Thursday, June 24, 2010

Foundations of Digital Games 2010

Another busy week behind. Exactly a week ago I was on my way to California, and more precisely the Foundations of Digital Games 2010 conference in Monterey. Here comes the aftermath.

Considering my own research, FDG2010 was mostly useful for the game design point of view but not that much actually. There were some interesting presentations and conversations with people about experimental game control methods, and finally some proper information about Kineckt. However, considering teaching game-related anything or game-aided education, the conference was much more useful for me. The details about the conference will be available later somewhere in the internet, so I'll just post some collected thoughts.

There was a plethora of sessions about inspiring more interest for computer science by using games and game design as part of CS education as well as to make potential students familiar with game development before college. I'm not exactly sure as to what the situation is here in Finland but I guess we can always use more interest. Probably the single most interesting session was about Microsoft Kodu, which is a visual game programming language, easy enough for children to learn. In the II City project, we are interested in using focus groups to create ideas for games, so you can probably see where this might be going. Yes, we can use Kodu to familiarize non-programmers with game dev.

Another thing I picked up were a lot of ideas for teaching a more serious game development course for post-grad students. This topic was presented in several sessions, and also discussed randomly throughout the conference. I'm mostly interested in doing this as a project-based course, and if possible, as a cooperation between our university and the department of industrial design in the University of Lapland. Bringing in artists from another university can get around the problem that CS students are not expected to have artistic abilities (and therefore we can't require them). This was how I had thought to do it to begin with, but discussions in the conference made me more confident. We can do this.

It was also nice to see a good glimpse of all the work being done in educational games, the Holy Grail of e-learning. There were quite a lot of projects presented that taught students computer science concepts in ways more interesting than plain programming practice. Using these kinds of games for teaching the basics of programming is an idea worth contemplation, especially if people are having a hard time grasping some of the concepts in our introductory course (I haven't asked yet, but in August I'll probably see for myself anyway). Of course, many a presented game taught other concepts than CS, such as how cats see the world.

Finally, game design was definitely not a forgotten topic. However, since there were always two sessions in parallel, I had to make choices, and because of my job, I ended up selecting all the education related sessions. So, like other people, I will have to check the interesting game design presentations when the presentation videos become available.

Jetlag and all that jazz aside, it was a good experience for a first conference trip. Although I definitely didn't expect that it would actually be cold in California. The wind was a real killer, especially on Saturday. In addition to huge amount of inspiration, I got to meet a lot of awesome people. Hopefully I'll be able to visit FDG2011 if it gets organized, wherever it might be. Oh, and the conference center had some serious Norman Doors - I took one pic, which I'll try to post later when I get it on my computer.

(During the trip I also had a lot of time to read books, so book reading report is up next)

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