Friday, October 30, 2015

Symposium on Games in Academia Redux

I wrote about planning the Symposium on Games in Academia about two weeks ago. The Symposium took place last week, and I would definitely call it a success. Approximately 50 attendees came to the symposium to hear fourteen speakers talk about the intersection of games and higher education.
The crowd before the afternoon coffee break
I had the opportunity to give the opening remarks, so I talked about some of the inherent problems of games in education: that we know that games can teach, but we don't really know what they teach, or how they teach, or in some cases, what they even are. It's a perfect storm for future research! I shared one of my favorite stories from my own work, how students playtesting a Morgan's Raid paper prototype concluded that George Ellsworth was a wizard: it wasn't the designer's intent that affected what they learned but the individual constructive and social play experience.

We had a variety of door prizes donated by Wizard's Keep, Game Stop at the Muncie Mall, and Aw Yeah Comics, as well as other local philanthropists. One of my favorite talks of the day was given by Joel Bozell, an acquaintance of mine who is immortalized as Brian van Hoose in Knights of the Dinner Table. He spoke about the Muncie and Ball State connections of the long-running comic.

Joel Bozell talks about Knights of the Dinner Table
Another personal highlight was Carisa Lovell's presentation about her experience as an English major on the Collaboration Station team. Most of our discussions have revolved around shared interests and experiences, but in this presentation, she eloquently tied the studio experience to her major.

Carisa Lovell demonstrates Collaboration Station
I took a leadership role in planning the event, and I am grateful for the assistance of Eva Grouling Snider, Jennifer Grouling, and Scott Reinke, who were instrumental in making it a success. My department also generously supported the event both with refreshments and the help of administrative staff. I should mention that Eva designed this clever little fellow, who I think needs to become a mascot for the Serious Games Knowledge Group.

Once we get the attendee list transcribed, I will be sending out a post-symposium survey to gather some assessment data. Some people expressed interest in running another event in Spring; while I am sure there are more people who would be willing to speak, I also worry about gathering too much low-hanging fruit too quickly. Others have mentioned a desire to have a bigger, more formal event next year, perhaps with outside speakers. That, of course, requires a budget, which we don't have. I am hoping that the post-symposium survey will get us a better picture of what our audience thinks, and we can use this to do some planning and perhaps some politicking.

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