The Coventry University Serious Games Institute hold a series of mini-conferences around a gaming theme on the second Wednesday of each month; and on November 11th it was the turn of Alternative Reality Games. The presenters, and audience, were drawn from academia, the games/arts industry and publishing, which made for an interesting range of topics and good questions/discussions.
Six to Start’s Dan Hon opened the proceedings with an overview of their projects since the initial, and impressive, We Tell Stories (which English teachers apparently really liked: good news!). He described how their Spooks: Code 9 ARG sneaked in education elements by linking in-game events and deeper information into the realtime TV programmes. He also revealed that they will be making an ARG for the new Misfits superhero series.
Mike Bennett was up next, of Oil – makers of, amongst other things, the Channel 4 Routes genetics ARG (which a colleague of mine working in Genetics had found less than educational). Mike had the interesting theory that of a typical audience, 90% are casual observers, 9% are engaged, and 1% are immersed (90/9/1) – it struck me that this kind of ratio might well be applied to many education contexts too.
I was there to talk about competition – and how my initial research into ARGs, and later experience with four case studies in academia, had revealed a strong link between motivation and competition elements; I also touched on the lack of competition in modern education, and the incongruence of this with the modern student’s social life; and argued for a realignment of assessment with more motivating methods such as those incorporating competitive elements.
After a break, where I had a good chat with the midlands regional team for 4IP about their plans to introduce game-based learning at sixth-form level, there were two fascinating live storytelling/interactive presentations from Toby Barnes (Mudlark) and Tassos Stevens (Coney). Toby was presenting a new project based in Sherwood Forest, and mused on the fact that people engage in different ways (some are happy to watch in silence; others discover; some prefer public engagement, others private) and all need to be covered in a game experience. Tassos described a number of fascinating projects with schoolchildren (my favourite being a ‘live’ emailing cat). His presentation, and the discussion in the room afterwards, centred around the idea of liveness – how high engagement is dependent not on things actually happening ‘live’, but on responsivity – having individual or collective contextual and timely responses. This is something which has been on my mind since then, and is a concept which applies well to assessment and feedback too. More thoughts/musings on this in a later post.
All in all, a varied and thought-provoking day, with some excellent speakers. And well hosted by the Serious Games Institute and BAFTA’s games arm. Food for thought!