Math game design draft – Space Circus

Space Circus

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McGonnigal, Chapter 1

I thought it was good and smart for McGonnigal to start both with some baseline language/terminology definitions—and with the acknowledgement that even gamers are biased against games today (p. 19). (I count myself amongst the mildly self-loathing.) I thought it set a good tone for relative open-mindedness about the topics she’s looking to explore.

I found particularly interesting one of the points she makes in relation to one of her four defining traits of a game—“a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation” (p. 21, italics in original). In her description of the participation trait, she notes that “the freedom to enter or leave a game at will ensures that intentionally stressful and challenging work is experienced as safe and pleasurable activity” (p. 21). I don’t think I’d ever thought of the freedom to enter or leave a game as that which ensures a game is experienced in such a way.

I wonder, though, about McGonnigal’s statement that “it’s a truism in the game industry that a well-designed game should be playable immediately, with no instruction whatsoever” (p. 26). Is such design aimed at making games more like genuine life experiences, as opposed to separate spaces in which we play around a bit?

Also, if “gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression” (italics in original), can/should (or have some already) we look here for games’ addictive potential and/or what their appeal is for players with certain kinds of learning disabilities?

James Gee, “Good Video Games, the Human Mind, and Good Learning”

Gee notes that his two main points in this chapter are 1) “that good video games… represent a technology that illuminates how the human mind works,” and 2) ”that good video games incorporate good learning principles and have a great deal to teach us about learning in and out of schools, whether or not a video game is part of this learning” (22). A couple of the ways that games accomplish these two things are: “a) they distribute intelligence via the creation of smart tools, and b) they allow for the creation of ‘cross functional affiliation,’ a particularly important form of collaboration in the modern world” (26). This point, in particular, stuck out for me, in part because of Gee’s further explanation: “This form of affiliation—what I will call cross-functional affiliation—has been argued to be crucial for the workplace teams in modem “new capitalist” workplaces, as well as in modern forms of social activism” (28). This formulation made me think of Hardt and Negri’s political conceptualization of Empire and Multitude and made me want to see if anyone’s written anything about such a potential connection…

Michele D. Dickey, “Engaging By Design: How Engagement Strategies in Popular Computer and Video Games Can Inform Instructional Design”

I found Dickey’s article to be one of the most exciting we’ve read all term. I now believe that one of my unconscious hopes in entering the DMDL program is that someone in the field was thinking about (and acting on) many of the issues that Dickey raises. Dickey’s thesis is that the strategies and tactics that computer and video game designers incorporate in order to thoroughly engage players in gameplay can and should be examined for potential uses in education—and instructional design—today. The path that Dickey takes through this landscape of possibilities (vast in 2005; even more vast today) is “an overview of the trajectory of player positioning or point of view, the role of narrative, and methods of interactive design” (67). A couple of points that stuck with me more than others on this path is the notion of utilizing narrative devices such as backstory and cut scenes in designing for engaged learning. Considering where in the design field I might take myself in the future, I wonder if the following statement by Dickey is still true: “little has been written about the pragmatic application of narrative in instructional materials, and how to create compelling narratives to support multiple learning activities in complex, multifaceted environments, and to sustain interest over time” (74). This point—as well as many others throughout the article, really—also made me think of (and made me think to look more into) the Quest to Learn charter school in Manhattan.