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CCCC Roundtable: Reading and Writing Virtual Realities: Computer Games and Writing Instruction

In the spirit of Laurie's post on the Serious Games SIG at the upcoming Cs, I thought I'd let you all know about another games-related event.

Reading and Writing Virtual Realities: Computer Games and Writing Instruction

Session: A.25 on Apr 3, 2008 from 10:30 AM to 11:45 AM

This roundtable brings together instructors who have used computer gaming as either texts that are engaged and read by student writers or as texts that are (at least in part) produced by student writers; the participants will present brief overviews of their experiences (both positive and negative) and offer suggestions for instructors interested in exploring the potential of computer gaming in writing instruction. The goal of this roundtable is to advance the argument that games are not only important cultural texts that should be available to rhetorical analysis in our writing classes--much as we currently use film and websites--but that games can provide opportunities for both critique and production that bridge the gap between students' self-motivated out-of-school literacy practices and the literate practices of writing that we hope to teach them in our composition courses. While much work has recently been done to connect computer games and learning in general and computer games and literacy (Gee, 2003; Selfe & Hawisher, 2007), the presenters in this roundtable are interested in using computers games specifically for writing instruction, thus moving theoretical perspectives on gaming and literacy into the composition classroom itself. The presenters will discuss pedagogical and curricular tasks that primarily require students to use games as objects of critique (writing about games) or that ask students to use games as locations of rhetorical production (writing in games). Each speaker will present a different facet of the argument, from theoretical approaches to gaming in composition to examples of specific applications of gaming in writing instruction; these scenarios and vignettes will be brief, thus allowing time for interaction with the audience. A brief description of the roundtable participants' statements follows.

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The Critical GeoWiki Experiment (and maps and stuff)

For one of our seminars this quarter, Bola King and I are experimenting with the concept of a Critical GeoWiki. The idea behind it is to take a map, make it publicly editable, and try to put it in the hands of academics as a plaything/tool. I've created one of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and was hoping some people around here would like to play around with it.

An excerpt from my how-to page:

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Special Interest Group at CCCC in New Orleans on "Serious Games"

Cynthia Haynes and Jan Holmevik are hosting a Special Interest Group at CCCC in New Orleans on "Serious Games,"
Session: FSIG.22 on Apr 4, 2008 from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM. Details on the session are:

This special interest group will focus on the study and application of serious games relative to communication, rhetoric, and creative expression. 'Serious games' is defined by a variety of game platforms, designs, and purposes. While the obvious 'serious' application of games is for education (and training), many games are studied rhetorically as a means of critiquing broader cultural phenomena. Thus, this SIG is designed to concern both theoretical and practical aspects of 'serious games,' and build a community of rhetoric and composition game studies scholars, designers, and users. As a new SIG, we aim to build this community through collaborative and open source social technologies that support both game play and enable teaching and communication practices. Our combined experience with such systems over the past 13 years, and our connections with both U.S. and international game studies scholars and journals gives us an important basis for forming this group. We developed Lingua MOO in 1995 and the enCore system on which many MOOs are still based. Most recently, we have organized the Serious Games Colloquium of the new Rhetoric, Communication, and Information Design PhD program at Clemson University (Directed by Victor Vitanza). And we recently spent a year teaching in the Computer Game studies research center at IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark. We are also on the editorial board of both Game Studies e-journal and the Sage Publication journal, Games and Culture. We plan to form this SIG as a research collective studying various serious games such as America's Army, Second Life, World of Warcraft, and other massively multi-player games.

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Brains and method

Medical researchers at Stanford have shown that the areas of the brain associated with 'reward and addiction' are more highly activated in males than females when playing videogames. The researchers suggest that this is due to a more pronounced instinct for 'territoriality' in men.

The researchers designed a game involving a vertical line (the "wall") in the middle of a computer screen. When the game begins, 10 balls appear to the right of the wall and travel left toward the wall. Each time a ball is clicked, it disappears from the screen. If the balls are kept a certain distance from the wall, the wall moves to the right and the player gains territory, or space, on the screen. If a ball hits the wall before it's clicked, the line moves to the left and the player loses territory on the screen.

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Fatworld

Fatworld has been released! I've been waiting for this and then I missed the release date. In case anyone else missed it as well, check it out. The "weighty topics" page on the Fatworld website even lists one of my favorite publications, the Nutrition Action Healthletter from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (which has great information and a "food porn" item in each issue). Read through the Fatworld site, check out the game, or see Watercoolergames for more on the release.

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When is emulation enough?

In working with digital library concerns, one of the biggest current issues is digital preservation. The strategies for digital preservation tend to be standardization and validation for the initial form and then either migration or emulation to keep that initial work usable. I'm not sure how the Library of Congress' digital game preservation is designed, but does anyone know if it's designed the same way with a focus on migration or emulation? If so, are the game systems themselves also being saved for researchers? If only some are or simply accepting that current preservation isn't comprehensive, when is emulation enough for most game studies researchers?

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Better Pain Management Through Gaming

A recent news story reports on research by Simon Fraser's Diane Gromala exmaining the potential of gaming systems for therapeutical management of pain.

'Traditionally, patients suffering from chronic pain have been treated with a mixture of physical therapy, counselling and potentially addictive anti-pain medications.

Professor Gromala believes immersive environments such as virtual reality games could allow patients to improve their health and reduce their pain, especially while waiting for other forms of treatment.

"There is a real demand for this kind of therapy. As Canada's baby-boomers enter old age, pain management looms as a huge public-health issue," she said.'

Chalk another one up to the potentially beneficial aspects of gaming that nobody will notice? A happy new year to all Gameologists! Perhaps what the Wii really needs is an interactive champagne-glass clinking game. Imagine the increased degree of difficulty across timezones! Chin-chin!

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Game Competitions

The Independent Game Festival has announced their finalists and the Game Career Guide has a list of the top indie and student game design competitions. As gaming has grown into a mainstream media form and become recognized as such, games have a wider market. It seems as though this has led to certain types of innovation being pushed to the margins, but it may be that longer game development cycles have simply resulted in longer intervals between releases and thus in innovative releases.

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A History of the GCE Vectrex

Gamasutra has just published an excellent feature article on the history of the GCE Vectrex console, by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton of Armchair Arcade (Matt is also a contributor to Gameology). Their article covers the history and hardware of this odd and wonderful system, which I'm quite fond of. As anyone who has recently visited my apartment knows, I acquired a Vectrex a few months ago and am eager to encourage guests to try it out. So far, I only have Berzerk and the built in Mine Storm, but those are plenty fun.

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Bitmap Sprite Animation, Circa 1917

De Stijl cover art

I am increasingly fascinated with cultural forms which, though obviously unrelated to actual game technology, can tell us something about the aesthetics or textuality of videogames. This is a recurring theme in my dissertation work, and it leads to interesting finds like the one I present to you today. De Stijl was a Dutch artistic movement founded in 1917 and organized around its eponymous publication, De Stijl. Also known as "neoplasticism," the group was more or less guided by Theo van Doesburg and his philosophical concepts of aesthetics, which was to some extent based on the theosophy of M. H. J. Schoenmaekers. (Here's an interesting article by Jessica Helfand on the subject ).

Many De Stijl works are recognizable for their geometric precision and simple color pallets. Piet Mondrian's compositions in primary colors and right-angles are an example of this. I don't claim to be an art history expert, but as I understand it, van Doesburg's goal (articulated in a series of manifestos) was to find universal principles of aesthetics or a universal language of form that could be used in any context toward the same ends. While this often resulted in pure abstraction, this generally means stripping form down to its essential or minimal components so that any representational quality remaining is ambiguous.

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