Welcome! Seriously! Playfully!

The Media and Information department at Michigan State University offers an undergraduate specialization in game design and development, an MA degree with concentration in HCI and emphasis on games and meaningful play, a PhD in Media and Information Studies, and a 3 course graduate certificate in serious games that can be completed on campus or fully online. November 15 is the deadline for Spring 2015 admission.

The Games and Meaningful Play group of faculty and students and the GEL Lab (Games for Entertainment and Learning) bring together diverse experts who design and study meaningful play and serious games.   Our motto is, CHANGE THE WORLD WITH US.  If you’re interested, we’d love to have you join us.

Meaningful Play Comes to an End

As the unofficial official photographer at Meaningful Play 2014, you might have seen me creeping around, taking sneaky candid photos, or straight out pointing a lens in your face. But from behind my lens, I had a great view of interesting people, fun discussions, and what seemed to be a good time.

Outside of the presentations and panels, conversations kept the hallways alive, as people recounted their current experiences, talking about the themes of games, race, sexism, and others. And oftentimes, these conversations made their way into the twittersphere, many of which illustrated the emotions, thoughts, and fun of my photos.

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Besides fostering discussions between conference goers, there was also a game room, packed with non-digital games and tables that people could play, somewhat similar to the poster and game session that occurred on the evening on the 17th. This event featured many displayed digital and non-digital games that attracted players. It was here where I saw a large amount of smiling and curious faces, probably what I remember most from Meaningful Play.

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The poster and game session enveloped much of the same atmosphere surrounding the conference, which was that of friendly, safe spaces to talk about meaningful games and games in general.  It was during these few hours and days that conference goers (researchers, game industry professionals, faculty, students, and players) came together to celebrate current games and games as a medium for more than just entertainment.

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For more Meaningful Play, visit the Meaningful Play flicker stream and check out the #Mplay tweets.

APPLY NOW: Online Graduate Certificate in Serious Games due Nov 15

November 15 is the deadline to apply for January admission to Michigan State University’s fully online Serious Game Graduate Certificate program for January admission.

The program consists of three graduate courses: Foundations of Serious Games (intro to the field, game design with a serious twist), Theories for Game and Interaction Design, and Understanding Users (approaches and methods for understanding players at all stages of the design process).  Together they provide you with a formal academic framework for thinking about and designing meaningful play.

Game Night at the Meaningful Play 2014 featured 33 digital games that offered diverse forms of meaningful play.

Game Night at the Meaningful Play 2014 featured 33 digital games and 9 non-digital games that offered diverse experiences of meaningful play.

Serious games are games with a purpose beyond entertainment.  They can be educational games, persuasive games, games for health, games to change the world, games for work, games as work, and more.  For example, MSU just hosted the Meaningful Play conference. Games exhibited included astronaut exergames, mental health games, games about mosquitoes, microbes, mathland, and surviving the zombie apocalypse, music games, calculus games, hero games, museum games, safe sex games, games to prevent violence against women, recycling games, Jewish culture games, saving money games, meditation games and making games. Continue reading

Meaningful Play 2014:  Get ready for radical transformation!

by Carrie Heeter

If you’re looking for answers to the challenges of racism, sexism, and video games: social justice campaigns and the struggle for gamer identity, you’ll find those answers embodied in the presenters and attendees of Meaningful Play 2014.  Lisa Nakamura begins the dialog with her preconference Quello Lecture and discussion Wednesday evening, October 15.

Meaningful Play MonsterIf you’re thinking Nakamura’s lecture is the only time such issues will be addressed at the conference, think again.  Opening keynote Mia Consalvo will discuss challenges such as marginalization of our work in game studies and an increasingly loud pushback against greater diversity. She’ll talk about moving forward and making play increasingly meaningful to all of us.

Megan Gaiser, one of the first female CEO’s in the game industry, will share her vision for contagious creativity and leadership.

Drew Davidson, head of the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon will celebrate the creative chaos that emerges with a wide diversity of content experts.

Attendees will be treated to panels, papers, and roundtable discussions about affection games, empathy games, other people simulators, representing culture, community and identity, gender, inclusive game design, & gaming culture.  Don’t miss sessions on diversity, games for the blind, crowdsourcing games, online game fraud, and race/ethnicity/diaspora. And of course, games for learning, games for K-12, University games, and games for older adults. And much more. Continue reading

Meaningful Play Monster Giveaway!

Only 14 days until the Meaningful Play Conference is here in East Lansing, along with its large showcase of keynotes, papers, panels, presentations, and games.

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But we want to know…

What does meaningful play mean to you?

Answer for a chance to win one snazzy Meaningful Play Monster T-shirt. This year’s theme: Meaningful Play Monsters (You’ll have to come to the conference to see the other two Monster designs).

Answers can range from the serious to the silly, from a definition to an experience, and anything in between–meaningful play related, of course!

Entries must be through one or both of the following means:

Leave us a “Like” and your answer on our Facebook wall,

OR

Tweet #MPMeans with your answer and follow us on Twitter.

Anyone can enter! The winner will be selected randomly, maximum two entries per person (one on Facebook, one on Twitter), and announced next Thursday, October 9.

We’re looking forward to your thoughts and making one lucky reader 100 times swankier!

 

 

Now THAT’s a Serious Game. Seriously.

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Joshua Mills, Studio Director at Relevant Games

Joshua Mills, Studio Director at Relevant Games

 

Most tower defense games ask players to destroy or incapacitate inbound mobs in order to save towers, but a new upcoming game demands that players keep the mobs alive in order to win because the tower is actually a slaughterhouse and the mobs are your livestock. In Fat Chicken, you play a factory farm manager and your job is to keep all your cows, chickens, and pigs fat and full of antibiotics.

I recently met with current serious game certificate student and studio director at Relevant Games, Joshua Mills, to discuss the behind the scenes and inner workings of Fat Chicken.  At Relevant Games, the goal is to take a topic and create fun, engaging games. “In Fat Chicken,” Mills says, “we have this happy, cute world but the premise is hormones, antibiotics—you’re doing this horrible thing to them.” It’s through that juxtaposition that satire is successfully used to engage in the issue. The game itself concentrates on the three main viewpoints of factory farming, from the extreme—meat is murder—to the business side of it—there’s a demand, we need it—to the inhumanity of the practice.

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Mills sees the game as a way to view an issue in a different light and consider what comes and goes on dinner tables. “Maybe I should know a little more about what I’m eating and where it comes from. Is there a way to meet demand and treat animals humanely if consumers as whole will demand that?” These are some of the questions Mills hopes players will ask themselves, confident that intrinsic motivations will touch the conscience of a larger audience than traditional media outlets alone.

“Draggers. If an animal dies close to the slaughterhouse, someone comes out and brings it in. Draggers are a real thing. We didn’t make that up.”

As he finishes the serious game certificate, Mills recalls some of the benefits he gained throughout the program as he simultaneously ran Relevant Games. “I’ve been doing the program alongside starting this venture with the company, and it’s been a huge advantage to have people who you can bounce ideas off of, who break down the serious aspects of games,” he says. “You have a group of people with such different views and perspectives; it just helps me see as a designer all the different facets of an issue. I can’t tell you how important it’s been ‘cause without the class conversations, I don’t know how we would have made this game.”

Despite the fact that Mills thought a fully online serious games certificate would mean that he would be learning in isolation, Mills discovered that it was much the opposite. He has had the ability to have discussions around, not just the class content and projects, but other people’s opinions on theories about games. Learning how to implement theory into serious games and being able to explore issues helped Mills in the design of Relevant Game’s newest creation.

“In Fat Chicken, you’re deciding to inject cows with hormones. Right or wrong, you’re doing it. Maybe shooting corn into an animal’s mouth is not the best way to feed it.”

Thinking about future serious game students, Mills ended with “All I can say is don’t be afraid to push your work in the direction you think it should be, not where it is. Don’t limit your thinking to what exists but at the same time, take from the ideas of others to inform new ideas.”

Fat Chicken will appear alongside the other peer-review-selected games at the Meaningful Play 2014 Conference, October 16th to 18th.

For more information on either the fully online or in-person serious game design graduate program, visit http://seriousgames.msu.edu/ma-certificate. The deadline to complete applications for Spring semester 2015 is approaching fast—November 15th!