When one thinks about games, they likely think about something that you do for fun and as a distraction. Before coming into this class, I saw games as fun, but meaningless and not something that people could use to actually benefit their life in any way. However, after being in this class for an entire semester, my perspective on gaming has completely changed. Despite this class being an English class, it has been the most unconventional one (in the best way possible). An english class where you read articles and books about games and how they positively impact your brain, mental illnesses, and more? An english class where you get to create your own game? Where you get to play games in class and out? Count me in.
Going through this class has taught me more than just rhetorical skills and how to become a better writer. It has taught me the importance of games and the different impacts it has on different people, and the power that games have in conveying very important messages to wider arrays of audiences. It has taught me to embrace my designing skills, which I barely knew I had before starting my year at Emory. At first, I thought that the countless reflection posts and the seemingly weird tasks that Professor Morgen gave us were pointless. I thought I would be wasting my time. But as time progressed, I realized how much I was actually learning. Through reading Superbetter by Jane McGonnagal, playing a role playing game, and creating our own game, I learned how much effort goes into creating a game, and how the messages that games proclaim in such an indirect way can really produce such a profound impact on players without them even realizing it.
Communication and collaboration were huge assets to this class, especially considering that we had multiple group projects. I encountered it first with the creation of podcast episodes, and then again with playing Fiasco, and lastly with the creation of our own game. While people can communicate really well, it can often be in a way that does not foster a collaborative environment. This can also turn out to be the opposite case, in which people can collaborate really well when together to work towards a common goal, but the communication can be off. However, in the case of this class, I not only became closer to my classmates through the various projects we had to do, but I also learned that two or more brains can often be better and more beneficial than one.
Lastly, I loved the amount of creative work that we were given the space and capacity to do for this class. One of the first things we had to do was create an avatar and come up with a “gamer name.” When playing a game called Fiasco, we had to create our own storyline with ourselves as the characters, which utilized a ton of thinking power and creativity to keep the story interesting, and ourselves entertained. We had to come up with cover images for our podcasts and pull audio from the internet, create graphs depicting the highs and lows of our emotions throughout the span of a week, create graphics for our game project, and I even created a promotional video which I never thought that I would have to do for an english class.
One of my most favorite tasks that we had to do in this class was play a simulation game called Gone Home. It seemed like a harmless game at first, one that I could knock out in less than an hour and just say that I played it. Little did I know that I would end up playing this game on my computer for four hours straight, and then not even end up finishing it. As I was playing the game, I was also “liveblogging” it. I wrote “My baffled self does not know how to make progress in this game.” The game centered around you, the player, who has just come home from a year abroad to find her house in shackles and everyone gone. The player must go through various clues to figure out what’s going on, and the craziest and most mysterious part of it all is that you don’t even know what you’re looking for until you find it. It was like a puzzle, and I couldn’t get enough. There were so many little details that could be found that made one feel so much more connected to the story and to the family. Finding all the missing pieces, I finally realized that the game was actually a very moving storyline, and unlike any other game I’d ever seen. It was about a girl named Sam who didn’t have very many friends starting her first year in highschool, and then fell in love with her best friend, Lonnie. Out of fear of their friends and families finding out of their love for each other and being too scared to come out, they escape and run away together.
Even though this game is labeled as a video game, it is so much more than that. Not only does this show that not all video games need to appeal to the masses and be some kind of violent shooting game, but it also depicts the very real societal problem that was present during the time period this game is set in. It addressed the very real discrimination against LGBT issues that were especially present during the 1900s. I underestimated the impact this game would have on me, emphasizing the fact I mentioned earlier that games have the capacity to communicate very powerful themes to their audiences. Playing this game utilized problem-solving skills heavily, and creativity because you would have to put yourself in the characters shoes to be able to find all the clues. Playing this game taught me to pay more attention to the bigger picture of things, and to be more observant. The writing process I encountered while live-blogging this game was one that developed and became more and more dense as time went on and I learned more things, which was a very interesting and fun method that I’ve never gone through before.
Another piece of work that I am quite proud of are the podcast episodes – specifically, the one I created with another classmate about the game Plague Inc. Not only did I learn how to create a podcast which I had never before done in my life, but I also realized how powerful it can be to decipher the true meaning behind why a game was actually created. In my reflection post after we finished makign the first podcast, I wrote: “I think [it] was a really important revelation for me because it taught me that there really is a purpose behind (mostly) everything, and it can be beneficial to learn about why things do what they do.I learned so much from creating just a simple podcast, I will definitely never mindlessly play games such as these again without trying to find a deeper meaning behind it, because that’s what makes it so fun – knowing there’s a purpose.” The creation of the podcast fostered communication between my partner and I, and collaboration when we met up to brainstorm, share ideas, and record the podcast together. It was like a non-essay essay, but the fact that it was in podcast form made it more fun and so different from writing a traditional essay.
To wrap things up, I would like to end by saying that through this class, I have learned so much about myself through, well, playing games. I used to hate group projects, but this class has changed my mindset. I’ve learned what I’m good at, what I’m not good at, and the importance of teamwork and collaboration with others, and I have Professor Morgen to thank for this.
This is Celia Mae, signing off.