Monday, May 20, 2013

Stories and Games at GRAND 2013

Last week, I attended the annual meeting of the GRAND (Graphics, Animation, and New Media) research network, held in Toronto.  Although the research and discussion presented and held at the conference spanned much more, the focus for me was on games and stories in games.

The presenter I was most excited about seeing was Jane McGonigal of Reality is Broken and Superbetter fame.  She believes that gamers are actually practicing some rather useful skills when they play.  For example, they learn to be hopeful and creative, two of several things that we should want people solving the world's greatest problems to be.  I reviewed her book a couple of years ago and still find that it influences my thinking on games.  Although I already knew most of what she talked about at GRAND (having been a fan for a while), I loved seeing her in person, and loved even more that my friends and colleagues now buy into her ideas as well.

A surprise for me was how much I loved Terry O'Reilly's talk.  I admit I'm not much of a CBC follower (unless they're airing an Ottawa Senators hockey game), so I didn't know who Terry was ahead of time.  He spoke about the power of stories, mostly with respect to marketing and advertising.  One of my favorite quotes:
Make people feel your message, not just understand it.  -Terry O'Reilly
Besides being an extremely good talk, it was fascinating how much I connected with his message with respect to games.  In particular, I found myself being convinced by him (and less directly by Jane McGonigal earlier) that stories can truly make a difference in learning with educational games.

On Tuesday night I presented my nicely designed research poster.  I was quite pleased to see a few other really great posters.  My favorite poster (possibly of all time) described Tiffany Inglis's research on pixel art in the form of a comic strip.  Check out the poster on her project page.

Finally, on Wednesday, the last day I was at the conference, I attended the Women in Games panel.  The panel featured Grace from Fat, Ugly, or Slutty, Cecily from Dames Making Games, Anita of Feminist Frequency (which is most recently focusing on tropes vs. women in videogames), and Brenda of Silicon Sisters, a women-lead game studio in Vancouver.  The discussion was fascinating, and I saw a lot of what I do with women in CS shine through, even though involvement in games can be much broader than programming/CS.  It was also really neat to see what Brenda and her company have been working on, since I had been chatting with Brenda about stories in games the previous evening at my poster.

Even though I had less than two days between trips (poor baby Molly!), and even though I could only stay for two days, I'm really glad I ended up coming to GRAND.  I feel energized as I move into my attempt to get a lot done research-wise this summer...


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