Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What can educators learn from professional developers?

A few weeks ago, I visited Henry Jenkins and Brett Camper from MIT's Education Arcade this week. In addition to other projects, they are working on "Revolution", a game about the Americna Revolution built on the Neverwinter Nights game engine.

It was encouraging to hear that the issues they deal with are the same ones we have been dealing with in our development over the past years. We still are all asking the same questions. It reminds me of how new our field is, and how important it is for us, as game developers, to communicate with each other... more on that in another post.

As educators, our emphasis is on learning, rather than production. As a result, I think there are important lessons we can learn from professional developers. They include:
  • How do we manage the production environment? How do we track versions, process workflow from artists to programmers and debug our work?
  • How do we integrate what we know about game play with our designs? How do we educate our development team (which -- in a university setting may include content specialists with no knowledge of game play design) on what makes a game fun, or how we use incentives and challenge to sustain game play?
  • How do we document the design process, preventing future mistakes?
  • What are the roles of everyone involved in a design team? In our lab, we all participate in design... what prescribed roles are needed to improve quality control and keep the team on track?
  • What does a design document look like and how is it used?

    As we pursue academic questions regarding the role of games in education, I think it is important to also encourage dialog (read: conference presentations and publications) on development by educators.


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