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Mon, Jan. 9th, 2006, 11:33 pm
That’s Ms. Professor To You

I registered for classes for next semester tonight, and discovered that my name is entered into the “Faculty” section of the registration site. Yes, I am faculty, as I’ll be teaching a course on game design and education this coming semester. I think it’ll be quite interesting - which is a good thing, I suppose, as I doubt the students would find it interesting if I didn’t. I’m building the syllabus to teach them game design first, and then spending the last month of the semester talking about specific “serious games” and educational applications of everything that they’ve learned.

I don’t quite understand why people always want to run before they can walk, when it comes to games. I get other students coming to me all the time with their great new million-dollar game idea - and then when I ask if they’ve ever designed or even seriously played a game before, they give me this blank look. It’s as if they think games fall out of the sky, and whatever is fun for them is going to be fun for everyone who picks up their game. (Even worse: most of the games I see wouldn’t even be fun for the creator!) With the course I’m teaching, I’m trying to communicate that just as you wouldn’t try to compose a sonnet without knowing how to read and write, you need to learn how to read (play) and write (design) games.  Then you can try something that’s even more structurally difficult, like trying to create a game that’s educational, massively multi-player, or otherwise very specific in content or genre.

Hopefully my course will get at least some of my students to see why making games is hard - and also why it’s incredibly fun, compelling and meaningful. If even one of my students comes out of the course realizing that a) games are a language and b) that the language of games communicates certain things (process, social interaction) better than others (factually-oriented academic content), then I will have scored one for the good guys.