Serious Game Alumni Interview #3 with Katrin Becker

katrinKatrin is an incredibly accomplished person. She’s an expert in serious game design and analysis, has over 30 years of teaching experience in various disciplines, and has been published in several areas including computer science and digital game based learning. But Katrin isn’t just an extraordinary career woman; she also runs a small farm, raising several kinds of animals, including rabbits.

Katrin has always loved animals, living as a child above an animal hospital where her father worked as a veterinary assistant, and she’s loved rabbits for their efficiency and beautiful coats. In specific, she now breeds Rex rabbits, due to a calm temperament and remarkable coats, with many beautiful coat colors. Katrin says that as she “learned more about the genetics of coat colors, I became more interested in studying them. Many people in the fancy stick to only one or a very small number of colors when they breed, and there are sound reasons to do that, but I prefer to mix the colors and see what pops up.”

katrin1It’s no surprise, then, that when Katrin entered the serious games graduate certificate program, she would create a game about rabbits…and their many coats. Because Mendelian genetics can be so confusing, Katrin created Gene Rummy, a card game that helps teach players the basic principles of Mendelian genetics using genotypes, much like a hereditary calling card, and phenotypes, or visible genetic properties, of coat colors in rabbits. Using cards, each with a photo of a rabbit and the genotype and phenotype for that color, players must place all the cards in their hand by “making matches that involve a sire (male rabbit), dam (female rabbit), and a kit (baby)” that could result from the mating of the two parents, using Mendelian rules.

“I already had a PhD before starting the program, and my specialty was in educational game design and analysis, but no matter how much you know and learn there is always more to learn.”

Even though, as a computer scientist and experienced digital game designer, Katrin initially wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of creating a non-digital game for one of the certificate courses, she mentions that creating it was actually a lot of fun, and that “Gene Rummy would likely have never been made if it hadn’t been for the course I was taking.” And with so many biotech and medical advances, Katrin feels this game “is more important than ever to have an understanding of how things work,” while also delivering an educational tool for a difficult, yet essential, topic.

Although it began as a class project, Katrin hopes to continue playtesting, impact testing, and refining Gene Rummy and publish it sometime in the next year. As for more short term goals, Katrin will be completing the serious games certificate this December and we wish her continued success in her endeavors to change the world.

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