Balancing Entertainment and Educational Objectives in Academic Game Creation

Balancing Entertainment and Educational Objectives in Academic Game Creation

Christopher A. Egert (Rochester Institute of Technology, USA) and Andrew M. Phelps (University of Canterbury, New Zealand & American University, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2015-4.ch008

Abstract

Production experiences are important to the educational progression of game design and development students. Coursework that leads to a quality deliverable is highly desirable by students, faculty, and industry for both pedagogical and portfolio purposes, including a focus on multi-disciplinary teamwork, and professional practice at scale. Despite the impetus to provide meaningful production experiences, successful execution within an academic context can be difficult. The situation is further exasperated when the result of the production experience is more than just an entertainment product – i.e. a game that embodies and facilitates a learning outcome. This chapter presents the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from two cases in which the authors created a production-oriented classroom experience utilizing a game studio model. The authors also address the balance between entertainment goals and learning outcomes in educational game production, including how such balance influences faculty and learner comprehension of design and process techniques.
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Background

The concept of production-oriented coursework, especially for capstone experiences, is not new in the computing disciplines or in the studio arts. The literature is full of examples of such offerings for computer science (Chamillard & Braun, 2002; Engelsma, 2014; Vanhanen, Lehtinen, & Lassenius, 2012), information technology (Gorka, Miller, & Howe, 2007), and software engineering (Reichlmayr, 2006). Similarly, most undergraduate degrees in studio art conclude with a capstone or senior show of some form. These experiences share common themes through their desire to synthesize knowledge and skills from prior courses and apply that ability towards a particular project or theme (Umphress, Hendrix, & Cross, 2002).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Game Design and Development Programs: Classification of academic programs that address both the overall selection and balance of creative elements that define a game experience and the act of constructing a viable experience. These programs are characterized by their primacy around the creation of an entertainment experience.

Game Learning Outcome: Refers to both the measurable and intrinsic qualities of games that have an additional purpose of providing an educational treatment for a particular subject matter or domain of inquiry.

Game Entertainment Goals: Refers to a game’s ability to engage the player in a combination of fun, engagement, and flow such that the player maximizes a sense of enjoyment and overall satisfaction.

Production Experience: A course or real-world situation in which the focus is the production of a working system or artifact, characterized by problems of reasonable complexity and that require more than a single person to implement the solution.

Shmup: A fast-paced action style of video game exemplified by waves of enemy ships, copious amounts of weapons fire by the player and enemies alike, and recognition of balance and strategy to navigate treacherous patterns.

MAGIC: The RIT Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction, and Creativity. A multi-disciplinary unit consisting of a combined research unit and a semi-commercial game production studio.

Action Painting: A particular mode of painting popularized by Jackson Pollock that deals with motion as part of the creative process. This form is characterized by the visceral nature of the paint’s interaction with the canvas, as rapid motion of the artist’s brush creates the visual representation of the form.

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