Based on a conversation with our resident Vertebrate Paleoecologist about his lab, and in connection with an ongoing effort to set up and keep open a non-disciplinary maker space at UNM (the OILS Learning Lab), I’d like to try something new with the lab hours I put together for the Local Games Lab ABQ this spring. More generally, I’m looking for better ways to build momentum around place, learning, and play, here in ABQ.
I’ll be in the OILS lab each Wednesday from 11-12:30, and I’ve set up a schedule of events that cover some of the most vital topics and projects related to games and local place about which I have some understanding and which might prove especially useful as practical introductions to the work, relevant to our likely audiences, from undergraduates looking to do something a bit more real than take classes, to grad students whose research programs may include some design based research, either in the two programs I moonlight in (Educational Linguistics and OILS), or elsewhere on campus, the staff and faculty already working on place and learning, or games, or anything near those areas, who are mostly and usually alone in this work here at UNM.
While some of our weekly events have us playing a game that was made here, or made for another locale, and seeing their projects as a whole, other weeks are specifically set up as training in tools like ARIS or Twine that make making games, specifically place-based ones, easy enough for anyone. A third kind of activity I have planned involves collaboration on the seed of a new idea using siftr, and open workshop time for people to bring in their work and get some hands on time or feedback with some support nearby.
If you’re in the neighborhood, and have an interest, I heartily welcome you to get in touch or simply stop by. Likewise, if you’re making games or learning about them, the whole idea of this lab is to find ways to support these interests in our community. I’d love to know about your projects and goals, and to make more connections around play, place, and learning locally. Maybe we’ll abandon the prepared schedule for something with a larger sense of shared meaning.
ARIS, Twine, and Siftr
Twine is maybe the easiest game design platform out there. When I have my students make games with it, there is no tutorial. It is a very nice way to start telling stories that involve player interaction and may go in more than one direction.
ARIS I’ve written about lots before, but in case you’re coming here from somewhere else, it is an open-source AR game design platform, shepherded primarily by Daivd Gagnon et al. at Field Day Lab in Madison, WI, and that I’ve been involved with for about a decade now since I first started working with Julie Sykes on Mentira. It does a lot of things, but as a first approximation you could do worse than thinking about Pokemon Go or Ingress with their phone-based, GPS gameplay combined with the branching dialogue possible with Twine. ARIS is great for location-based games, where the phone mediates player’s interaction within place more than it sucks players in to the screen. It takes a bit longer to learn than Twine but is very accessible to non-programmers, novices, etc. of all ages. Someday I’ll write about how similar it is to Twine in other ways too.
Siftr is a spin-off of an ARIS feature called the Notebook. It is a collaborative map creator that I’ve written about before, and hope to put to use this semester as the first step in making a silly, largish scale game on campus. It is even easier to use that Twine and should be the goto tool for anyone wanting to explore/document place as a group.
Los Duendes: Folklore in Place
Zimm: Library as a game board
ARIS: Homegrown Augmented Reality
Making games easy: Twine
Siftr: Mapping campus for play
Mapping UNM 2: findings + brainstorm
Mentira: Spanish Language Mystery
Hopes for Spring to Come
Anyway, this is my siren call and stake in the ground for the spring. It’s easy to let time slip by because there are other obligations, and without a pressing deadline to compete, too hard to set aside time for the work we really wish we could be doing together.
I know of at least two groups at our university who are working on games right now, and I hope to share them with you soon too. One is a ARIS-based campus tour for new international students. Another is a chemical docking game, in the same genre I guess as Foldit, the well-known protein folding game. This one has an ambitious full freedom control scheme as part of its innovation.
Finally, I have added a new major assignment to my Games for Change class this semester. I’m asking each student to give a public talk as part of a six-week ongoing series. Again, I was goaded into this by our paleontologist, but the idea, while a bit scary, may kill a few birds with the same stone. More about that in a minute.
Please do come join us at the OILS Learning Lab this semester, or if you’re far away, let me know what you’d like to hear about.