TAG | games
Creativity’s a funny thing. Not only is it often thought of as an intangible quality that is bestowed on a rare fortunate few , but we are somewhat used to thinking that those rare few work alone, or that they at the very least, call the shots. Creative agencies have people called ‘creatives’, whose job it is to be creative and direct other people who aren’t creative.
Now of course we have partnerships like Lennon and McCartney, Simon and Garfunkel, Morecambe and Wise, Adam and Joe, examples of people who were on the same wavelength to such an extent that they can produce things which are wonderfully more than the sum of their parts.
But lately I’ve got thinking that creativity itself is starting to take a different turn. Permit me to take you on a tangential dive into one of my pet loves.
Those who know me will know that I go on about gaming a lot. Too much, perhaps. And not in a l33t speak, last-weekend-I-played-CoDMW2-til-my-eyes-bled kind of way, but in a way which acknowledges that gaming’s move into mainstream is an event of real cultural significance, and that entertainment and art may never be the same again.
I have also been, for some time, fairly convinced of the analogy between a game having a designer and a novel having a writer – great novels can be crafted into works of art because often they are written by people with singular visions, who have control over every line, word and punctuation point (to a degree – I realise this is a somewhat naive conception of the contemporary publishing world, at least).
As gaming and the means by which to create games became popularised over the last, say, 20 years, it has become more and more possible for the creators of computer games to exhibit an analogous level of control over their creations. Picture lone programmer/designers, hunched over their machines in the late hours, just as the penniless artist might at their desk furiously scribbling / painting / typing when in the throes of an idea on a dark night, until everything is Just. Right. I believed that if the trend continued, you would eventually get games which were just as honed, just as artful, as great novels.
However, having worked at a digital agency for some time now, it hit me the other day that that vision is unlikely to be the future, for computer games. I’m not discounting the possibility that single individuals can produce captivating gaming experiences; people like Jason Rohrer and Daniel Benmergui. But the thing about games is that they can be so complex and so full of variables, and require so many different skills, that actually the creativity you need to produce a great game is of a very different kind. Some games like Aquaria are created by designer – programmer collaborations, so you get a kind of Lennon-McCartney partnership, more still are created by small teams, like a band jamming to thrash out a song, and others are created by vast studios, like an entire orchestra getting together and saying ‘hey guys, shall we write a concerto? Dave, you take violin.’
To give an example: Bioshock contains innumerable imperceptible touches contributing to the feel of the game as a whole – the way that desks are left open when they’re searched; the way that Houdini splicers teleport in a plume of blood red mist; the way that lone enemies talk to themselves in wrecked corridors as a manifestation of their insanity.
Now, although it’s entirely possible that the same person came up with all of these little ideas, is it really likely? Is it likely that all of these were dictated by the same person who came up with the Ayn-Rand inspired dystopia that is Bioshock’s setting? Is it even likely that whoever decided to set the game in a decrepit, dripping art deco labyrinthine city under the sea, is an individual, rather than a group of writers?
Or is it more plausible that all of these things fell out of when a group of people threw everything they had into a Magimix and pressed ‘On’? For the record, I don’t know who came up with those ideas. Perhaps not even the people who came up with them know. Or maybe it was in fact all one person with a savant-like ability to describe the minutiae of a nightmare they had after finishing Atlas Shrugged in a single sitting.
To bring it back here, the point I’m making is that digital experiences are now so complex, so involved, that to rely on one person to call all of the creative shots would be a nightmare. I’ve produced websites with little touches which I couldn’t have foreseen and told a developer to implement – these decisions come out of discussions and collaboration, and that’s where creativity lies now. We’ve all heard about megalomaniacal directors or musicians dictating absolutely everything on the projects in which they’re involved – but that’s a very difficult thing to do with a digital experience, more so than anything else, I would venture.
And as digital experiences become increasingly common, and increasingly admired, perhaps that will change our conception of creativity. I’m not for a moment suggesting that there’s no room for an individual’s vision, or for the leadership of a creative team, but perhaps there will be less of an emphasis on “genius” as applied to an individual – perhaps what will be most important will be people’s capacity to interact with one another. If games (and digital experiences in general) will become significant contributions to culture, and many of those games are produced by teams, perhaps some of the most valuable contributions to culture in times to come will be put forth by groups, rather than lonely artists. Your thoughts, ladies and gents?
As the dust settles on this year’s BETT Show, bloggers have been frantically sharing their thoughts on the 2010 instalment of the educational technology behemoth.
It was my first time. I had been given many warnings as to the overwhelming nature of an event which brings together 30,000 people amongst more green and purple than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles convention. But none of the warnings could have prepared me for the sheer scale of BETT.
It was really nice to see mycurriculum.com get a lot of visibility and attention on QCDA’s stand. The website is looking really good now and it was great to see the branding up and demos taking place.
Ray Barker, Director of British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), the trade association for the educational supply industry, identified two major themes of this year’s BETT in an interview with Teachers TV. Firstly, Mr. Barker said that this year’s show was “very practitioner-led”, with a focus on professional development and training for teachers.
Secondly, he emphasized the importance of “pupil voice, learner voice” and of “the kinds of technologies that young people are using.” Google and YouTube both exhibited for the first time this year, and the Playful Learning area seemed to be a big hit too – at least with the students who were taking part in the gaming. Some bloggers have commented that there may have been too much emphasis on the “playful” and not enough on the “learning” here. The pupils certainly weren’t complaining.
Whatever the value of the games exhibited here, this seems to me to be a worthy shift in attitude (if indeed it is a shift in attitude). The potential for fun on show at BETT – from 3D video to “serious” gaming – is encouraging. Schools have traditionally tended to fear technology, often feeling more inclined to ban new devices than integrate them into the learning experience.
If BETT 2010 does mark, or at least reflect, a greater willingness to blur the boundaries between work and play and to help pupils enjoy learning more, then this can only be a good thing for young people and those children just entering the education system. In fact I rather envy them.
Fun end to the week at the Game Based Learning conference in the City of London. Highlights include a cabinet minister who actually gets technology and seems to want to support the industry (Tom Watson), the ever inspiring Derek Robertson from LT Scotland and Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell’s vision for the future of education. The latter caused quite a stir (shaking heads in the audience, grumblings on the twitter feed) as it appeared to envisage children in webcam-equipped cubicles and plugged into heart rate monitors to assess fitness levels. Refreshingly controversial! To say that some delegates had reservations would be somewhat of an understatement.
Derek Robertson and Ian Livingstone presented strong evidence that mainstream games (not ‘edutainment’ or ‘chocolate-covered broccoli’, as someone else called it) are having a fantastic impact on motivation and learning in schools where they are allowed/that are lucky enough to be able to afford them.
Gaming in general is changing, not just by making an appearance in classrooms. We are currently seeing a return of computer games into the mainstream. Nolan Bushnell and Ian Livingstone both made the point that 30 or so years ago computer games reached a mass audience.
Then, gradually, games became more complicated and generally more violent, causing the market to shrink dramatically. Game developers and publishers didn’t mind so much because the hard core gamers spent significant amounts of money and kept the industry going. Many casual gamers were alienated along the way, however. Now, of course, Nintendo is beginning to change all that with the Wii and DS platforms. You only need to look at their sales figures to realise that casual gamers hadn’t disappeared, they just hadn’t seen anything they liked for a few decades.
- Related Blogs on atari
- Atari Chip Ring Too Cool To Be Called Geeky! | Trends Updates
- “Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (ATARI) | Console …
- In Case of Rapid Atari 2600 Disassembly, Consult This T-Shirt [T …
- Related Blogs on DS
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » This is how not to advertise to DS …
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Hoshizawa Yukiko DS – screens- What …
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Simple DS Series Vol. 48: A Simple …
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Moto Racer DS – review- What are you …
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Avirex Eagle DS case- What are you …
- Related Blogs on Education
- Education Flattens the World | Trends Updates
- Blog: Higher Education, David Jones – elearnspace
- ResourceShelf » Blog Archive » YouTube Launches Education Site
- Debunking CIMA and British Education
- Related Blogs on games
- 6 Twitter Games To Make Tweeting Fun
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Next Level Games ran out of space to …
- Related Blogs on Gaming
- Gaming the Legacy Loan Auctions « The Baseline Scenario
- The Passion of the Developer | Gaming Horror – it’s a Game Dev’s Life
- Related Blogs on learning
- Flux » Articles | Great week for Mobile Learning
- U Tech Tips » I don’t like Learning Alone!
- Is Student Feedback Effective in Distance Learning? | Trends Updates
- Implementing an institution-wide learning and teaching strategy …
- Expanding Life Through Learning (Www.OSIR.org.in) – Learning …
- Related Blogs on Wii
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Best Buy gets Wii, Wii Fit restock …
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Homebrew Wii USB Loader – footage …
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Amazon Gold Box – Wii hints- What are …
- initial wii review « wonkablog
- GoNintendo » Blog Archive » Essential Wii RPGs: Super Paper Mario …
In my previous life as an English Language Teacher in Hong Kong I never found lessons boring. My daily encounters with class clowns, prodigies, toddlers and teenage rebels kept me endlessly interested and entertained.
A lesson about the Olympics, in which the kids mimed different sports as I called them out, ended abruptly, in insurmountable giggles, as all thirty members of 2b lay across the lids of their desks, frantically ‘swimming.’ A drawing of a dragon spiralling across the white-board could prompt a collective and strangely synchronised ‘Aaaah!’ of approval.
Children, I discovered, are frequently hilarious, but in a report released in January in the UK, Ofsted accused teachers of tedium. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, one way for teachers to make lessons outclass leisure is by incorporating online activities and games.
Most commentators now recognise the value of digital tools in facilitating learning, and research shows that kids are engrossed by games and the internet. However, in a recently-published white paper, the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) advises principals and teachers to introduce digital tools and new technologies carefully, to ensure that pupils don’t switch off. Lee Wilson emphasises key issues related specifically to the implementation of games in an school context, in order to help educators escape the potential pitfalls of play. He notes, for example, that ‘advocates for EduGames need to earn the trust of IT early in the process, or the project can be shut down before it even begins,’ that students ‘won’t easily tolerate poor design’ and that teachers ‘are the lynchpins of success.’ ‘Get the right teachers on board,’ advises Wilson, stating that: ‘ideally you want people who are leaders – politically, technically, and pedagogically.’
Wilson’s tips are a useful reminder that in order to utilise the power of play for good (as we at Online like to do) rather than evil, teachers need to lesson-plan ahead. Educators need to take extra-special care of the children of the (digital) revolution.