Game Studies Visitors at MIT

The past few weeks have been exciting around here. Two colleagues of mine, Katie Salen and Ian Bogost, were here on separate occasions to speak as part of the Comparative Media Studies colloquium series. It’s especially fun when games folks come by because there are just so many of us to greet them. I am sure that for Katie and Ian, it was nice to be sharing ideas with such an amazing group of students as we have here in the program.

Katie came a few weeks ago; Ian spoke tonight. And, as much as I love Ian, and as much fun as it is to have him here, it was super to have Katie here too. As I’ve told her many times, it is sheer joy to be in the same room with her (I’m sure Ian agrees). Many of us commented after her talk (and during, via IM) that Katie expresses so many of our thoughts and ideas with an ease and articulation we envy. My friend Drew and I both commented that it was like “she’s in my brain, thinking my thoughts!”

Katie was here to meet with us on Project New Media Literacies to talk about the work we’re doing on the project and think about potential methods for sharing our materials. She is currently finishing her role as part of the MacArthur Foundation-funded project to create a game that is designed to help kids learn to be game designers. The game is called “Gamestar Mechanic” and has been developed by Gamelab in New York City (Eric Zimmerman and Peter Lee’s company) in tandem with researchers from my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Katie showed us a demo of the game and I’ve got to say that everyone in the room was glued to the screen. After all a game that teaches you to think like a game designer is pretty much gold.

Katie also spent some time showing us the Karaoke Ice project. I’d seen her present it at the Games, Learning and Society conference in Madison this summer, but it’s so great to see how a different audience reacts to it. It’s not surprising that the CMS community was as equally impressed with that project as they were with Gamestar Mechanic. What I love the most about Karaoke Ice is what she says is its “invitation” to the public to enter the space of its existence in a way. It’s hard to describe, and Katie does it much better than I am paraphrasing here, but the way Karaoke Ice is a presence but not a performance is kind of the idea. But at the same time that it’s a presence, it manages to communicate an invitation to participate, even though the invitation might be communicated nonverbally.

Finally, she spoke about our Game School project. There’s a lot to say about that and I’ll wait until details are a bit more public but suffice to say, it’s 100% awesome. Seriously. I feel so, so privileged to be able to coordinate the literacy concepts and curricula. I suppose one way to describe the ideas we’re developing is how Katie talked about Mimi Ito‘s work. Mimi talks about what she calls “conditions to create,” whereby learning involves a “need to know,” a “need to share,” and a “condition to share.” We’re just beginning now to work out how that idea is practiced, so I’ll post more when it’s in less of a sandpaper state. For now, though, it’s pretty exciting.

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