Serious Game Alumni Interview #7: Joy Hopkins


Another recent graduate of the serious games certificate, Joy Hopkins, works in the corporate world. Currently working at Intel, Hopkins is a financial mastermind, but like many of us, she isn’t tied down to just one field.

So how did Hopkins go from finance to education?

Well, as it turns out, Hopkins has always been interested in education. After graduating with a masters in business, she sought one in educational technology from Michigan State. Intel, like many other corporations, helped fund her new degree, and a conversation with her advisor led her towards serious games, which interested her immediately. “I was telling her about this idea,” she said, “to help Chinese youth with their social skills.” She was instantly sold on the idea of a graduate certificate in serious games.


Her journey began in Foundations of Serious Games, a class about the serious game industry and game design with a serious twist. In that class, Hopkins developed, prototyped, and created a board game about driving titled Test Drive USA. The game aimed to open a discussion among family and friends about the dangers of texting while driving. Hopkins admitted to having hundreds of ideas, but this one was the first to ever be made tangible.

“What I realized during that class is how hard it is to create a usable game. I had all these big ideas, and then whoops, the game kind of plays like Candyland but I’m trying to reach teenagers!”

Hopkins took that valuable experience to her next most memorable course, Understanding Users, in which students created solutions to a design challenge based on the needs and characteristics of a target audience rather than an already formed idea. The design challenge Hopkins chose was how to improve cafeteria recycling behavior at her division in Intel. She called the program she came up with Tarzan, a familiar name often associated with the environment. “I was able to do direct observation in the cafeteria,” she says. “It ended up being really fun, thinking about using 3D signage that people can see. I was so surprised at how much more often they got it right with Tarzan.”

Joy and Prototype - June 2014

“I never thought I was creative enough. I’m into numbers, but the serious game program helped me realize I have a lot of good ideas, and part of my strength is to put things together and make them a reality.”

After completing the certificate, Hopkins feels differently about creativity. “It’s given me the confidence to bring my ideas to life.” Every day, Hopkins applies what she’s learned to better manage projects and understand her users. But her ultimate goal is to apply this knowledge to her current job and also her up and coming company, the Delphius Institute, with the goal of creating online educational solutions to help Chinese youth who struggle with social skills due to academic pressure.

As far as advice to future students and those contemplating entering the program, Hopkins says “You can do it! Oftentimes, you have an idea and you just want to realize that idea and make it happen, but I would say the projects in these classes were very valuable and grounding. Believe in that process; it works.”

Miss Media Summer Camp @ Night

This past month I had the pleasure of serving as an overnight counselor for the Miss Media summer camp, here at MSU. Miss Media caters only to young girls, ages 12 to 17, with some interest, large or small, in technology, specifically game design, TV production, web development, graphic design, and mobile development.  Each day, the girls explored a different field of technology and created projects that were featured in a media showcase at the end of the week.

But that wasn’t really my job. I got to interact with the girls after class. It was my job to keep them safe, happy, and entertained. However, the director, Amanda Krueger, along with the counselors, took it a step further to introduce fun, STEM-related activities in the evening. On Wednesday, we did 3D modeling. On Thursday, we made blinkies, bristlebots, and throwies, which are LED gadgets that the girls decorate with pipe cleaners. And nearly every night, we played video games.


One of our overnight counselors, third from the left, joins in the fun.

It was during this time that the girls bonded. While quite a few of them frequently played video games, for some, this was their first time. They were getting to know themselves as gamers and continuing to develop their love for technology. Over Nintendoland and Mariokart, they honed their skills for button mashing but also strategy. Over Just Dance, they threw everything they ever knew about controllers out the window. Not a single night went by that they didn’t ask to play.


There was teamwork. Frustration. Elation. Devastation. But ultimately, joy, at the ups and downs, ins and outs, that make cooperative video gameplay fun. And it is in my experience that I feel these few short hours helped instill in these girls the feeling of joyful determination, a feeling they took to class every morning, and despite how easy or difficult the projects would be that day, they could take comfort still in their growing technological powers.

It’s difficult to measure exactly what these girls made out with at the end of the week, besides projects and papers, but if I could take a guess, I’d say curiosity. And that alone makes the week worthwhile.



Professor Lisa Nakamura to deliver pre-conference Quello Lecture

Professor Lisa NamakuraMeaningful Play is pleased to announce that Professor Lisa Nakamura will deliver the pre-conference Quello Lecture on Wednesday evening, 7pm, October 15, 2014.

Professor Nakamura is an acclaimed cultural critic of visual representations and mechanics of race, gender, and sexuality in gaming culture, digital media, and transmedia. She is the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor in the American Cultures Department and Screen Arts Department at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The author of four books, numerous academic journal and popular press pieces, her work includes game-related titles such as:

  • Pregnant Sims: Avatars and the Visual Culture of Motherhood on the Web
  • Flag as Inappropriate: Neglected Discourses of Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia in Online Games
  • Queer Female of Color: The Highest Difficulty Setting There Is? Gaming Rhetoric as Gender Capital.
  • Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft
  • Griefing Culture and Incivility on the Internet
  • All the Work without the Worker: Racial Microaggression and the New Orientalism in World of Warcraft
  • Digital Gaming, Racial and Ethnic Identity, and Social Justice

Her insightful analyses help make the invisible visible.

We hope you will join us for a lively discussion. Her talk is open to conference attendees and the general public.

Media and Information Graduate Students Delve Into Emerging VR Tech



With Facebook’s recent acquisition of Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift, a 360 degree virtual reality(VR) headset, the tech-sphere is abuzz with discussions over the future of virtual reality technology and the seemingly infinite amount of possibilities within. Virtual reality, however, has been around for decades, creating ever growing fascination across the globe and in researchers everywhere. Here at the department of Media and Information, two graduate students, Tom Day and me, Lissy Torres, are exploring ways that virtual reality may entice people to live healthier lives.

Having been awarded the Strosacker fellowship by the Communication Arts and Sciences department, Mr. Day is taking a closer look at the exergame potential of the Oculus Rift and the Virtuix Omni, a 360 degree treadmill. But first, our team of two is examining how these two types of technologies affect immersion and presence, and whether those characteristics impact the level of exertion.

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NASA explores Mars using the Oculus Rift headset and the Virtuix Omni treadmill.

Guided by faculty members Dr. Wei Peng, Dr. Casey O’Donnell, and Dr. Carrie Heeter, as well as a certificate in serious games under our belts, we have planned experiments to study the intrinsic motivations of our participants, who will be experiencing Skyrim and Team Fortress in all 360 degrees of VR glory. The research is separated into two experiments with one investigating exertion in cooperative, single-player, and competitive conditions, and the other focusing on immersion and presence with low immersion, or no virtual reality, moderate immersion, with the Oculus Rift, and full immersion, in which the Oculus Rift and the Virtuix Omni are used.

Why do we care? Well, because it’s awesome! But with companies like Facebook entering the fold, the rise of consumer tools for virtual reality could very well be the wave of the future, holding many uncertainties and a goldmine of information and potentials. Can VR inspire gamers to use commercial games for both entertainment and exercise? Will it become a new method of exercise that is fun, and possibly social? There are many questions surrounding the VR field, and we hope to contribute to our own future as gamers and the futures of others.


Meaningful Play Call for Submissions (Deadline [EXTENDED] July 14, 2014)

Meaningful Play 2014
October 16 – 18, 2014
East Lansing, MI, USA

Casey at Meaningful PlayWhether designed to entertain or to achieve more “serious” purposes, games have the potential to impact players’ beliefs, knowledge, attitudes, emotions, cognitive abilities, physical and mental health, and behavior. Central to all of these goals is the idea of Meaningful Play: a player’s sense that actions matter and the context of play matters.

Meaningful Play 2014 is a conference about theory, research, and game design innovations, principles and practices. Meaningful Play brings scholars and industry professionals together to understand and improve upon games to entertain, inform, educate, and persuade in meaningful ways. The conference includes thought-provoking keynotes from leaders in academia and industry, peer-reviewed paper presentations, panel sessions (including academic and industry discussions), innovative workshops, roundtable discussions, and exhibitions of games and prototypes.

Valeta at Meaningful PlayMeaningful Play 2014 and the journal Games and Culture (G&C) have partnered to bring a special issue of G&C containing top papers from the Meaningful Play 2014 conference. Top paper authors will be invited to revise their Meaningful Play paper for publication consideration in the special issue. G&C is a peer-reviewed, international journal devoted to the theoretical and empirical understanding of games and play.

Keynotes this year include:

Greg Lastowka – A Professor of Law at Rutgers School of Law-Camden and a co-director of the Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law. He is the author of Virtual Justice (Yale University Press 2010). He teaches and conducts research on the laws of intellectual property and emerging technologies. Will be giving the Quello Lecture, which occurs the night prior to the start of Meaningful Play.

Jesse Schell is the CEO of Schell Games, a leader in creating transformational games. Jesse currently serves as Distinguished Professor of Entertainment Technology at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), where he teaches game design. He authored the critically acclaimed book, The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses, which captured Game Developer magazine’s coveted “Front Line Award” for 2008.

Mia Consalvo is Professor and Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design at Concordia University in Montreal. She is the co-editor of Sports Videogames and author of Cheating: Gaining Advantage of Videogames. Mia runs the mLab, a space dedicated to innovating methods for studying games and game players, at Concordia.

Erin Hoffman is an author and video game designer. Erin Hoffman was born in San Diego and now lives in northern California, where she works as Game Design Lead at the Institute of Play’s GlassLab, a Bill and Melinda Gates and Macarthur Foundation supported three-year initiative to establish integrated formative assessment educational games.

Jan Sircus is Past-President of the Themed Attraction Association, Canada, and Principal of Studio Sircus, a creative consultancy for innovative media projects and story place making. Prior to Studio Sircus, Jan was co-founder and Managing Director Creative of Maple Leaf Studios (MLS), Vancouver.

Colleen Macklin is the Director of PETLab (Prototyping Education and Technology Lab) and Associate Professor at Parsons The New School for Design. Colleen develops games for experimental learning and social engagement. PETLab projects include a curriculum in game design for the Boys and Girls Club, a set of statistical games for the Red Cross Climate Centre, and big games such as Re:Activism and the “fiscal” sport Budgetball. She is a member of the game design collectives Local No. 12, known for their card game the Metagame and The Leisure Collective.

Deirdra Kiai is a game designer, writer, programmer, musician, and visual artist. Deidra was nominated for four awards at this year’s Independent Games Association awards. Their game, Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!” is a stop motion musical detective adventure game. Their #1ReasonToBe a game designer talk, “Making games is easy. Belonging is hard.” received a standing ovation at the Game Developers’ Conference.

Come join us: Paper, Panel, Poster, Roundtable, Workshop, and Game submissions are sought from both researchers and practitioners in academia and industry. Graduate and advanced undergraduate students are encouraged to submit either jointly with an academic/member of industry or alone.

Details on the conference, including the call for submissions, is available at: