I’m blogging for Ada Lovelace Day on the 2nd day of the Game Developers Conference, where I have been handing out our Ada Lovelace pins since yesterday, when they arrived at Tracy’s Hotel. Frank Lanz, who gave a talk this morning about his ARG Chain Factor, started his talk by saying “Happy Ada Lovelace Day everyone,” minutes after I have him his pin. Thanks for the shout out Frank.
As most of our friends and supporters know, the Game Development Community is overwhelmingly male, but for those of you single male game designers out there, if you want to meet some cool chicks, you should head on over to West Hall. That’s where they are hosting the Education Summit and the Serious Games summit. It’s where the majority of academics are hanging out, and it’s the one place at GDC where you will see the most notable participation from women, both in the audience, and on the dais. Two of the highlights for me thus far have been Jane McGonigal’s keynote yesterday on the ability of game designers and players to transform the world and solve the world’s biggest problems. According to McGonigal, games produce a number of the components that people in the “science of happiness” are now calling vital to human well-being. They include a number of factors of Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow,” and include not only challenge but different forms of social interaction, such as dancing. She showed one of her recent ARGs which is an experiment with the discovery that embarrassment actually makes people happy; the game is designed to embarrass you by doing various dancing maneuvers (including some in public), with all participants wearing masks in their photo or video documentation. She also talked about how games allow us to solve complex, often frustrating challenges that require high levels of tenacity, and urged everyone, with s series of design challenges, to use games to take on some of our most pressing problems .
Margaret Robinson gave a fantastic de-construction of Spore as a learning game, based on some research she’s been doing since the game came out in September. Apparently teachers are not using the game, but they are using the FREE (very important feature) character creation tool. Controversies abound around the game's unscientific science, but intelligent design proponents have been using it to promote their cause. A notable exception is Anti-Spore, a blog created by a Christian father who objected to Spore’s “intelligent design without a Creator” message. After numerous comments its author revealed the site to be a hoax. Robinson closed with a recommendation that game companies find ways to lower the barrier of entry for using mainstream in the classroom, either by giving games away (bureaucracy’s can get challenging where money is involved), or by providing site-wide licenses to schools and developing curriculum plans for teachers. Even with those initiatives, the barrier of entry will continue to be high due to the resistance of the majority of educators to games in general. The talk was both entertaining and informative and I hope she’ll post her Powerpoints online.
The fact that women are so well-represented in serious games and games education is promising and a hopeful sign for female participation in the game industry in the future.
By the way, in case you didn't know Ada was a bit of a bit of a gamer. :) She liked playing the numbers.