The last twelve weeks
Fig 1. Visual Roadmap showing progress for weeks 1 to 11.
What did you do well?
Participation: The Development Practice module at Falmouth University is the most social academic study I have participated in so far. I have studied with The Open University, The Open College of Arts and The Institute of Photography (all distance learning providers). While I have made friends and participated in all the activities I could – Falmouth University encouraged discussion, interaction and support. Over the years at The Open University, I only knew a few people; it’s hard to describe what massive achievement participation is for a distance learning provider.
Rapid Ideation: I read about the weekend game jam Creative App students were asked to participate in, and I did worry about being able to commit to such an event. It was a massive relief that we would be taking part in a two-week slow jam. In fact, I love slow jams! I have a very supportive husband and network of friends that I could call on to spend a weekend making a game, but this is not something I could do regularly. I was also worried about how well I would work in Rapid Ideation. I can suffer from ‘exam stress’, and the looming deadline can deter you. Instead, I found both rapid ideations my favourite part of the module. I leapt into the process, and I came out two weeks later with many skills I didn’t have previously.
What did you learn?
Games design: Over the last twelve weeks, I have gone from barely being able to produce a game without the use of tutorials to the beginnings of something.
Conferences and networking: Week 9 Communities of practice prompted me to look for communities I could join, including The Maker Movement, Open Source projects and Women In Games. Joining and participating in the Women In Games community has already lead to meaningful conversations and informal advice given to the forum from female indie games founders.
What should you do differently in the next module?
Referencing: Use Zotero for referencing! I discovered Zotero and ZoteroBib in the final weeks of the module, despite the fact it was suggested in the early weeks. Referencing for Classics is stringent. So I’ve got into the habit of doing most of the work myself because many auto-referencing tools get it wrong most of the time. Checking every reference feels like more work than just doing it yourself. Zotero is excellent. There are other terrific options like Mendeley and EndNote, which I will keep an open mind about.
Finalising: My early blog posts are unfinished. During Game Development I will endeavour to write up all my notes and finish my thoughts and ideas every week. I’d also like to continue to adopt Agile methodologies as part of my practice throughout Indie Games Development.
Becoming more confident: In the lead up to my MA in Indie Games Development and throughout Development practice I have been very anxious. I’m hoping as the course continues my nerves will settle and time management will become a little easier.
What still puzzles you?
The Games Industry: I am new to the games industry. I am looking forward to discovering more about the business side of things in the Indie Games Startup module. At the moment there are many aspects of running an indie games studio that are a mystery to me.
Agile Practice: Agile Practice and how it is interpreted by enterprises puzzles me. “Academics from the University of Malmo in Sweden say meetings provide an outlet for people at work to show off their status or to express frustration” (Coughlan 2019). “Professor Patrik Hall says they are becoming increasingly frequent – as more managerial and “strategy” jobs generate more meetings” (Coughlan 2019). I feel that many Agile companies take a similar approach to their Agile Practice. Many Agile Evangelists value heavy, confusing and non-nonsensical documentation and stand-ups that last over several hours. People are rarely placed over processes. No one seems to value “Responding to change over following a plan” (Beck et al. 2001). Most self-proclaimed Agile worshipers appear to value over-planning and doing not a lot! For example how ‘Agile’ is three-day long planning sessions. That puzzles me.
How I introduced myself to my peers and tutors 12 weeks ago
“Please introduce yourself in the forum below, and explain what you are interested in learning and what you hope to achieve through your postgraduate studies. Then share an artefact or an experience that has been instrumental in leading you to study this course. This can be a game, an app or anything else related to your background. Feel free to include pictures, links to your work and anything else you think relevant” (Falmouth University 2020).
My aims for my postgraduate studies:
My aim for this MA is to create for passion’s sake. I don’t hold any expectations for the future. I have been drawing, writing and creating my entire life, and I know that after this MA, I will continue to develop, story-driven games for the love of doing so. What I expect from this MA is to grow personally, creatively and academically.
The experience that made the most profound change in me is graduating from The Open University. I studied and practised while pregnant/ working, and later taking care of a newborn. The degree gave me confidence in myself that I had always lacked. I learnt that I am smart enough. Most importantly, I developed resilience, the resilience to face challenges head-on. *Link to a portfolio site now under construction* (Author 2020)
My introduction to my cohort:
I am an Indie Games Development student, coming from an illustration/photography/creative writing background. I’d like to build educational games in ancient history or possibly weird psychological horrors. I’ve been playing little misfortune made by killmonday games, as I’m looking into the unity engine they’ve used to create the game. I’m really excited to begin! (Author 2020)
Forum post reply:
Hi Sarah, Welcome to Falmouth University. Ancient History and weird psychological horrors could work as a mash-up! I look forward to seeing the outcome of that. Great portfolio site – the illustrations are crafted beautifully and showcase a range of styles. (Parker replying to Author on 2020-21 Study Block 1 Welcome 2020)
Forum post reply:
Hi! Nice to see so many starting to introduce themselves. Loved your website. If you’re interested in ancient history you might enjoy a game such as Heaven’s Vault! (also done in Unity and Ink) It’s all about being an archaeologist investigating an ancient civilization with a randomly generated ancient language that needs translating. But other then that, I’m looking forward seeing how you can use your photography background in games. (Rubino replying to Author on 2020-21 Study Block 1 Welcome 2020)
As soon as I posted, I thought a game inspired by the origin story Arachne (the lady turned into a spider for challenging Minerva), or Actaeon (the guy turned into a deer and hunted by his own dogs both from Ovid’s Metamorphoses) would make a pretty creepy and educational game. Heaven’s Vault sounds fantastic, I studied classics so I have some rusty Latin. I’d love to learn Akkadian and I think games are a great way to learn new languages (Author 2020).
Introducing myself today
My aim for the MA in Indie Games Development is to create and publish a game. I have taken part in two ‘game jams’. I built my own game with Adventure Creator titled Alchemy’s End and my second game titled Night Phantasm was built as part of a team. My games design has been informed by my practice in illustration, photography and creative writing. I (still) don’t hold any expectations for the future, but I have begun to think about how to formulate a plan to create games for a living and continue studying after my MA in Indie Games Development.
A look over my work from Week 3, Rapid Ideation 1 and Rapid Ideation 2:
A Frostpunk Prototype
Thinking about The Final Project
A history and horror mashup?
Is a mash-up of education, horror and ancient history still on the cards for me? My goals to create educational games and games for everyone haven’t changed. My target audience is young adults, to hopefully be inspired by greek and roman myth, translating Latin and or living their best life in ancient Babylon. Or it might be a survival game, educating young adults on the impact of climate change. I want to create games for everyone, games that make an impact, games that deal with unlikely protagonists and offer something to make you think.
I want to continue research into educational games (a topic more controversial than I had imagined) and how to engage young people. My creative writing is aimed at young adults, and I like works that are a hybrid of genres – I plan to take a similar approach with my games design and development.
“It sounds like you are already very busy, and have some vivid ideas about your final project. Do you have any recommendations on research into educational games” (Gackowski 2020)?
My reply (has been modified):
‘Educational games’ is a broad area of research. Searching under the terms ‘games for education’, ‘games for behaviour change’, ‘games for health’, ‘games for learning’, ‘educational games for schools’, ‘serious games’ and ‘games for impact’ will return a considerable list of materials. There are educational games for everyone!
- Games for change and the STEM your game challenge (with Endless): “Games for Change and Endless invite all game creators to bring their talent and creativity to the edtech community through a new professional program: ‘The STEM Your Game Challenge’. The Challenge aims to help raise the bar on the quality of STEM games by adapting commercial games for learning purposes” (Games for Change 2020)
- Conferences like games for impact 2020 include guest speakers and live panels on ‘Are games and schools ready for each other?’ and ‘Games for kids. Is responsible design a good business?’
- Reading material on this subject is again broad and general games design is just as relevant as works that go into specific learning in video games. I’m reading How Games Move Us, which discusses social play.
- In Global Game Jam (GGJ) they always introduce diversifiers which relate to people with disabilities or varied cultural backgrounds. A diversifier supports idea generation and solutions that are more inclusive.
There are games for students with learning difficulties and studies “have shown the positive effects of educational video games (serious games) in improving motivation, attention and other cognitive components” (García-Redondo et al. 2019).
There are educational games for health and wellbeing, including video games to support the recovery of stroke patients. “Video games have been shown to be useful in providing environments in which patients can practise repetitive, functionally meaningful movements, and in inducing neuroplasticity” (Barrett et al. 2016).
‘Educational games’ also covers a wide range of ages. There are games for seniors, adults, young adults, children and toddlers.
- The BBC also offer early learning games for a broad range of ages:
- Games for Adults in Typography example (also found in Side Projects):
- DuoLingo is an example of an educational game, available for teachers and education providers. DuoLingo shows there is a market for ‘good intentions’ and educational value in games.
- Games that you wouldn’t necessarily realise are educational like Frostpunk (funded by Creative Europe), This War of Mine and Minecraft.
- Games like Never Alone “the first game developed with an indigenous community, using traditional native stories in a beautiful and compelling educational game” (Parkinson 2014).
Educational games are most certainly a huge and successful market but now with STEM your game and other challenges there is a push to bring games for change to everyone.
How will I add educational value to my final project?
My research and game development is focused on ‘games for impact’ and games that are competing in a commercial space but have educational value.
What do I mean by a ‘game for impact’ or a game that has educational value? I’m focusing on entertainment with some educational value. Minecraft and This War of Mine are used in education although neither creator envisioned the game in that way. DuoLingo is designed to learn new languages through gamification. I want to create something in the middle, that is going to sneak in my love for learning.
Choosing a game that prioritises entertainment over educational value has advantages and disadvantages. I would be competing in a commercial space against big studios, with huge budgets and experienced people. On the other hand, there is a push for commercial games with educational value seen in competitions and projects already mentioned like STEM your game.
Currently, I do not have higher education in pedagogy and educational theories. I’m open to collaborating with someone who has knowledge and skills in this area and reaching out to experts during the course of my research and games development.
Preparing for Game Development
Module Aim “To integrate skills across disciplinary boundaries to realise a small indie game as an individual creative practitioner” (Falmouth University 2020)
Software and visual scripting: My skills in importing animations, illustrations and using plugins like Ink, Bolt, Adventure Creator in Unity have significantly improved over the last twelve weeks. PlayMaker was recently on sale at £30, which I snapped up and I am now practising my visual scripting skills.
Adobe Creative Suite: I have passed my ACA exam in Photoshop, and I am currently completing an intensive course in InDesign. Next year I am completing the intensive Illustrator, and After Effects ACA exams as part of my preparation and skill development for the next module and my future. Photoshop and Illustrator are tools for digital art and 2D illustration, which I am using as part of my studies. I am continuing to study in animation and Spine and After Effects as another option for creating animations.
Design principles are particularly relevant to designing User Interface (UI) in games. While it is advisable to work with an experienced designer, a small studio may not have that option. Understanding the terminology of design and video editing software will also be useful for communicating with designers.
Research and case studies: I plan to concentrate my research into ‘games for impact’ or games that offer a narrative-led experience. I want to look at case studies of small indie games studios that have successfully created and released a game with education value. I’m also looking at case studies of small studios and solo of tiny groups of games developers who have successfully built and marketed a game.
Bookclub and reading material: The User Experience and Indie Game Development cohort now have a book club. Every month, the cohort will vote on a book to read, and we will discuss the materials at the end of the month. I find a book club not only encourages me to read my books on time, but it widens my reading materials and encourages me to pick up literature I might usually turn down.
I’m excited to look at skills across games development and understand the multi-disciplinary nature of indie studios better. I have begun scheduling reading time and a list of materials to aid this study.
Plan for future research and practice
Continuing study after the MA in Indie Games Development
As part of my future progress and to finalise the critical reflective journal, I have researched other critical reflective journals and PhD students. The MA in Indie Games Development at Falmouth University is new, and there are a limited number of blogs from students building a blog on a similar subject. In some cases, I have looked outside of the box for inspirational critical reflective journals but have found the following three inspiring:
- Sarra Hornby
- Tom Hewitt, PhD student.
- Andrew Brown
Study for games with educational value and games for impact
I plan to study the following Academic literature
- The Case of This War of Mine: A Production Studies Perspective on Moral Game Design – This War of Mine is a morally complex game, that offers educational insight into “emotional realism” (De Smale 2019). I plan to study this analysis of the “importance of a player-centerd iterative design process to produce morally engaging gameplay” (De Smale 2019)
- ‘Mining Learning and Crafting Scientific Experiments: A Literature Review on the Use of Minecraft in Education and Research’ – Minecraft was not designed as an educational game, yet, it is being used as such
- The Gamer’s Brain: How Neuroscience and UX Can Impact Video Game Design
- Play Matters (2014)
I plan to study the following Grey literature
- The Design of Everyday Things (2013)
- GAME FEEL : a game designer’s guide to virtual sensation (2008)
- Ten Things Video Games Can Teach Us: (About Life, Philosophy and Everything) (2017)
- The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (2008)
I plan to research Case Studies
During our Development Practice, I have begun searching for games using tools like Adventure Creator (AC) who have successfully, created, published and marketed a game. Made with AC showcases many of these examples, and I have reviewed When the Past was Around and Little Misfortune at game reviews.
- Build a case study around Gwen Frey who has an art and animation background and how she built up her games studio
- Build case studies on a selection of games that used visual-scripting engines in AC, Ink and Playmaker. Ask questions about the content, narrative, team-size, revenue, use of funding, ownership and so on
- Made with AC – Little Misfortune, Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure, When We Were Young and more
- Made with Ink – Sorcery, Heaven’s Vault, Pendragon and more
- Build case studies on games that received funding from sources like WINGS
- Build case studies on games that successfully funded their project through Kickstarter
- Unity Case studies including ‘Case Study: A game for conflict-affected youth to learn and grow‘ (Erik Martin and Liana Holmberg 2018)
Futher materials to study:
- Nick Condedera’s Self-Distribution Case Study Indie Game the Movie (2020)
SMART Goals for IGD720: Game Development Document
- Specific – ACA courses for illustrator and After Effects
- Measurable – Booked into week-long intensive courses in January
- Attainable – Already passed my Photoshop exam, and I have prior experience of using Illustrator
- Relevant The Adobe Creative Suite is a valuable software skillset for 2D illustrators and creators
- Time-bound – By the end of January I should have completed both courses and booked my ACA exams
- Specific – Research into Games for Impact, Games with educational value and games for everyone
- Measurable – Complete the research mentioned above, and gain a better understanding of what makes a game have commercial and educational appeal
- Attainable – There are many games that fall under this umbrella, researching two to three successfully created by indie games should be attainable
- Relevant – Relevant research will inform my own goals
- Time-bound – By the end of the next module: Game Development
- Specific – Research and build industrial case studies that align with my goals
- Measurable – Consider case study questions and build two or three case studies
- Attainable – There are a number of resources (already mentioned above) to support my research
- Relevant – Relevant industrial case studies will inform my own goals
- Time-bound – By the end of the next module: Game Development
Reflection on the last 12 weeks
I spoke quite confidently about creating games for learning. I love learning, and I offered learner support in my role at The Open University, but the subject of educational games is enormous. I’m starting to feel nervous about my abilities, and the magnitude of creating a game that will add historical value and entertainment.
The Life of a project:
Austin Kleon’s Steal Like An Artist and Show Your Work are reading materials to warm the soul when you are at the “Dark Night of the soul” (McHugh 2017) phase of a project.
Maureen McHugh (2007) – featured in Show Your Work (2014) describes the process of writing her novel (Fig 4). The method of creating a game is very similar, I think, from my limited experience. McHugh’s chart (Fig 4) rings true for many projects, a portrait commission, a photoshoot, an essay and a critical reflective journal. One of the things I have learnt from the last 12 Weeks is that the “Dark Night of the soul” and “It’s done and it sucks but not as bad as I thought” (McHugh 2007) are inevitable and they are okay emotions to feel.
After I applied for the MA in Indie Games Development, I was plagued with the idea that I will fail. I found Sam Falco’s ‘Impostor Syndrome: The Flip Side of the Dunning-Kruger Effect’ in Agile Alliace (2017), which offers a fascinating insight into their experience of Imposter Syndrome. “From an early age, I learned to devalue my skills and knowledge, and this habit followed me into my Agile career. When I learned the term “Impostor Syndrome” to describe this phenomenon, research helped me learn to accurately assess my abilities” (Falco 2017). While I wouldn’t describe myself as experiencing “Imposter Syndrome” I do identify with some of the feelings Falco describes. “Because she doubts her expertise, the Impostor predicts that she will fail. Success becomes a surprise attributable to luck” (Falco 2017). I too set future predictions, that I will fail. I struggle to credit myself when things go well and sometimes take the blame too quickly. Yet, I have completed a degree, and I am here at the end of Week 12 with a critical reflective blog and personal case study video to present. I have already made strides in moving past those feelings.
List of Figures
Figure 1. Roadmap for weeks 1 to 11.
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MARLATT, Rick. 2020. ‘Capitalizing on the Craze of Fortnite: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Understanding How Gamers Construct Communities of Practice’. Journal of Education 200(1), 3–11.
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