It’s Infectious!


Folks say laughing is infectious, but right about now it’s clear that gaming is infectious. It seems that educators and administrators are finally starting to see the educational viability of video games! There are some interesting things going on all over.

Portal Logo

Portal is now required reading in the “Enduring Questions” course at Wabash College here in Indiana (play the free Flash based version here). The course is a 1 credit course that is required for graduation so this is especially important that Portal is the required text. Theater professor Michael Abbott (who blogs and podcasts as The Brainy Gamer) is piloting the course that looks at enduring questions in texts (and also includes texts by Aristotle and Shakespeare). The enduring questions of the course are questions of humanity and “confront what it means to be human and how we understand ourselves, our relationships, and our world.”. How cool would it be to teach that course? I suppose it’s easier to be innovative on an institution wide level when you don’t have all of the large scale institutional rigamarole to deal with. The administration seems to really be behind the course and want to challenge the students in this course. I wonder if there are any large niversities out there that are making the same moves in their general education requirements? (via Technolog)

On that note, my Writing in Virtual Worlds seminar is ROCKING right about now. I am loving being able to engage graduate students on theories of play, fun, and games. Actually taking a whole week’s reading to just think about a definition of play (and next fun) is awesome! We have some real time to kick around meanings and nuances before we jump into talking about games specifically. And having an excuse to play games as homework and in class is pretty damn sweet! This week we played what some folks might call the penultimate RPG, Final Fantasy VII. Unfortunately, we won’t be meeting this week because of Labor Day. Next week we are going to be looking at classic adventure games and their remakes/reinterpretations/??? (if I can swing the technology). I won’t tell you what the games are until next week so as not to spoil the surprise.

One of the biggest issues (I won’t say problems yet) that I can foresee in a class like Writing in Virtual Worlds is resources. There are so many games and types of games that are relevant to the conversations that we will be having and we are really going to need to experience them first hand. I know that other folks have talked about game ROMs and whether they should fall under educational fair use for game design or theory courses. So far we (the participants in my course) are lucky because I have 3 different systems at the office and 30 (yes thirty) systems, going back to the Atari, at home. This gives us access to a lot of the old games with just a trip to my game room or a quick purchase from Ebay. That being said, I can see lugging systems, accessories, and games back and forth to campus (with a two year old who thinks that they are all hers) getting old really quick. I really don’t want to run the risk of losing my stuff. I am wondering about the ethics of using ROMs in class vs. the personal cost of supplying all of these materials for class. Would be nice if the university had games in the library for use like they do at some other places. When someone comes u with a solution (other than holding class at my house) please let me know!

Summer of Love??


Ok, I just couldn’t think of a better title. It’s been a hectic 3 weeks. I have been teaching everyday, have done God knows how many defenses in 2 different departments, been trying to get contracted work done, and plan for my summer class. All while working only own research and writing and trying to keep my family life…livable??

Princess Peanut started baby school this week and I think that this was traumatic for one and all, but things seem to be settling down now. There was some whining and at least 2 attempts to make a run for it today, but no tears while I was in the room. The other kids in her class have also come to realize that I am Pea’s mom and now talk to me in the morning. This baby school thing may work and give me some dedicated writing time!!

My gaming t.v. Is down (again) so much of my gaming has taken place in short spurts late at night after everyone else goes to bed (and until I fall asleep) and on the handheld, which is not helping much in my prep for Fall so we’re going to have to get something worked out on that front soon. But since I mentioned gaming on the handheld I have to say that I finally got sound to playing Zelda: Spirit Tracks after having it out from Game Fly long enough to pay for it twice and I was sooooo disappointed! Was. It just me or was that game just far too easy and “Sweet Joystick” that friggin’ train was just plain old irritating! So I finally sent it on it’s merry way and bought Lego Harry Potter while I wait to see what comes next from Game Fly. I am hoping by some miracle it’s Red Dead Redemption before I lose my willpower and go out and buy it. Have I mentioned that I keep joining Game Fly do that I can by fewer bad games? The method too the madness is that renting them will give me a chance to figure out if I like them before I buy them (demos, in my opinion are too deceptive…some good demos mask bad games and vice versa!). Lego HP is a bit of a guilty pleasure the game play is ridiculously easy at this point, but there is something oddly compelling and addictive about it. maybe it’s the way you move through the narrative or the fact that you get to learn and use new spells (rather than the overly simplistic sword play in Zelda). There is some spatial puzzle gaming going on and since it had been a while since I had played much more than shooters and Heavy Rain it too me a few minutes to shake the puzzle cobwebs off. clearly I need to be keeping my mental faculties sharper!

Coming up on the long weekend my goal is to catch up on my grading, get my contracted work done, and maybe do a bit of gaming.

Planning for Fall Already?


While I was driving home from Indy today I was actually brainstorming my Fall seminar: Writing in Virtual Worlds. The current course description reads:

680V is a graduate seminar that traces the use of virtual worlds as productive writing spaces from building “MOOsays”, conferencing, and holding discussions in the text based MOO/MUD through networking and ethos building in Linden Labs’ Second Life and writing possibilities in Massively Multiplayer Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft (WoW) and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). Not only have these spaces proven to engage writing students, but they have proven to be generative writing spaces for students interested in both professional writing and ethos building and analysis, research, and ethnographic writing.

This graduate seminar will take a historical look at the theories that have been used in the teaching of virtual worlds based course. Readings will include texts such as High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs by Cynthia Ann Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik, New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways for Writing About and in Electronic Environments ed. by John F. Barber and Dene Grigar, Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture by T. L. Taylor, The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds by Jack Balkin and Beth Noveck, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games by Edward Castronova, and The Warcraft Civilization Social Science in a Virtual World byWilliam Sims Bainbridge.

I have decided to break the course into three parts:

I. Writing in Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at the writing/composing that makes up the virtual space. Here is might be the narrative of the game, the code of the MOO, the composition of the world itself, or anything else that comes to mind.

II. Writing with Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at how virtual worlds can be used in the writing classroom. As with the preceding section we’ll start historically and move forward. We’ll read about how virtual worlds have been used in the writing/composition classroom and then move forward to how they are being used now and where we can go from here.

III: Writing about Virtual Worlds: Here be the research component. We’ll look at the research that is done on virtual worlds per se. We can talk about the difference between narratology and ludology and everything in between. Here we can look at rhetoric, process, programming, procedure, etc. and the value that these things have on their own or as a smaller component of something else.

Required games to play (Choose one from each category)

MOOs/MUDs: Lambda, MediaMOO, narrative based MUD (like the Lord of the Rings one)

MMORPGs: WoW, LoTHRO, City of Heroes/City of Villians, Everquest

RPGs/RPG elements: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Heavy Rain (PS3), BioShock, Alan Wake, Mass Effect, (Super)Paper Mario, Hotel Dusk (DS), Again (DS), Dragon Age: Origins, Torchlight (PC or Mac), Final Fantasy (all on all platforms), Animal Crossing (DS or Wii)

Others: Scribblenauts (DS), Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS), Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS), Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Star Wars, Fat Princess, Braid, The Mis-Adventures of P.B. Winterbottom, New Super Mario Brothers Wii

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