October 8, 2005

An Aubergine Grows in Manhattan

by Nick Montfort · , 5:13 pm

I’m not blogging live, but wanted to mention something else interesting from Thursday at the NMC conference at Yale. I was glad to hear Bill Crosbie (Rutgers) and Jessica Hammer (Columbia) preaching the gospel of play in their presentation “Letting Go of the Reins – Giving Your Learners the Freedom to Play.” They explained to the attendees there some of the history of game and play research, and how many of the benefits that gaming offers may not fit into the “mandatory fun” situation of gaming in the classroom as it exists today. They also suggested the game Insaniquarium as something that had some of the qualities of SimCity, Civilization, and other complex simulation-based games, and was educational in similar ways, but which could be played in only a few hours. (There are other versions of the game floating around out there, nyuk nyuk, including a perhaps more extensive pay version for Windows. But this on ran on my Mac. And I definitely think you should be able to convert a Mac into an aquarium.)

Bill and Jessica are part of Eggplant (Educational Games Group: Play, Literacies, Avatars, Narrative and Technology Video Games Research Lab), an academic game research group with a lab space at Columbia University’s Teachers College. The new lab is also written up in a news item on the Teachers College site. I hope their vegetable game research may grow, vaster than Age of Empires and with Csikszentmihalyi’s flow.

One Response to “An Aubergine Grows in Manhattan”

  1. Bill Crosbie Says:

    Thanks for the nod, Nick. “Preaching the gospel of play…” I fear my baptist upbringing may have come out in the talk.

    The work is still a bit of a diamond in the rough, but we are chipping away at the excess portions to make the message stronger.

    I’ve been concerned that as more people in the field of education are turned on to the allure of games as instructional tools, that they will appropriate all of the surface elements and never get to the core of ‘gameness’. This year I have been to far too many instructional technology conference sessions where the ‘game’ being displayed was a Flash animation with a mulitple choice quiz at the end. As Jessica summarized at the end of the session – games are powerful and games are important because they *are* games. We’ll keep fighting the good fight and spreading the word. For those who are interested, our bare bones powerpoint slides can be found at the NMC site: http://www.nmc.org/events/2005fallregional/presentation_links.shtml.

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