Summer Workflow and Theory at 30,000 Feet

It has been a while since I sat down and updated my research blog. With the birth of our new son, the dramatic and total failure of my computer’s video card, and my attendance at the recent Humanities Gaming Institute I have been extremely busy and distracted. Now that things are settling into a routine at home, my computer has (once again) been returned, and the institute is over, I can get down into a productive summer work flow. This is how I’ll most likely divvy up my time:

Monday through Thursday:
Mornings: Work in the office, develop 3D game resources, watch Blender videos, play with Unity game engine.
Afternoons: Help out at home with children.
Evenings: Help out with children, read up on secondary literature (gaming, second language acquisition)
Mornings: Work in the office on book project and blog.
The rest of the day same as M-Th.
Do whatever I can, whenever I can.

Before the summer is out, I’d like to polish my workflow by developing some models in Blender, baking UV textures onto the models, and then importing these into Unity. Once I’ve done this, I should have a fairly good idea of how Unity will handle the files and whether they are low-poly enough. I’m sure other bugs will emerge during the process, which will hopefully help me figure out where potential bumps are and how to smooth them out. I’m specifically focusing on two models to import into Unity, the tower and building I have already developed (see posts below). There are a few things I would like to adjust on the tower before I import it into Unity, namely the windows and clock. In past models, I simply “slapped” these features onto the main mesh, which seemed passable enough but did not give the tower a sense of reality. Windows generally are recessed a bit, a feature I’d like to add to the model:

Now for my feedback on the Humanities Gaming Institute. I’ve been torn for a while on what I should say about it. Although I did not stay for the entire time (family responsibilities called me home early), I’m not sure that my staying the full three weeks really would have provided me with new insights on how games could be used in a humanities context. In fact, much of the discussion at the institute seemed to be highly theoretical – at 30,00 feet, if you will – and did not address the “how” and “why” that are fundamental before games can be successfully applied in humanities contexts. There was a lot of talk of Foucault, Flusser, and Huizinga, and not enough talk (in my opinion) on learning objectives, the nature of knowledge in games, game affordances, assessment, and debriefing strategies. My question was simple: “Why should I choose to use a game to teach Topic X instead of another approach and what is the best way to use the game?” and I’m afraid that I did not get a solid answer. This was a huge oversight, in my opinion. Perhaps this is just my training as an instructional designer coming out, but I think that video games must be carefully thought-out before they are used as instructional tools.

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