Serious Game Alumni #11: Lissy Torres

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This is me! My face, right here.

I’m Lissy Torres, the graduate student who has been the social media “voice” of the Michigan State University serious game graduate certificate program for the last 2 years. I’m graduating this week! Carrie Heeter, director of the graduate certificate program, thought it would be appropriate to end the semester by having me interview myself! (Thanks, Carrie?)

And with that short intro, a bit about me, Lissy Torres, and my adventures in serious gaming at MSU.

Let’s start at the end. I defended my MA project last week, and I’m pretty sure it made at least one of my committee members blush.

I certainly didn’t set out to develop an R-rated game (for mature audiences only).  I’m actually a shy person. Trust me, I am not someone who regularly (or ever) uses pickup lines to meet people at a bar.  So how is it that I came to create Activists Looking for Action, a hilarious game that invites players to create pick-up lines based on serious issues? It all started with #activistspickuplines on Twitter.

I was inspired by all the great, funny pick-up lines that were being generated by the hashtag, which were also occasionally witty and contextual. I took the inspiration to one of my last classes, Implementing Interactivity, where I prototyped it for the first time and realized that it needed a somewhat close-knit group of friends to be successful, as well as a few other tweaks.

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A couple of the cards from the game. A judge draws a card and players write and perform pick-up lines to each other.

Taking from my Serious Game and game design courses here at MSU, I created this awkward, potentially offensive, educational card game that kept players intrinsically motivated to continue. In my three playtests, all players enthusiastically played through the game. And with a little prodding, it seemed possible that the opinions of the players were slowly changing to view serious topics as something to be discussed and explored, one of the major goals of my thesis.

The best part is that the closer the group of friends, the more outrageous the pick-up lines became. And some players frowned upon them, and wagged their fingers, while other players laughed uproariously. It was clear to me that my thesis was successful, thanks to the help of my amazing committee, and also what I took with me from each class.

During my first semester, in Theories of Interaction Design, I developed a curiosity for background research and for designing games. In Understanding Users, I learned the tools for testing and interviewing. In my second semester, during Foundations of Serious Games, I discovered many theories, such as scaffolding, but also concepts of fun and how to build them into an effective serious game.

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Looking back, it’s easy to see just how my thesis started. Activists Looking for Action is my solution to introducing the fun that can come with learning about topics that are typically not so fun. It encourages players to talk about them and discover them among friends, in a safe environment. The idea of Activists Looking for Action is to make people comfortable with the uncomfortable, and learn to like exploring issues and maybe someday even doing something about those issues.

Activists Looking for Action is being submitted to IndieCade, hopefully for showcase and more playtesting in October. In the meantime, feel free to make your own card set, submit your pick-up lines, or tell me how the game goes!

I’m grateful for my experiences here in the serious game certificate program and the Media and Information program. I’ve absorbed a lot from professors and my peers, online and in person, and even though I will miss being a student, I aim to take what I’ve learned and make something seriously fun.

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