Hello world!

Welcome to Day of DH 2010. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Goals for Today

Thursdays are normally devoted fully to research projects, but I’m going to mix it up a bit throughout the day in order to give a more realistic sampling of what my daily tasks involve.  So, I’m going to write a bit about research, teaching, and service, and set some goals for each.

For my major research goal of the day, I’d like to make some major headway on a special issue that I’m guest editing with a colleague from the Rochester Institute of Technology.  We’re investigating the use of video games as “games for good”-types of cognitive technologies and we’re in the final stages of formatting and layout for the issue.  The project is a bit behind schedule and I’d really like to get it finished up and sent off to the editor for final review.

In terms of teaching, I’d like to do a little thinking about a course I’m teaching in the fall that is being transformed into a fully online course.  The course is titled Information Architecture and deals with the theoretical issues involved with organizing, labeling, searching, and navigating information in online environments, as well as with the more practical issues of teaching humanities graduate students how to author content online in a dynamic sort of way.  It has been a bit experimental, using PHP the first go round and Processing the next, so I’m a little concerned about how this type of course will translate to a fully online offering.  Although the content seems perfect, the process of teaching the applied portions can be very hands on and f2f interaction seems to be pretty important for that.

For service, I’m going to review a few of the statewide requests for the State Common Numbering System used in Florida.  The SCNS is a giant database of course descriptions and course numbers that is used to ensure efficient articulation when a student takes a course at one institution and then wants to receive credit for it upon transferring to another.  The process is rather interesting in that it demands particular types of information seeking behaviors in order to gather the appropriate data when assigning numbers.

I’m excited to be participating in Day of DH again!  I’m going to hold off on editing posts until a few days from now in order to get as much initial content down as possible.

Best Laid Plans…

Despite a focused plan of attack to spend the morning working on writing, my day was hijacked in a delightful sort of way by some student issues — one was an email from a graduate student trying to figure out how to integrate SMS messaging and a PHP script to create an art installation (I recommended the GD library for PHP and some Google Code searches on Processing/PHP integration) and another was a phone call from a student wondering about the appropriate credentials to enter the film industry (no comment).  Hopefully the afternoon will allow for some quiet time for writing.  As for now, it’s off to lunch!

Registered for a Conference

A few months ago I agreed as a favor to a colleague to give a talk as part of a panel on serious games here in Orlando for the Gametech User’s Conference.  It seemed then that I had all the time in the world to get things done!  Now we’ve received an email from the organizer asking for the slides in advance so that the talks can be streamed live through Second Life; this presents a bit of a problem since I haven’t started mine yet.  It looks like I may have to adjust my daily goals/priorities once again … at least I can register and check that off my todo list.

Reviewed Statewide Courses in DM

Just finished about an hour of reviewing statewide course number requests within the discipline classification for digital media.  While this service work can be a bit tedious (it involves searching decades in the overall statewide taxonomy,  then researching participating institutions to find appropriate numbers) it is pretty helpful for understanding what our peer institutions are doing across the state of Florida.  I’m attaching a screen capture of the top level taxonomy by course decade because I think it is an interesting glimpse at all of the different content at play within the DM discipline.

Heavy Rain

I spent the last few hours of my day reviewing a stack of Honors in the Major scholarship essays from the arts and humanities college and then buckled down to put together a few slides for my Gametech panel presentation on storytelling in digital games.  So far I’m pulling a lot of material from the excellent collection First Person, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan, and the more applied Game Writing, edited by Chris Bateman.  My colleague Steve Jacobs, with whom I am collaborating on a SIGGRAPH games paper applying semiotic theory to game design (building upon an earlier work we published), has an excellent introduction to narrative for games piece in the Bateman book.

In any case, I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to support my talk with some recent examples from modern console games.  I had been reading a bit about the Playstation 3 game Heavy Rain that is supposedly doing some pretty amazing things in this area.   So, after writing up a few slides, I sat down with the game for a bit to try and gather some initial impressions.  My first impressions after playing the game for about an hour and a half are very positive.  Much like The Indigo Prophecy, another critically successful game based on interactive drama, the game makes heavy use of motion capture, real time button presses, and complex physical interactions using the controller.  Both games were also created by the same developer, Quantic Dream.  The twitch reflex gaming of first person shooters is largely abandoned, although there are some sequences that take a bit of getting used to in the early stages of the game (dragging an electronic razor across one’s face to shave off stubble at the appropriate speed using the analog control stick, for example, or scrubbing out errant marks in a set of blueprints as you help construct a new building on a drafting table).

You would think that moving through the routines of one’s daily life in a virtual world would be incredibly boring, and it is slow at first, but you gradually get to know the protagonist through his job, his choice of music and clothes, and, eventually, his interactions with his family.  In true video game fashion, a crisis occurs early in the game which changes things dramatically for the player and the protagonist early on in the introduction (after the pivotal moment, about an hour into the game, the credits finally appear on screen).  The choices I’m making thus far are fairly minimal (do I cook up some leftover pizza or a microwavable meal for dinner?) but nonetheless the number of interactions and their connection to the story make the experience compelling and, if not entirely fun, at least meaningful in the sense that Salen and Zimmerman use the term.

I’m obviously going to need to spend some more time with the game before culling my examples from it, but I’ve already got some good material — the excellent use of the environment to aid in storytelling, the use of music to set mood and emotion, the potential for character growth through initial character flaws, etc.  Looking forward to pulling this apart a little more after I’ve had some additional time to play.