Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Learning Reflections of Games & Learning Part 2

Understanding of games and learning

During cycles 4-5 in the Games & Learning course at UC Denver, the way in which I think about games, gaming cultures, and affinity spaces have been transformed. Most of the research conducted during this phase has been on gender issues surrounding gaming culture. Topics about gender in game cultures are interesting to me for several reasons. Firstly, I am a white male who is privileged to be positioned in gaming culture as the dominant “norm.” However I do not identify with dominant white heteronormative culture. None the less, just by being present in some gaming communities, one could assume that I would or could perpetuate sexist or biased notions by being privileged as such. Because of this, it is very important that I do understand these issues. And as an educator, especially in settings where I may be implementing game based learning scenarios, it’s critical to exemplify fairness and equality and understand gender issues that may come to light during game play and gaming community experiences.

Secondly, I teach courses in a program where females make up approximately 95% of the student body. I don’t think this will be the case throughout my career but it certainly matters to me in how I am perceived as being a male instructor to a female dominant class. And how does the influence of the male instructor and perhaps one male student in a classroom of 16 change the dynamic? If I were to implement some GBL in these classrooms, would gender issues arise based on gameplay and subjects in the games? Based on minimal research I would suspect “yes” as it’s fairly easy to assume most games are created by males who are mostly ignorant to gender issues. Thus, likely to perpetuate tropes against women. And would the culture in the classroom assume some things based on the prevalent male culture in gaming media and communities? Like men assuming they would be better prepared to play games than women because of the association with gaming and dominant male culture. Or perhaps some students would be involved in affinity spaces or modding communities. It’s possible they may face some discrimination or biases based on gender identity. It’s especially important to understand these scenarios as they are likely to come to light at some point in time during game based learning situations.

My latest research, as well as cycle 4 readings have helped me explore gender in more detail as can be seen in two blog posts and ongoing annotated discussions via open course texts.

Will Video Games Become "Gender Neutral"?

The Sims 2 and Gender, Not so "Nurturing"

Peer Networking to improve learning

Through both peer play sessions, and social networking, mostly via Twitter and blogging, my understanding of games and learning has been enhanced this term. Although during the phase in the course in which this reflection concerns, I have done less networking via Twitter than before. Instead the focus in networking has been on the affinity space, Unity Community, and supporting sites and blogs. However I have not abandoned Twitter, I still used it to network in different ways with less educational focused individuals, and rather, gamers and game developers. Using the hash tag #gamedev and #unity3d has helped me acquire some followers and helped me introduce myself to indie game developers. Some people have asked me to check out their game and give them some feed back, etc. I’ve also met some friendly bots who have helped broadcast my messages.
I have also reached out to Curtiss Murphy, a moderator for Unity Community (otherwise known as Gigiwoo) “Game Design” forum, via Twitter, Unity Community forums, and his website blog. I have also reached out to some other members of Unity Community. Although so far the discussions have appeared somewhat one sided (no one has directly responded to me) I have learned about community members via their resources and profile pages. I have learnt how Curtiss Murphy in particular is situated in Unity Community as a veteran game designer. He has numerous resources on his website for members interested in learning more about game design. Such as his game design zen podcast and associated blog discussion. Several of Curtiss’s podcasts have helped me learn about game design and in general life issues around the games business. The podcasts also shows how Curtiss is situated as a mentor and game design veteran for Unity Community. This networking, although one sided and observatory, is a big part of understanding game communities and affinity spaces.
There are three blog posts associated with ongoing developments with the affinity space project for the course:

My Affinity With Unity 3D

Situated Learning As a Member of Unity Community

Is Unity Community a Nurturing Affinity Space?

What can I do to improve engagement in the affinity space project?

Becoming a participatory member of Unity Community has been interesting. There are many forums covering many topics with many threads. The threads seem to mostly be about an individual problem or topic rather than general concerns. Because of this, it seems like engagement by users is limited to 1-2 comments per thread, then they move on. Some comments are never addressed as users tend to skip over some postings to focus on another. Not because a particular post was off topic or “trolling” necessarily, but because there are other, more comments to address maybe more interesting. I have commented in detail on several threads but I have not received any direct responses. I am not sure if this is because of lack of interest about what I am saying? Or if the forum thread is “dead?” Maybe my profile does not indicate enough “status” or credibility for someone to take note? My next approach to improve engagement may be to say less in a post but post more times to several different people. I may also try to create an asset or idea about a game or game object and allow members to critique this. By taking the next step and producing artifacts for the community to consume I do believe I can become a more “included” community member.

What are my curiosities about games and learning moving forward?

As I move neck deep into the affinity space project, I'm really curious to learn more about Unity Community members and what drives them to participate. What do they learn about games and game creation by engagement in the space? There are a few filters in the interface for Unity Community to search for profiles based on number of postings, likes, etc. I would like to take a more in depth look at these users with the most amount of posts and see how they are situated in the space. Are they currently employed as a game developer? Are they a hobbyist? Do they work for Unity as a moderator or community enthusiast? How did they become so involved with Unity Community? By being extremely active members I’m sure there will be some evidence to demonstrate what these members are learning about games and games creation. I’m interested to find out if there are some particular things that are explored more in depth, as it concerns games and learning, by creating games or games assets than what could be experienced through playing a game only. Ultimately, I would like this inquisitive focus to allow me to explore more completely the affinity space project and round out the experience to be presented towards the end of this month.