Sunday, September 26, 2010

Contemplating creative inquiry: a call for partners

One of the unique features of Ball State is the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, known locally as "the VBC." The center supports seminars that: explore the connections among the arts, humanities, sciences, and technology; create a product to illustrate the interdisciplinary study; and engage the community in a public forum. The faculty and students who spend a semester at the VBC are completely committed to the project: the faculty member is relieved of all other teaching and university service responsibilities, and the students earn full-time credit for their participation. The seminars themselves are held off the main body of campus, in the beautiful and inspiring Kitselman Center.

I am considering applying to run a seminar in the next academic year, having talked the possibilities over with a few key people, including my department chair and the director of the center. A VBC seminar would be the natural evolution of my work on game design and development. All of my previous projects share a common shortcoming, namely that they have been shoehorned into 3-credit experiences under conventional university scheduling constraints. A VBC seminar is an opportunity to collaborate with students in a legitimate studio environment. In practical terms, we would really be an indie game studio.

I would like to use the seminar to create a game, created by following principles of agile software development. The two missing specifics are the community partners and the game itself. One compelling idea is to build upon my experience with the Morgan's Raid project to make another explicitly educational game for school-age children, potentially on the Underground Railroad. I already have collaborators and potential community partners for such a project, and creating software for K-12 has a high impact factor. Another option is to make something subversively educational. I agree with Raph Koster's theory that fun and learning are intrinsically tied, and it would be a great design exercise to make something superficially "simply fun" that, in fact, teaches 21st-century values.

This post is both a reflection and a call for partners. If you are part of an organization that has a compelling story to tell, or are in the games industry and want to explore strategic partnerships on community-focused developments, or you have a crazy idea that just might work, let me know. You can leave comments here of course, or you can email me (firstname.lastname at gmail). VBC application materials are due at the end of the calendar year, so there's time to bounce ideas around.

Thanks for reading. By the way, if you're a BSU student who will be around next year, think about participating and spread the word. I want the cream of the multidisciplinary crop!

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