Last Wednesday, Becky Palmer-Scott joined TC830, Foundations of Serious Games as a serious game professional to critique student serious game pitches. Having graduated in 2011, Palmer-Scott remembers the course fondly, but has also grown immensely since her time as a student. However, she wasn’t always in the serious game design track. Becky has a degree in journalism from MSU, a minor in English literature, and a background in music, and for several years, she worked as a technical writer. After recognizing the need for learning games in schools, Palmer-Scott returned to graduate school to study serious games.
Back at MSU, Palmer-Scott made several serious games. In Search for Samhain, players learn about the beginnings and history of Halloween through a series of mini-games. Later, she created a board game, Roots of Power, to help players increase their vocabulary by learning about suffixes and prefixes, with a Greek twist. Palmer-Scott really enjoyed making games as a team, and once graduated, helped found a non-profit to develop, study, and encourage use of games for learning.
The Aspiring Games Foundation was founded with the idea to bring learning games for special education kids in Lansing. As a resident of Lansing, Palmer-Scott recognized much need in Lansing school districts for a way to empower kids and encourage learning. “Some students tend to think of themselves as poor learners, which builds a self-fulfilling prophecy,” she said. “I think games are less threatening and can lead to greater success.” With special education students, there are wide ranges of learning types, which can make teaching more difficult. Creating games to help increase learning in special education circles is one of the main goals of Aspiring Games and Palmer-Scott.
“Games are very important because they make learning more accessible. There is definitely a great need for kids to get that help in Lansing schools. Introducing learning games into the classroom can really help with that.”
While the Lansing school district is excited to work with Palmer-Scott, it’s still not easy. “Payback on games is not always real great,” she says. “Especially learning games. Unless you’re already a big player like Scholastic, it’s hard [to get started in the business].” But Palmer-Scott shows great passion and enthusiasm for her field. During her time at MSU, she attended the international Meaningful Play conference which she believed was “a great opportunity to see and learn from other people and their work,” as well as “find out what others in the field are doing.” It was at Meaningful Play where she met the director of Filament games, who is now offering counsel on the game mechanics of a project at Aspiring Games and helping put them on the map.
Thinking back on her graduate school experience, Palmer-Scott believes her training in serious games gets people’s attention, that it’s “kind of unusual.” It shows that she’s serious about what she’s passionate about, not just through the name of the program, but also through her showcase of serious games she developed as a student. When it comes to advice to future and current students, she says “try to get involved and make as many games as possible.” Consider taking the upper level undergraduate game design and development specialization courses, if you don’t already have a degree in game design. Approach the MSU game design faculty and volunteer to help. Build a strong portfolio and gain experience working with teams and clients and stay connected with the MSU community after you graduate. And always eat your vegetables (not really).
Join us for Meaningful Play 2014, October 16-18. The call for submissions has details on submitting your game or research, and for proposing a panel or a talk. Faculty and students and game industry professionals who design and study meaningful play are welcome.
Remember, the deadline for applying to the Fall 2014 class of the fully online serious game graduate certificate is June 1.