My Research in a Nutshell, or Haters Gonna Hate

Working on my third-year review document and I wrote this summary of my research. Thought I encapsulated it rather well, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share it here:

My research resides at the intersection of creative writing studies, games and game-based learning, and digital pedagogy. The site of my research is the undergraduate creative writing classroom, where I use digital tools such as wikis and Google maps to create a semester-long, collaborative writing project where students create a fictional world and populate it with people, places, and things. Throughout the process, I foreground questions that require students to think critically about the social forces at play in a given world and how these forces apply pressure on individuals differently, based on factors such as their race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The students experience the world through role-playing sessions, where their unique characters explore the fictional space and have to make decisions based on the situations their characters encounter. This approach transforms the classroom into a dynamic environment where, through the combination of collaborative writing and the open-endedness of role-playing game narratives, students feel their choices genuinely matter, both in the game world and in the course. In addition, they gain experience working in teams in digital environments, experimenting with different media in their storytelling, and having to employ their critical faculties during the act of creative production. Needless to say, this game-based research appeals to students at RIT and gives them a unique learning experience they’re unlikely to find anywhere else.

More than a few people in my profession are skeptical when I talk about games and game-based approaches, assuming (quite wrongly) that this is pandering to our students and giving them an easy out, when they should be grappling with traditional academic texts and questions. Of course, these critics can’t be bothered to actually learn about what it is I actually do in these classes, or consider the theoretical and pedagogical principles at work, or even just get past their own preconceived notions of what constitutes a game—or what constitutes deep learning, for that matter.

I’m not exactly torn up about this. Between the volume of stuff I’m getting published—and increasingly being solicited to write—and the line of students waiting outside my office, I’ll somehow find a way to survive.

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