Friday, July 17, 2009

Twitter as Education Platform

Yesterday afternoon, something magical happened. A game design discussion spontaneously broke out on Twitter. The original topic of discussion was the role of narrative in games, but eventually it extended to several other topics. Some really top-tier designers were taking part in the discussions, including David Jaffe, Clint Hocking, Damion Schubert, John Romero, Harvey Smith, Brenda Brathwaite, and about a dozen others whose names you should know if you are at all interested in this industry.

The main conversation continued until past midnight. Pearls of game design brilliance dropped constantly, each in 140 characters or less. It was amazing to see. As of right now, there is still some discussion happening. There was talk of formalizing this and turning it into a regular thing, but I think the fact that it just randomly happened is part of what made it special.

Search for the tag #gamedesign on Twitter to see the whole thing, unreadable though it may be in linear format.

Why is this relevant to teaching game design? Because most practicing designers do not have the time to write a textbook, yet we teach from textbooks. Some designers have blogs, but the best we can do is reference specific entries from the past, and even then it is usually a single designer's opinion (if we're lucky, a few other designers will have a discussion in the comments on the blog). There are GDC roundtables, which are usually not audio or video recorded. There are closed-to-the-public email discussion groups, which do filter out slowly but cannot be followed in real time. But this Twitter thing -- it happened in a very public place, and just kind of emerged as an ongoing conversation. That is how developers spread information, by talking to one another and letting their experience and wisdom spread virally among the community.

I don't know if we'll see this happen again, but those rare times when it does are worth reading.