Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Life of Play, A Personal Introduction to Games Based Learning

(Kirk Lunsford - Pixelated)

Spring semester, the juggling act of teaching part time, working part time, and taking graduate courses at it’s finest. Which sometimes manifests itself in a game-like fashion! I’m an adjunct instructor at Front Range Community College, and I also work as a freelance designer, and I’m a graduate student at University of Colorado Denver studying Information and Learning Technologies. I’ve taught CAD and Interior Design courses since late 2012. Some of the classes I’ve taught focus on asset creation for video game-like scenarios. I’ve never used games in the classroom (in the way I would really like to use them) because it would break the requirements of the course provided by the state guidelines (CCNS). But my CAD students are incredibly interested in games. I often wonder if my students would learn more if they were tasked to create assets for a game of their own through one of the free to use engines such as Unity 3D? Instead of course instruction focused strictly on a single unit of software such as Autodesk 3Ds Max. I’m really interested in providing diverse instruction through a variety of software and techniques to reach a the ultimate goal of any higher ed instructor, to prepare students for acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to be prepared for their career.

It is because of my interest in games, as well as my students, that I decided to take Remi Holden’s Games and Learning course. I have a background in video game creation working as a conceptual and environment / level artist, and sometimes user-interface design. I was also fortunate enough to work on an incredibly ambitious game with a small team of developers Jumpgate Evolution. Each person on this team was valued for not only their programming, artistic, or design abilities, but also their continued assessment of the quality of the game through play testing. Playtesting by watching others play the game and taking notes which lead to action, or daily development team playtesting scheduled by the producer. I spent considerable amounts of time studying video games and what makes them tick. Why are they fun? Why are they dull? Why do some games make tons of money while others bankrupt a company? Why do some developers spend years developing a product that never makes it to market? I experienced situations that would lead me to an answer to all of these questions, but I never asked myself any of the questions regarding how people learn with games. If learning through playing a game is fun, could that be the answer to many of the challenging questions developers face to create rich experiences in their products? As an educator, could games based learning be the answer we seek to otherwise dull, outmoded, forms of instruction?

Before I fully embark on another journey of discovery with Remi Holden and my colleagues at University of Colorado Denver, I will briefly, describe in more detail my experiences with “play” and games so everyone knows where I’m coming from. When I say briefly, I really mean this, as I had to edit my list of experiences to just a few key influencers. In fact, when I asked myself how I would describe my “history of play,” I realized a great portion of my life could nearly be defined in games. It is also of great importance to note “games” are not exclusive to video games. Games can be board games, sports or physical games, card games, tabletop games, etc. All of which are worthy of note and study in games based learning theory. I’ve broken apart my history of play by decade so we can see the progression of technology (and my age) as well as potential trends over time. Here we go!