Sunday, October 12, 2008

Using Games in Homework Assignments

A lot of my assignments involve either the study of games (sometimes within certain constraints, like games from a certain time period or genre or platform). There are a lot of challenges here. A few pitfalls I've run into and my solutions:

Assignment: Analyze a game from a particular genre.
Problem: Students unfamiliar with the genre will have a difficult time, since they have to research not only the game but the genre as well; this is often accompanied by a perception of unfairness or bias.
Solution: Cover a variety of genres over the course, so that every student will have a few assignments that are easier and others that are harder. Students who aren't hardcore gamers may still feel at a disadvantage. Another solution is to give links or documents that explain the basics of the genre for the uninitiated; you may have to put these together yourself, which is more work.

Assignment: Analyze a game of your choice.
Problem: Even with my pretty extensive knowledge of video-game trivia, about half of the assignments will involve games I'm not familiar with. I then need to research all these games, which is fascinating and educational but also takes time that I often don't have.
Solution: Give a list of a dozen or so games that you're personally familiar with. Choose a variety that are well-known, so that the vast majority of students will have at least one that they already know. For students who complain that they don't know any of the games, you can negotiate with them after class to find a game that both of you know.

Assignment: Analyze this specific game.
Problem: Students unfamiliar with the game will complain, as with a specific genre.
Solution: Choose a game that is sufficiently obscure that none of your students have played it. This is relatively easy if you're studying classic games from before 1985 or so, as most of your students were not alive then :). It's also possible with more modern niche games. In this case, researching the game is considered part of the assignment.
Alternate solution: Time permitting, bring the game in question to class and do a demo and some preliminary analysis in class. Bonus points if you can put the game "on reserve" at your campus library or otherwise make it something that students can play for themselves on their own time.

No comments: