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.
Suzanne Freyjadis is interested in changing how bias and perspective work in the media to create barriers.