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.