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.
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 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 →
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.
If 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 →
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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.
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!
In 34 days, Michigan State University is hosting the biannual conference, Meaningful Play, a three day extravaganza of presentations, panels, workshops, discussions, and game exhibitions from frontrunners in academia and the game industry centered around meaningful play, or meaningful interactions, or playful interactions.
Dr. Casey O’Donnell, Meaningful Play chair, is excited for the event, stating that the limitless potential of games makes them an important field of study. “What makes games beautiful is that they play well,” he says. “Life doesn’t play very well.” He continues, “what makes games really scary is that they feel good. It feels good to be able to win, because you don’t all that often. It’s this quality that makes games so strong a force.” O’Donnell worries about the ethical implications behind creating games, creating compelling, perhaps even addictive experiences. Part of this conference is exploring more about how we make sense of the systems we create.
“Why am I worried about slot machines? Because it’s the collapse of meaning. Games plug in to something that we need as a species. And the slot machine thrives on that need. At the same moment, we have this very powerful, meaningful, cultural form, and then we have the power, perhaps the temptation, to collapse meaningfulness back to addiction. Setting up the person who loses all their money to the slot machine. But the conversation is important—games are part of how we make sense of the world around us. And maybe some people do find sense in the slot machine.”
O’Donnell will be discussing these thoughts from his paper, Crafting Meaningful Play: Care and Meaning Making in/as/of/through Games, Thursday, October 16 during the conference, just one of many exciting and interesting talks, including 6 invited keynotes by researchers and game designers, 45 peer-reviewed papers, presentations on the latest game research, 13 exciting panel and roundtable discussions, 5 hands-on workshops, a poster session featuring 20 late-breaking advances and work-in-progress reports , and an exhibition of 41 innovative games.