Serious Games Canada Summit, Montreal

I’ll be speaking in one of the sessions at the Serious Games Canada Summit in Montreal on November 27 & 28th. The focus of my contribution will be on modding in the classroom – that is to say, exploring some of the potentials, perils, and philosophical underpinnings of using in-game world- or scenario-builders. My perspective is drawn from my experience in distance and online education.

A fantastic example of what can be accomplished by adapting commercial, off-the-shelf games is discussed on Henry Jenkins blogRevolution, a game set in one pivotal day during the American Revolution. Why mod rather than build?

“Our first decision was to forego coding Revolution from scratch and make it as a mod of an existing game. Using an existing engine enabled rapid prototyping and design. Using an existing engine also improved production quality – graphics and sound would already be at a level students would associate with professional games. Since many game companies offer modification tools to consumers for sharing new content, we wanted to explore the advantages of modding for developing serious games.

After much consideration, we settled on the Neverwinter Nights toolset. Neverwinter Nights is an RPG series for the PC that was specifically designed by its makers, Bioware Corp., to support modding projects. There was already a very robust culture of player-made NWN mods, which we could tap for inspiration and experience. We wanted to create a socially dynamic world where students would interact with both player-controlled and non-player-controlled characters, and NWN was built for character conversation, a feature we felt was crucial to the social world we wanted to model.”

The other two panelists in the session are Kevin Kee and Richard Levy (participants list).

“Kevin is Canada Research Chair of Digital Humanities, Associate Professor, Brock University, and Adjunct Professor, McGill University. He was a Director and Project Director at the National Film Board of Canada from 1999-2002, where he lead various productions, one of which received Honor able Mention at the 2002 International New Media Awards. As a university-based researcher and developer, he has lead numerous productions, including: A Journey to the Past: A Quebec Village in 1890.

Richard Levy is a Professor of Planning and Urban Design at The University of Calgary, where he serves as the Planning Director (Chairman) for the Planning Program. Since 1996, Dr. Levy has also served as Director of Computing for the Faculty of EVDS. Dr. Levy is a founding member of the Virtual Reality Lab. Dr. Levy speaks at international and national conferences in the fields of virtual reality, 3D imaging, education, archaeology and planning. His published work appears in journals such as Internet Archaeology, IEEE MultiMedia, Journal of Visual Studies, and Plan Canada. “