Keiron, Judy, Ian and Cathrin at a project meeting this month which brought together the members of the old AA team plus the new arrival. Note the tea and cake, an important part of any of our meetings.
Excellent news! The kind people at EPSRC have funded a follow-on Adventure Author project which focuses of training teachers to include game making in their classes. It lasts for 18 months, and Cathrin will be working 50% time on it. I will be leading it. We will also be recruiting computer science students to work with teachers in classrooms to provide technical help.
If you're a teacher who works within a 100 mile radius of Edinburgh, and would like to take part, email Judy <dot> Robertson @ hw <dot> ac <dot>uk.
Adventure Author is officially coming to an end, as our funding finishes at the end of this month. Keiron and Cathrin have now finished working on the project - I miss you already! :-) We have achieved a lot as a team.
Don't despair: Adventure Author will live on! Academic projects are always short lived - there just isn't a model for long term funding. Keiron is going to work on my friend Judith Good's Flip grant in Sussex from Feb, and Cathrin and I have an application in for dissemination funding for Adventure Author, which would start in April if successful.
I will continue to post here, as I will still be working with schools and writing papers on the topic. So keep visiting!
Talking of visiting, we are lucky to have Gail and Kim visiting from Sydney in January. If you're a Scottish teacher who would like to meet them to chat about game based learning projects, post a comment here and we'll try to set it up.
We received a nice email recently about Adventure Author from Matthew Rorie - Mr. PR for Obsidian Entertainment, the makers of Neverwinter Nights 2:
"Pretty neat stuff! We just wanted to
say thanks for considering our product as the base of your project; our
developers got a kick out of the thought that the game might someday inspire a
budding game developer (or, at least, help them out in school a bit).
Krystina is interested in whether digital media is too constrained by current popular ideas about 'traditional' narrative.
She notes that books have always been a tool for educating children, particularly from the 17th century onwards. Print maintained its importance in this regard even as radio, television and other media became prominent.
Games currently offer a very limited and stripped-down selection of stories. Game developers have a very broad range of narrative types available to them, yet they tend to stick to the very linear stories that are considered 'traditional' - Aristotle's arc, stories with a beginning, middle and end. Yet this has not been the dominant model forever. (.)
Many classic storytelling styles have fallen by the wayside - consider earlier traditions such as the chorus in Greek drama. A classic narrative structure of an earlier age was the oral Epic, which was different in many ways to the current model. They were rarely chronologically linear, for example. Bards would pick parts of the story to tell - to tell the entire story at once would take two or three days.
Krystina discusses a number of once common story types in detail. She believes that the model of rising and falling tension in Freytag's triangle is now the dominant model, and this gives the impression that it is the norm - but this is not so. She believes that storytellers are put off from working with games by these apparent constraints of the storytelling, but also that these constraints are unnecessary.
She moves on to consider a test study of a child named Anna from the ages of 1 to 5. She saw stories as a series of binary dramatic incidents, with a beginning and an opposing ending. Stories were simply considered as strings of binary dramatic incidents. She was impatient with setting the scene or concluding the story properly - once the binary incident was over, she lost interest in the story. This serves to illustrate another way to look at story structure.
Conclusion: The dominance of the current popular model of storytelling is limiting the development of narrative - there are lots of varieties to explore. Digital games suffer from this in particular. Why do we choose to restrict ourselves when our literary history is so diverse?
Question and answer sessions:
Ruth Aylett asks if she's saying, by analogy, that we're all hung up on the idea of the Hollywood three-act structure, when there are French films around too. Presenter enthusiastically agrees with this interpretation. :)
A discussion. Games are a revenue-driven industry - they're not going to experiment because they take so much time and money to make. They're an immature medium which almost entirely use Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey model. The presenter disagrees that game designers don't want to do more - she has found that they consistently express that they wish to do so. Ruth notes that all the 'games people' she's met are hooked on the idea of Hollywood films. There is some discussion about whether there are already game designers who are attempting to move beyond this, but we aren't looking hard enough for them, or promoting them enough.
I just had some great news - my colleague Judith Good at University of Sussex has been funded by EPSRC to work on a project related to Adventure Author! I'm really pleased because Judith and I have been working together for the last decade (she was my PhD supervisor) and we co-authored a lot of early papers on the potential of game making in education.
Her project is called FLIP, and will start in November. As Adventure Author finishes in December, this gives us a little bit of hand over time. They plan to build on the Adventure Author code, but focus more on the aspects of programming and computational thinking.
I had a great time visiting the Adventure Author team and Campie Primary School. Thanks everyone for making me so welcome!
I was very impressed with the latest developments in the Adventure Author tool.
The conversation writer is fantastic (and a huge improvement on the built-in
conversation tool in NWN2). It makes it very intuitive and straightforward for
young people to create interactive conversations, which is no mean feat! The
fridge magnet tool is a great new way for game designers to record and organise
their ideas. It is lovely to look at, but the full power of it really only came
to my attention when I watched the P7 children in Miss Collins’ class coming up
with idea after idea when using it. I saw children who had told me minutes
before that they had no ideas for their games adding thoughts about great plot
lines, interesting characters and exciting quests. It’s clearly an excellent
tool for supporting children in organising and expanding on the ideas they have
in an informal, non-threatening and enjoyable way. I hope to be able to come
back and see how the class (who took to game creation like ducks to water) are
progressing towards the end of the project.
Well, I thought it was about time our web site had a make over. The problem with the old one was that none of us never really posted news to it very often. This is possibly because we are too busy with the actual project to write about it, but I suspect it's also related to how much of a pain it is to post. As I have been keeping my own blog on typepad for ages, I thought we might be inclined to post more over here. Cathrin is cooking up some articles about school projects and I know Keiron is hard at work producing a screen cast of the new version of fridge magnets tool. We also have a new school project starting in early April.
I hope you enjoy our news. Comment lots - we love to hear from you!