Saturday, March 15, 2008

Who's In?

You know how it goes...someone invents something cool and it takes a while for it to be accepted, much less taught in academia. You want examples? Well, we all know the stories of how long it took for English literature to be taught in England and American literature in America, but we could go back further to the emergence of literature itself as something to be studied, or forward to the origins of film studies last century. Well, what happened then has been happening lately for tv, new media, comic books, and video games. This will come as no surprise to those familiar with my super-secret group pop culture blog, but I've been following developments in these newer fields of academic study, over the shoulder of friends who are in the middle of them but too busy to blog there. This little brainstorm is for them, and anyone else who wants to get in. I've been batting around this idea for years, so be gentle with it, ok?

I've always liked the cultural studies model of an academic conference focused on a particular movement or subgenre, where creators, critics, fans, and others can get together and almost anything can happen from there. It's a good model, but not hands-on enough for video games studies. What I'm envisioning is crossing this model with the model of a basketball camp or golf clinic: getting kids from grades 7-12 together for a week on a campus one summer where they can play the latest equipment and games (donated of course by the companies who want a chance to send their developers out and get quality focus group experiences), work on skills in a variety of genres and compete in their favorites ones, and learn how to be more critical consumers and gamers through workshops taught by leading figures in video games studies, question-and-answer sessions with game designers, and discussions of, reflections on, and writing about their gaming experiences. The number of genres and issues to be considered is dauntingly large, but we could always start small and scale up.

I need to check with my friends in coaching to understand sports camp logistics and economics better--it's been more than two decades now since I was a participant in one--but as my girls get older, I get more and more serious about actually putting the idea into action. So who's in?


Dave Lester said...

I love this idea. Featuring speakers that place the game in a larger framework and approach ludology in various ways would act as a primer for the actual gameplaying that would occur. Either of those alone would not be as interesting, and might be harder to justify to parents. I'll trying to brainstorm a genre of gaming that could make this much more manageable from the outset..

Given the incredible amount of money the game industry pulls in, I think sponsorships would be easy to come by.

Lastly, I checked out the Screenburn Arcade ( at SXSW last week and was incredibly disappointed. They had some video game tournaments going on, but their featured games were mostly on consumer consoles you can demo at Walmart -- nothing special. A summer camp like this that tests games still in development would be a huge draw, and as you said, provide some focus group testing for game developers.

The Constructivist said...

Dave, if we could figure out a way to incorporate Rob McDougall's idea that the best way to learn from video games is by designing one--say, by getting him involved--that would add a third leg to our stool: playing, analyzing, designing. What's not to love?

I think I could get Sloucho involved in this. He's treating Everquest online like a second job and bringing home some serious take-home pay!

Who else would you recommend join our travelling road show? (B/c I definitely see it becoming one after piloting it a summer or two to work out the kinks and build some buzz.)

Dave Lester said...

I'm going to pass this blog post around to friends and see if anyone snags.

The Constructivist said...

You may or may not want to pass this one along, too.