I spend an entire 6-hour day teaching about diversity in my Survey of the Video Game Industry class. The reason I devote one-tenth of the course to this topic is that 79% of responders to the International Game Developers Association’s 2014 Employee Satisfaction Survey said that they believed diversity to be very important to the industry, but only 28% thought that there was equal opportunity and treatment for all in the game industry. That tells me that we have a serious problem, and one step that I can take to work on that problem is to educate my game production students about the need for diversity.
My lab assignment for this topic is to have my students pick prominent game industry veterans belonging to under-represented or potentially discriminated groups — for examples, Gordon Bellamy (openly gay), T.Q. Jefferson (African-American), Jane McGonigal (female), and John Romero (Hispanic) — and do an in-class presentation on their lives and careers.
Because my students all want a career in game development, I am now in the process of gamifying all of my lectures and assignments. Here is what I did to gamify this assignment.
First, I introduced the elements of both surprise and choice into my student’s research subject selection. I hand out a sheet containing just the photographs (no names) of each of the game industry veteran they may use as a research subject. I next have each student either roll dice or draw a numbered slip of paper to determine their selection order. Once the order is determined, I have each student select their subject (with the restriction that no two students allowed to pick the same subject.)
I next tell my students to download a free QR code reader to their smart phones. (Before class, I put up sheets of paper, each with an image of one of the subjects — again, no names — an a QR Code, around the room.) The students then must go to the paper with their subject’s image and then user their smartphone to read the QR Code, which will cause their phone’s web browser to go to a web page I wrote containing a brief biographical sketch about the subject.
However, this biographical sketch does not contain all the information a students needs to do their presentation. However, it does contain clues for other images related to the subject. These images might be a game the subject worked on, a company he or she worked at, or some other aspect of his or her life. The student then find the images on other sheets I have put up around the room, and beneath each image is another QR Code for them to read with their smart phone. This will lead them to other pieces of information they need to complete their reports.
Once students have collected all the necessary information about their subjects, they must prepare a 5-minute biographical presentation to deliver to the rest of the class in the final hour of the presentation.
I’ve found that students have a lot more fun walking around the classroom and gathering information bit-by-bit using their smartphones and a bit of detective work then when I previously had students sit down at a computer and consult Wikipedia and other sources. And, hopefully, it will make the experience more memorable and the lesson more impactful too.