Just got back a few hours ago from the M/MLA conference held in St. Louis. The conference theme was “Play…No Seriously.” I gave two presentations: one on using videogames in English classes, and the other on using role-playing games in creative writing classes. Both were very well-received and I had a lot of good questions and conversations after the sessions. Surprisingly there was very little on gaming as most panels interpreted “play” quite broadly.
Over the past six or so months I have noticed two things: 1) a growing number of people in the academy are becoming interested in games-based pedagogy, and 2) I know quite a bit about it. As I draw nearer to finishing graduate school, I still often feel like I have a ways to go before I’m an authority on any topic, especially when I get the chance to talk to so many brilliant scholars on a regular basis. But then every so often I get a chance to talk about my areas of specialty—specifically creative writing pedagogy and gaming—to someone who doesn’t know much if anything about them, and I can go on and on, recommending books and articles, framing major debates within the fields, yada yada yada. While there’s always more to learn, it feels good to be able to contribute meaningfully to ongoing academic discussions with other professional scholars.
As someone who has productively used videogames in college classes (Fallout 3 in creative writing, and lots of games for the Game Culture course), I was asked a lot of questions about how to make it work. The answer is that you can’t just drop any game into a class just to do it and hope the students like it. First you have to decide what educational goal you’re trying to accomplish, then you need to find a game that best fits that goal. I pointed several comp instructors to Persuasive Games; to me, using persuasive games in a first-year writing program is a home run.
The other thing I’ve been feeling for awhile is that I need to do more reading in game design. I’m becoming a strong believer that asking students to design games that reflect their knowledge and mastery of course content is a pretty perfect pedagogical tool. However game design is pretty hard, so there have to be rules of thumb to help amateurs make a balanced, playable game.
So anyway, here’s my Prezi entitled “Units of Meaning: Videogame Criticism, Literary Analysis, Effective Pedagogy.”
And for the role-playing talk, I was going to write a new paper and create a new presentation, but I was running short on time and decided that I would use the Prezi from my GLS talk in June. So here’s that one again too: