eXperience Play

Concurrent Session 5

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Brief Abstract

Text-based video games provide a low-barrier entry point into educational game development. To demystify game development and increase game literacy, participants will use design thinking to prototype games that teach a single concept or short-term lesson.

Presenters

John Stewart is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning for the OU Center for Teaching Excellence. John is interested in developing learning environments to promote digital literacy and opportunities for undergraduate research. Before joining the center, John lectured on history of science at the University of Oklahoma and Missouri University of Science and Technology. He earned his Ph.D. in the History of Science from the University of Oklahoma.

Extended Abstract

Text-based video games provide a low-barrier entry point into educational game development. These games can be developed by instructors for content delivery, and they are also an ideal medium to have students build their own games. Anastasia Salter, Matthew Schmidt, Andrew Tawfik, Lucas Jensen, and many others have shown that students can use Twine and similar easy-to-use game engines to build wonderfully creative games in a variety of courses and educational settings.

Game design challenges the creator to work through the nuances of the concepts they are trying to convey and communicate those ideas in appropriately interesting and challenging ways. While many games seek to maximize ‘fun,’ games can also be a powerful tool for developing empathy through vicarious experiences. Recent games have asked the player to negotiate escaping Syria as a refugee (Syrian Journey), suffer economic hardship (SPENT), and struggle with physical and mental illnesses (Depression Quest). The breadth of game narratives is every bit as wide as that of novels or any other medium.   

In this workshop, participants will start off by playing two Twine games that will introduce them to the utility and efficacy of games in teaching. Participants will then be challenged to develop the smallest possible game that would be useful for their courses. To demystify game development and increase game literacy, participants will use design thinking to conceptualize and prototype games that teach a single concept or short-term lesson.

First, participants will identify choices that are made in their classes. For a political science course, students might be asked to explain the positions in a particular election or whether or not a given person would likely support a war effort. Such choices might be more obvious in the humanities, but even in the physical sciences, thought experiments can be conducted around choice of precipitates or the differences implied by various physics theories.

Once participants identify choices from their own courses, they will use notecards to write out the choice and two options for that choice. The context for these choices can then be fleshed out with one or more cards with narrative. The combination of choice cards and narrative cards will provide an analog prototype of a Twine game. Peer-to-peer discussion will be used to help participants brainstorm ideas for their game and test their prototypes.

At the end of the session, we will encourage participants to either use their own laptops or visit us in the Innovation Lab space to build their game in Twine. By demystifying the design process and focusing on a minimal viable prototype, we hope to get participants far enough in the process of developing a game that they will be driven to finish their games and implement them in their classes.