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Fri, Jan. 20th, 2006, 05:27 am
Meetings and Greetings

Had a meeting this afternoon with some folks from Columbia and some folks from NYU, trying to get some kind of game research organization started here in New York. Somehow, despite all the universities here, there hasn’t yet managed to be a critical mass of game students - but with Parsons and NYU and Columbia all starting major game initatives, that’s changing fast. Go us.

The meeting went pretty well, I thought. We’ve got Plans(tm) and I think at least some of them will actually happen. We’re already running a calendar of game events, and we’re building a website, and we’re hoping to have a game showcase at the end of the year, and I’m still percolating on other ideas. This is a good thing.

The best thing about the conversation, though, was meeting other people who are struggling with the same ideas that I am. Some of the faculty at Columbia are really trying to push me in the direction of, “Make educational software! Make games that are good in the classroom!” This only makes me want to shoot myself.

What I’m interested in is a more profound sort of education - how games can support creative practice, or create social and emotional transformations, or restore the pleasure of learning and exploration and inquiry. I’m quite uninterested in the classroom, and I think games have serious conflicts with the classroom setting in any case. (Kevin Leander gave a great talk about how the affordances of the internet and the affordances of the classroom are at odds at NRC, and I think a lot of what he said applies to games as well. Play is anarchic and has no guarantees - and in our current cultural and political climate, the one thing the classroom is supposed to supply is scheduled, fixed, guaranteed learning. Sigh.) I want to look at play for what it really is, and games for what they really are, and to understand how they function, and what it takes for a game to support human creativity and endeavour. I don’t want to make game-flavored software, or spend my academic career asking questions like, “Do students learn better when the text scrolls or when it blinks on the screen?”

I’ve been quite frustrated with my program and with myself, this last semester - so talking to other students who are trying to get at similar questions was really powerful. I’m not the only one who’s sick of people saying, “But are gaaaames good for educaaaaaation?” That’s good news to me.

Specifically, I’ve got to look up something called affective assimilation, which suggests that learning to use a skill is different from incorporating it into your identity, and also find out what a guy named Michael Reed is doing at NYU. Supposedly he’s working with perception and reasoning about hypertext, which definitely fits into my cognitive-narrative research thread.

I really need to set up some kind of effective research database. Maybe that’s next week’s project.