We just can’t stop thinking about games. Over the course of the semester, our discussions and workshops have centered on word games, board games, computer games, and how each has the potential to shift (or explode) our mode of thinking.
Michael Stewart, lecturer in the Brown English department, employs Surrealist parlor games “to make the writing a little less precious.” Exquisite corpse, a game developed by French poet and Surrealist André Breton, is an example of a freeing exercise in collaborative poetry or art-making. Stewart also challenges his students to create narrative maps, compose love letters without the letter E, collage a text, inscribe words directly onto an object. He described how these playful exercises create “a feeling of looseness” that allow writers to break out of rigid sentence structures and discover new meaning in their work. By switching the rules of writing, “those truly absurd things accidentally make things interesting.”
TJ Kalaitzidis confronted games from the maker’s perspective. After he and Kali Quinn led the syllabus design workshop in September, TJ returned to lead us through an hour of hands-on game building. He provided blank boards, cards, and dice, as well as plastic animals and figurines. Each of us wrote a possible theme on a slip of paper, and TJ randomly chose Interstellar Agriculture from the pile. In groups of three to five people, we were left to collect materials, devise a broad vision, determine a final goal, and create rules for our board game. My team struggled to determine the values of our game: did we want the winner to take all? Should we encourage collaboration? What is the core message of a game about farming? Is it about farming at all? Clearly, one hour was simply not enough.
In an educational video on User Centered Design, Ian Gonsher, the head of Creative Scholars, further explains the elements of game creation that we focused on in the workshop.
- Who are the players? Who are the users?
- What is the field of play? Where does the action take place?
- What are the goals of the game and what is the process by which a player attains those goals?
- What are the rules that govern the players, and how are those rules communicated and enforced?
- How does the story move forward and what is at stake?
As if in tandem with our weekly meetings, Hasbro held a Play Hack at their headquarters in Pawtucket on October 25th. The event announcement invited “hackers and makers to explore, play, and help create the next generation of Hasbro’s most loved games.” In contrast to our short maker-session with TJ, the hackathon allowed each competitor 24 hours to produce a fully-formed product that fell under one of three categories: Off the Board Gaming, Games for Girls, and Digital/Physical Gaming. Among the engineers, tinkerers, and designers, a group of eight students from Brown and the Rhode Island School of Design competed and won top honors.
The Creative Scholars Blog will feature the winning College Hill Team later this week. They visited our workshop earlier in November to discuss their design process. We’re excited to illuminate that conversation here.
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If you feel inspired, follow Professor Stewart’s lead and indulge in a round of exquisite corpse. Man Ray would be proud to know you played. Here are the rules.