the idea that the base language of games is iterative failure. It is how games either reward or punish this repeated failure that can change the way the failure is perceived.
Colleen Macklin also brought up an interesting point about grinding in games. She discussed whether grinding as game play reinforces the idea of a meritocracy; that people just need to work hard to succeed. Her idea is that if this is the case then games could be used to create a more nuances idea about different political ideals.
In another session the importance of gaming as a literacy was discussed. The player needs to be able to read (understand) a game so they can play it. In the same way that a person watching a movie can read the movie poster and understand that the movie will be a certain genre targeted toward a certain age group starting a particular actor a video game player can read a game to understand how the controls work and what the goals are of the game.
Drew Davidson gave a talk where he discussed why we need to change the way we think about games and education. People often talk about why games are useful in an education setting is because games are fun. Games are fun because a challenge is fun, but games are hard in the same way that learning is hard and that is key to understanding the use of games in a learning environment.
Learning needs challenges and success needs failure, which makes the rapid prototyping of games important because children need to learn how to fail.
Drew Davidson also talks about the importance of looking at ways to make games for impact, games that change people’s daily lives. This view of games also requires educators to look at more interdisciplinary collaboration. Academics are not necessarily great game designers and too often when educators or academics set out to make an educational game for kids they make a “Creepy Treehouse;” something built by adults with the objective of luring kids in. Kids can recognize this easily and are turned off of the game.
Overall the conference was useful both in terms of my research interest in boundaries and exclusion in the videogame industry but also in my work designing a game development class that I will teach to a 6th grade class in Austin this year.
The networking through the catered meals and videogame arcade was amazing and allowed me to make new friends and connections.
Why the ESA Should Incorporate Academia into E3
How is E3 educational and worthwhile in regards to academia and job seekers?
There is not currently a focus on academia at E3, there could be and I believe there should be, as it is the responsibility of the industry to encourage future professionals’ intellectual integrity. Academia should be an additional fun focal point at E3. I met a lot of industry professionals at E3, but I don’t recall meeting many if any academia professionals at E3 especially those with a focus in Game Education.
The main question is: If people in the industry don't know of the available game education resources how will future students, professionals, or educators?
There is a lacking of support for game academia and education at E3. With the increasing number of game academic programs and institutions popping up globally it concerns me that the ESA who is "dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies that publish computer and video games" is not concerned with aiding the knowledge of aspiring professionals. The ways the games are made, and the future of the industry is reliant on the students in the current game education programs whether they be practically based or theoretical. The industry needs to know what knowledge is out there in the academic space and the ESA needs to play its role in making knowledge accessible to the future of the industry.
One could argue with me and say that E3 is about being educated about the new products coming out, yes fine. E3 however, does provide students and academics with experiences, industry knowledge, opportunities, connections, a great time, and a warm feeling in your heart because you were lucky enough to attend.
Advice for Students Who Attend
For students finishing their degrees, job opportunities and business opportunities are readily available. E3 is all about business, which is its core purpose. It functions and operates as a business, for other businesses to grow their business, there is no reason that a person should not be able to go to E3 and not find job opportunities. Make sure that you have a lot of business cards available. If you don't have paper business cards have electronic cards, there are free ones available now.
Students should also remember to drink and party responsibly as E3 parties are a major part of the E3 experience. The parties are a great place to network. There will be a lot of people everywhere that are drunk and having a lot of fun, but remember E3 lasts a whole week and you still have to take that flight or drive home. You also have to wake up and talk to people, attend business meetings, and walk the floor the next day. Do you really want to do that hung over from a full night of partying the day before? If you really have to party your heart out save it for the last night, most people do. Believe me, there will be more than enough parties and you can have a great time with one or two drinks spending a short bit of time checking out each party getting to know people and doing business with a clear head.
Be nice to everyone. Honestly it is a small world and being a good, moral person should be an integral part of every person’s agenda, no questions asked. Talk to everyone. Make an effort to be social. Everyone is there for games and technology. Nerd out, and enjoy yourself. You will find a lot of people to talk to and a lot of people you can learn from.
Heather Ross is the Austin WIGI chapter Leader, Delegate for the 2012 Democratic National Convention, an Entrepreneur, and an Ambassador for Purple for Epilepsy Awareness. Heather cares greatly about the preservation and care of the universe from the past into the future.
I just had a great conversation with Terrence Masson at Northeastern University in Boston.
He is the Director of the Creative Industries Program and he runs a really innovative program with lots of room to adapt to the constantly changing technology of the game industry.
As a way to maintain an adaptive and flexible program. The game design program does not mandate that specific tools are used, instead the instructors are able to change the tools they use in their classes on the fly to keep up with rapidly changing technology.
Northeastern is innovative in that they require their students to spend January - June of their 3rd and 4th year at university in paid internships. During this time the students work in their chosen field and are paid a salary and while this is a required part of their education they don't pay tuition for this period of time.
The Game Design Program students are able to work in the game industry and will leave the program with a valuable understanding of what it means to be a part of a team.
Students in the Game Design program all have combined majors so they are focusing on Game Design and another discipline, such as computer science, digital art, music technology.... While the students are each learning to specialize in their area of focus they are also brought together with other game design majors in a variety of team-based project classes and the two semester capstone class for their last year so they are able to effectively interact with the vast variety of specialized people that make up a game team.
Notheastern will graduate their first game design class in 2013 and they will be adding a graduate program in 2013.
Suzanne Freyjadis is interested in changing how bias and perspective work in the media to create barriers.