Role-play, Research, & Reflections


By Marisa Incremona, IWP Intern, Sophomore Extraordinaire

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Not surprisingly, there was a lot of excitement in the audience as students and faculty watched select members of faculty, guest speaker Erik Kain, the Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Dr. Jean Boreen, as well as the Provost of NAU Dr. Laura Huenneke play a video game! A few special guests who also participated in the game play were Flagstaff residents, Randy Kinsel and John Boreen. Did we leave the academic arena and move to a fun space? It soon became clear that several of the players were inexperienced with gaming and had a lot of difficulty with a somewhat graphic surgery game that required to remove a cloth, cut open the patient’s rib cage, and take out diverse organs without bleeding the patient to death.

Despite the difficulty of the video game, and even though the surgeries were unsuccessful, everyone, but especially Flagstaff resident Claire, and Ali, high school junior at Coconino High School, had a great time, and the audience was riveted, raucous, anticipating the worst, and cheering on the unsuccessful surgeons.

After this, our keynote speaker, Dr. Betty Gee, gave her presentation on the influence of video games on learning, as well as the history of video games since the early 21st century until now. She ended her presentation with gamification, which is a new term in the gaming industry. Generally, the term is used to reference using gaming elements in non-gaming situations. This is a controversial topic that is beginning to get a lot of attention from educators and industry people alike.

The guest speaker provided excellent responses to questions from the audience, addressing issues from learner-centered education, engagement, and the consequences of game playing. Her talk was followed by a panel on music in the world of video games. Video game scores, the Westby and Wilson pointed out, are in their infancy, but there is hope that one day video game scores will gain as much recognition as film scores, especially if we are exposed to more scores similar to Journey. The IWP’s own Teddy Gardner actually gave a presentation about his research on the video game Journey and its influence of non-verbal communication. He pointed out that the minimal use of sounds was still able to spark an emotional attachment between players who had never met. Ford concluded the session by showing us the institutional behavior we can see now in gaming.

One of the final panels, which included Bitzer, Hipsher, Wake, and Hogan, addressed popular culture and video games in scholastic research, providing very detailed information on how popular culture affects research efforts. Brunskill concluded the discussion by looking at the social connections of gaming and argued that gamers, if they participate in guilds, can create social connections that surpass connections made in face-to-face interactions.

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We are now onto the Roundtable with Dr. Pfannenstiel, Dr. Gee, and Erik Kain. The roundtable participants are discussing a wide range of topics, including what keeps us coming back to games that have no end, what helps us understand video games, the industry need to be profitable with their games, the fate of indie games, and the importance of graphics in video games. Games of all kinds are being brought up, everything from Call of Duty to Flappy Bird. The ones that are being brought up the most are Candy Crush and Farmville, which are some of Dr. Pfannenstiel’s favorite games. The audience is very engaged, and members of the audience are asking questions and are helping us understand how we can think about games and gaming in more complex ways.

The day of the Undergraduate Video Game Symposium is nearing its end, but we still have our guest speaker, Erik Kain, to hear from.

Stay tuned!

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