Appreciating Games Through Learning How To Make Them

When I was undergrad, I learned to juggle; ever since then, I’ve taken far more enjoyment in watching good juggling because I have an appreciation of just what’s involved.

And going by the evidence of student feedback from the the last presentation of our Digital Worlds course, the same appears to be true of students who are also game players. That is, they have learned to see more in the games they play – and appreciate them far more – from studying how games are designed and developed, as well as marketed and sold.

Anyway, last week I gave a talk about some of the student activities in T151, which is how the course is referred to in OU-land… As ever, the slides don’t make a lot of sense without me there to talk over them, but for anyone who was at the presentation, they may serve as a reminder of some of the key points…

(Hmm – slideshare does appear to be having trouble with my title slides at the moment… There were also video clips of games created by some of the students as part of the course assessment, but I’ve removed those from the slideshare presentation.)

One of the things that seemed to go down particularly well was a video I showed of the interactive Freemind mindmap view of the course:

If you’re interested in what the course covers, peer closely at the above image! The course also includes a weekly activity session where students build their own arcade games, starting with a maze game and moving on to a platform game. The end of course assessment includes the required production of a game design document, and optionally the submission of screenshots and programming documentation for an implementation of the game. Students are also introduced to a variety of quick-to-get-started online tools, such as Xtranormal.

Long time readers may remember I’ve posted on the use of mindmaps for navigating online content before (e.g. MindMap Navigation for Online Courses) but from the talk I got the impression this idea was new to many, which is why I’m re-mentioning it now.

Another innovative characteristic of the course is the way it is structured. Each week is based around one or two topic explorations, plus a practical activity. The Topic Explorations have a regular structure based around resources that are linked to on the public web. This includes content from the Digital Worlds uncourse blog. I’ve been arguing for well over two years now that the uncourse structure is a very powerful one, but most people don’t see it (Canadians seem to be the exception!;-) Anyway, there was a good example of how the uncourse structure supports reuse over the last couple of days, inspired by a post on the Guardian Technology Games blog by Charles Arthur about tax breaks for game developers: OK, so you get tax breaks for video games – now define ‘video game’.

Hmmm, I thought… Hmmm…. There are some posts about that on Digital Worlds, tagged “what is a game”… and lo, a micro-course was born: What is a Game? microcourse, generated as a thread of posts tagged in a particular way.

(WordPress geeks will see the URL includes the WordPress trick I posted recently.)

This idea of a micro-course – a brief intro to a particular or topic, or overview of an area, drawn from OU course content and activities is one I first used years and years ago (Robotics minicourse), so it was nice to rediscover it as an idea. I also think that with a minor bit of tweaking, it could sit very nicely as a model for demonstrating how we might be able to make use of OERs in a really practical way?

Anyway, anyway, the fully blown T51 Digital Worlds course is presenting again for 10 weeks from the start of May, so if you;re interested, there’s still time to register…

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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