Making Games for Environmental Design Education: Revealing Landscape Architecture

Making Games for Environmental Design Education: Revealing Landscape Architecture

Christopher M. Marlow (Ball State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2012040104
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This paper features a pilot study about making games to foster good contemporary learning, challenging traditional environmental design education to embrace games as inspiration for better teaching, learning, and contributing to the general lack of investigation of video games in environmental design education. Alongside select literature supporting playing and making games for learning, this paper reveals design processes and products from an immersive, interdisciplinary, landscape architecture elective course on game design. Evidence suggests that designing and making games in the context of such an environmental design curriculum has potential to stimulate traditional pedagogies and foster student learning, providing an enriched venue for students to learn about their chosen discipline, and make teaching and learning enjoyable, meaningful, and memorable. Discussion also indicates future directions for how the course could provide an even better environment for quality learning.
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There is a three-part purpose for this paper. One part is a response to a call to action – to make games on purposeful content to embody what good contemporary learning is all about (Harel Caperton, 2010), one part personal desire to challenge and energize traditional environmental design education to celebrate gaming as a means to inspire innovative teaching and learning for our digital native students, and one part is a contribution to the lack of research on video games in environmental design education (particularly Landscape Architecture). In essence, this paper highlights a pilot project for an ongoing study of games and learning in landscape architecture. Although it does not present statistical analysis to demonstrate significance or prove something, it does present a compelling account of the educational benefits that a unique game design elective course had and could have in a landscape architecture curriculum that does not typically support (for curriculum and personnel reasons) or endeavor such activities. Evidence suggests that designing and making games provides more and better learning than just playing them.

Why Landscape Architecture? Simply put, it is among the most ideally suited disciplines in the world for integrating games to augment and energize learning. Landscape Architecture (LA) encompasses the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of the natural and built environments (ASLA, It is a combination of engineering, art, design, horticulture, ecology, natural resources, architecture, and urban planning that ultimately is about fitting people to the land and fitting the land to people. Despite the fact that the profession is often misunderstood, frequently underappreciated, and almost always a victim of severely limited public perception, the United States Department of Labor (2010) has identified LA as among the fastest growing (projected 20% growth through 2018), most in-demand (for site/environmental planning, design and remediation), and most important careers of the future. The LA discipline is well situated to be the subject of, and active agent for, a variety of good and useful games.

Current LA pedagogies are largely built on the studio model of learning, where exploration & discovery lead to creative and functional project-based problem solving. Although generally successful, studio pedagogies have been relatively unchanged for decades. In particular, recent years have revealed the need to see our students more engaged and enthusiastic, and striving for higher levels of achievement in learning (and teaching) Landscape Architecture. The expectation here is that games and gaming technologies can provide a creative outlet where environmental design students can learn more and differently about their chosen discipline.

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