If you’re interested in game design, you should know Raph Koster. Full stop.
Koster made his reputation working on Ultima Online and augmented it through his work on Star Wars Galaxies (where he worked as Chief Creative Officer). To my mind, though, some of his greatest contributions come via his writing on games and game theory. His deceptively simple A Theory of Fun remains, IMO, one of the best ways to introduce game design to neophytes. But on his personal web site, he has written over a quarter-million words, most of it devoted to elucidating some large or small idea about game design. It’s accessible to non-specialists, well-written (he double-majored in Creative Writing and Spanish, the second of which must have taught him excellent grammar!) , and smart without being precious. Most importantly, it’s content-rich. I could imagine using his blog to supply many readings for a graduate class on game design.
Koster’s done would-be game designers a service by selecting some of his best posts on game theory and design and collecting them under a single heading, which you can access by clicking the link below:
YORK COLLEGE, NY – As the newest member of the CUNY Games Network, I would like to reach out to faculty who might be embarking on their first game by inviting you to follow a personal blog that chronicles the day-to-day challenges in developing games for education. I borrowed the title of the blog from Jessie Schell, who notes that the term “Serious Games,” while sober enough to attract the attention of academics and funding agencies, is actually an oxymoron. Games must be fun and engaging to be successful, even if their ultimate purpose is serious in nature. The idea behind Transformative Games is that game mechanics can be used to inform, teach, and shape behavior. As those who follow the CUNY Games Network are aware, games are excellent learning management systems that are capable of both teaching and assessment. The realtime nature of games allows them to occasion “teachable moments” for “just-in-time learning.” Well designed games adjust task difficulty according to user performance, which facilitates sustained attention, engagement, and learning while minimizing boredom and frustration. Standard psychophysical staircase procedures can be utilized in games to optimize engagement and put the user into a state of “flow,” where time seems to pass very quickly. Transformative Games strive to incorporate everything we know about psychology, neuroscience, education, and game design into the learning experience. As a cognitive neuroscientist, I will be describing the process of game development from a quantitative perspective and doing my best to relate standard procedures in game design to the vast body of knowledge that exists in psychology and neuroscience.
During this summer, I will be working with several high school students, college undergraduates, and programmers to develop a number of games for college freshmen. We only have six weeks to develop the games, collect data, and present the results at a local conference. Consequently, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of valuable lessons to pass along in the next month. I will also document my efforts to unify college professors interested in games at my primary institution, York College. And I am working with others at the CUNY Games Network to develop a CUNY-wide institution for games. Our first task is to develop a conference in April 2013. Finally, I’m also developing simulations in Second Life with the York College Center for Interdisciplinary Health Practice to provide students with tools to practice skills that would otherwise be too expensive or risky to perform in the clinical setting.
Expect major updates every week and sporadic posts along the way. I’ll develop major categories in the future in the event that you only want to follow one of the aforementioned pursuits.
The good folks over at Prof Hacker recently posted a two-part series on using games for teaching and learning. Part 1 is a great introduction to the benefits of bringing games to the classroom, and part 2 offers tips and advice for finding ways to incorporate games into your teaching.
You may have seen our retweet not too long ago, but I also wanted to share a heads up here about an upcoming games unconference: THATCamp Games, which is happening January 20-22, 2012 at the University of Maryland. If you’ve never been to a THATCamp before, here’s what to expect:
THATCamp Games is an unconference, founded as a way to bring together Digital Humanities theorists and practitioners, educational and serious game designers, games enthusiasts and advocates, and humanities instructors and scholars interested in games and pedagogy. THATCamp Games serves as a space to bring together those on all sides of humanities games to engage in challenging and meaningful conversation in hopes of learning from one another.
Applications are open now, so if you’re interested, don’t wait!
Image Credit: hbl