Sunday, March 20, 2016

Situated Learning As a Member of Unity Community



Unity Community, an affinity space for all things Unity and game development is a robust online space with many forums. The study of this space, as part of the University of Colorado Games and Learning Course, is just one of many things cooking in the fire of learning ecology. We have our own interest-driven research, participation in course readings through shared annotation via hypothes.is, we have our play sessions, and play journals or other blog posts. As a participant of the chosen affinity space, I am shaped by these various means of simultaneous learning and production. I am not participating in the affinity space as a typical person looking for self-improvement through production of games or game assets, rather my participation so far is more of observation and research. The depth of topics and technology involved in this space is incredibly vast. Therefore, I have chosen to focus on “Game Design,” “Teaching,” and “Works in Progress” forums.

Identity and influence

My initial participation was with the Game Design forum. I posted a comment in the “Clicker Games” thread. But there has not been too much activity there. However, by looking more closely at the thread, and the “Game Design” forum, I discovered Gigiwoo as the moderator. When I looked at his profile, I was able to find out more about him on his web page goodgamesbydesign.com. I was surprised to find a number of resources for game design including “Game Design Zen” podcasts and YouTube videos. There is also a comments section on his web page for each podcast where more discussion can be seen. This is a reminder of the multilayered depth many affinity spaces involve. There’s the forum itself in the affinity space, an avatar and user that interacts with the affinity space, then the person behind this persona and their own website or resources and discussion there. It’s important to understand how others are situated in the affinity space when interacting. Some members may be more inclined to game production, others to theory, others are just starting out looking for direction, and many other possible scenarios. It’s also crucial to pick out certain members as key participants to understand why they are situated this way in the space, and what they offer to the community. In the case of Gigiwoo, he acts as a mentor for design theory and discussion as a video game industry veteran with a lot of experience. And as moderator, he has the ability to spread his influence and direct discussions.

I wanted to see what Gigiwoo is all about. So I started listening to his podcasts because the topics genuinely peaked my interest. I initially had my guard up about this because some focus of the affinity space itself is removed by being a participant on another website or affinity space, although related to Unity Community. However I thought listening to these podcasts were critical to understand how the moderator of the “Design” forum is situated. Where is he coming from? What does he do? What topics concern him? How does this influence Unity Community? Some of the podcast topics are directly related to games development, some are related to life issues around games and quality of work, and other topics are more abstract theory about games. Of course, topics directly related to games are interesting, however I found topics more about life, focus, and quality of work to be most applicable to me as a person situated in the affinity space.

What I learned about myself and how I am situated

As a learner, a non-traditional adult student, with a full time job, a part time job, and a student in a graduate course. As a gamer, artist, designer and participant in an affinity space ̶ it’s a lot to juggle! The podcast “20: How Do You Do it? Three Tips For Getting Things Done,” really made me think about my habits and how I “do it.” I never really assessed myself in these ways. Moving through life assuming more and more responsibilities and interests, on top of profound levels of communication, phone calls, texts, instant messages, forums, social media, hypothes.is, emails, etc. there are many ways to get distracted. Thinking about “quality of work - all work is not the same,” and “focus” was a wonderful reminder about how I should spend my time. Perhaps these are good things for Unity enthusiasts and developers and people getting started in games to consider? It definitely speaks to me and participants in the thread dedicated to Game Design Zen podcasts in the Unity “Game Design” forums.

Understanding identity

The point is, in an affinity space like Unity Community, it’s easy to interact with someone in a forum, but there is so much more to discover by learning how key members are situated, and reflecting on yourself as a member of the space. What do I have to offer to this community? What will others expect from me based on the information I provide with how I am situated? Being aware of these things can help myself and others be conscious of the identity crafted by interaction in the space. By picking out topics and discussions concerning specific things where I can offer my expertise will help shape this identity. I hope to create some sense of this before the affinity space project is completed. I’m looking forward to learning more about how my own identity will take shape and how others have created an identity in Unity Community.