Presentation: The Language of Game Environments

Back in December, Creative Director Matt Small flew out to Washington DC to talk about "The Language of Game Environments" to a group of government and university researchers.

The Game Changers conference was hosted by the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Study of Language (CASL) and the Foreign Service Institute (FSI).  Attendees were mostly language-learning researchers interested in finding ways to use video games to aid in education and language acquisition.

Matt's presentation is a high-level overview of how game environments have changed during the last 30 years, and explores some of the techniques environment modelers and level designers use to guide players through these increasingly complex 3D spaces and interactions.

The presentation slides and video have now been posted on the CASL website.  The video of the full 45-minute presentation and Q&A is here.  If you're watching the video you may find it helpful to grab the PDF first, since you can't see many of the slides in the video. You can download the presentation PDF file here.

Also, the full roster of presentations are here:  Game Changers Roundtable.  

Particularly good are Brian Upton's presentation on how designers use and manipulate player anticipation, Mark Dank's on the changing game audience and how it's affected the industry, and Sarah Stocker's on the virtuous cycle of addiction in games.   Keep in mind the audience here are all non-gamers, so some of this stuff may be a little "introductory" for the hardest of the hard-core, but it's all interesting stuff.  You may also want to check out David Traum's presentation on the university research going on around natural language simulation.

Can games make you smarter?

Just got back from a conference in Washington DC about language learning and video games.  

I was there along with a number of other game industry peeps to explain some basic ideas about game design and the game industry to government and university language acquisition experts.  The idea was to get everybody in a room together from our different industries and see if by sharing knowledge we could come up with some ideas about ways that video games might be able to make the process of learning a language (or anything else for that matter) more engaging and productive.

Sounds like it could have been kind of dry, but was actually super interesting.  In addition to speakers from the games biz, Dr. David Traum spoke on the research his team has done in natural language simulation at USC, and Dr. Ray Perez of the Office of Naval Research told us about several experiments his group has done to improve training in the US Navy and other branches of the US Armed Forces.

The whole thing got me thinking about "edutainment", which is often treated as a dirty word in game development circles.  But why?  Everybody has to learn; everybody has to go to school.  Surely there must be a way to make games that are fun to play and teach you something in the process.  

Too busy getting ready for our visit to Microsoft next week to blog deeply about this right now, but I'll come back to the topic again -- it's got the little gears in my brain spinning.

Oh, and eventually they're going to post the videos of our presentations online.  I'll update this when they do.