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Topics in Games Research:
Eco Resilience

 

by Kathleen Ruiz
Associate Professor of Arts & GSAS (co-founder)

Office Hours: Thursday 2:30 to 4:30pm EST by appointment,

Email: ruiz@rpi.edu

 

GSAS 6200 01 3 credits

GSAS 4962 01 4 credits

Spring2021

Wed 2:30-6:20pm EST

https://homepages.hass.rpi.edu/ruiz/Eco/EcoSpring2021.htm

 

Prerequisites or Other Requirements
Topics in Games Research is a special topics course for the Critical Game Design MS and PhD program in which students are exposed to cutting-edge research being conducted by faculty, learn advanced scholarly research methods, and experience a research-infused pedagogy. The content of this course will shift each semester, reflecting the research focus of the faculty member who offers it. This course may also be used to develop new curriculum.  May be taken multiple times for credit.

 

 

Course Description

 

An advanced integrated seminar that uses creative trans-disciplinary approaches and games as a potent means to examine, enlighten, and engage dialog and action in solving pressing ecological issues. The relationship of social, psychological, and cultural resilience in oftentimes oppressive political and institutional power structures will be studied as students engage in research about complex interrelated ecosystems. Readings in environmental issues, ethics, nature literature, and philosophy, in addition to guest researchers, scientists, and artists, help students resonate new approaches. A series of short studies propel research towards the goal of creating a relevant eco resilience project. The course fosters the exploration of games research contributing to thesis and dissertation development.

 

We will parse through complex system models that proactively anticipate impacts that are often unforeseeable in interconnected systems. The ethics of even using electronic gaming instruments and eco-adverse delivery systems will be explored and experiments with ways of making projects that self-produce their own power or offer ecological hardware alternatives will be encouraged.

 

 

Please note due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the course will be online with the possibility ofsome opportunities to meet in small groups or individually with the instructor, if deemed safe. In person meetings must follow strict Institute guidelines and all parties are tested and cleared for being on-campus, maintain social distance, wear masks and visors, sanitize all surfaces before and after the meeting time.Some plans for the course will, by necessity, need to be altered to keep within Covid guidelines.

 

Course Text(s)

Videogames and the Future of Ideological Warfare by Marcus Schulzke
https://anglejournal.com/article/2016-02-videogames-and-the-future-of-ideological-warfare/

 

Eco-Resilience Games, Art & Science
by K. Ruiz and K. Kornecki, "Eco-resilience: Games, art, science," 2019 IEEE Games,
Entertainment, Media Conference (GEM), Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA, 2019, pp. 1-11, doi: 10.1109/GEM.2019.8901974.

 

Simulating Philosophy: Interpreting Video Games as Executable Thought Experiments
by Marcus Schulzke
https://link-springer-com.libproxy.rpi.edu/article/10.1007/s13347-013-0102-2

 

Augmented Ontologies or How to Philosophize with a Digital Hammer
by Stefano Gualeni
https://philpapers.org/rec/GUAAOO-2

Excerpts from:
Culture as Weapon:  The art of influence in everyday life
by Nato Thompson

https://www.google.com/books/edition/Culture_as_Weapon/nb4IDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1

Introduction and Chapter 1

 

Excerpts from:

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate
by Peter Wohlleben

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/09/26/the-hidden-life-of-trees-peter-wohlleben/

 

Excerpts from:

Gabrys, Jennifer. 2011. Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv65swcp.1?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Preface and Introduction

 

Student Learning Outcomes

 

Upon successful completion of the course:

        Student will demonstrate the ability to observe and comment on the role of games in the representation of various physical, mental, emotional or spiritual environments.

        Student will analyze the role games play in building resilience.

        Student will identify a philosophical approach to their individual dissertation or master thesis research.

        Student will create a game project that demonstrates significant potential to affect change.

        Student will identify and explore sources for literature review for dissertation or master thesis

 

Course Assessment Measures:
Projects and Assignments
& Course Calendar

 

Due to the nature of the varied skill sets, talents and foci that students may have, projects can be created using a variety of  methodologies including digital, ar, vr, or board games, game zines, Twine games, written game treatments, paper prototypes, eco-tour machinimas, on-line and/or physically geo-located games and other experimental approaches.

 

Short Studies:

 

1. Representation: due Feb 3
Eco-tour machinima 

(5 points)

How is the environment (whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual), represented in games?
Give at least three examples (both positive and negative) that are particularly outstanding to you.

Create an eco-tour machinima of a number of games and their interpretation or portrayal of the state nature. Comment on this in a short paper 

 

Make an eco-tour machinima:
the use of real-time computer graphics engines to create a cinematic production.
Nitsche and Lowood describe two methods of approaching machinima: starting from a video game and seeking a medium for expression or for documenting gameplay ("inside-out"), and starting outside a game and using it merely as animation tool ("outside-in"). https://web.archive.org/web/20140814185256/http://www.dichtung-digital.de/2007/Nitsche/nitsche.htm


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machinima

Samples of Machinimas:

How Not to Die in WOW by Sarah Hammond
The Journey by Friedrich Kirschner

 

or a speed run (play-through recording), 

or a power point, 

or a series of links to video game trailers

 

Make an analysis and potential prognosis based on your findings.
You can use  
Ernest Adams Game Design Philosophy 
  - What dreams does the game fulfill?
  - What is the player going to do?
  - What are the physical, intellectual, emotional, economic and ethical spaces of the game world?


What types of research are you involved in? 

Define issues of interest


Optional reading:

Google Warming: Google Earth as eco-machinima

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263558111_Google_Warming_Google_Earth_as_eco-machinima

 

 

2. Resilience: due Feb 10

(5 points)

What makes it that some rise to the challenges we face with resilience, while others stall or wither?

What role can games play in helping with resilience? Resilience in ecology, but also in human bodily resilience, strength of spirit, and mental resilience?

Resilience as you have felt it: create a short maquette (quick sculpture), or PowerPoint, or visualization, a poem, music composition, a short game, or paper  


See Video:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, "What makes a life worth living? https://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

 

Visitor: Mengtai Zhang https://mengtaizhang.com/projects

 

3. Agenda Seed: due Feb 17

(5 points)
What role do games have in helping to formulate,

persuade, influence ideas, conceptualizations, or expectations?
Research then create an Agenda Seed about a topic of eco resilience that is particularly important to you and your research (ecological, socio-political, psychological, cultural, technical, etc.)

 

Agenda Seeding is a technique used to plant a seed of a new, or different way of looking at things other than the dominant dialog, an intervention of sorts.For example, agenda seeding was used by civil rights activists in the 1960's to help sway public opinion to support more positive race relations. It is a way to get attention to important issues. Here you planting a seed of importance about your research. this exercise is to help you define issues of importance to you.


Your Agenda Seed can be a short maquette (quick sculpture), or PowerPoint, or visualization, a poem, music composition, a short game, or paper, thought experiment or mind palace, etc.

 

 

Readings:

Eco-Resilience Games, Art & Science
K. Ruiz and K. Kornecki, "Eco-resilience: Games, art, science," 2019 IEEE Games, Entertainment, Media Conference (GEM), New Haven, CT, USA, 2019, pp. 1-11, doi: 10.1109/GEM.2019.8901974.

 

Videogames and the Future of Ideological Warfare by Marcus Schulzke
https://anglejournal.com/article/2016-02-videogames-and-the-future-of-ideological-warfare/

 

Simulating Philosophy: Interpreting Video Games as Executable Thought Experiments
Marcus Schulzke
https://link-springer-com.libproxy.rpi.edu/article/10.1007/s13347-013-0102-2



4. Developing a philosophical approach to your research:
due March 3

(5 points)

 

A heuristic is an approach to problem solving that uses a practical method or various shortcuts
in order to produce solutions that may not be optimal, but are sufficient given a limited timeframe or deadline. Examples that employ heuristics include using trial and error, a rule of thumb or an educated guess.
Keep in mind that there are positive and negatives about heuristics.

 

Deliverables:
Masters & Ph.D. level:

Considering your previous agenda seed, and after reading the readings below in this unit, now create an expansion of your thinking by writing a 1 to 2 page heuristic of your developing ideas on your thesis. These do not need to be fully formulated sentences, just any thoughts that you have about your research.

(You can optionally create a short game, or poem that portrays your ideas, or a drawing, or sculpture that represents your heuristic.)

 

Ph.D. level:

In addition to your heuristic, attempt to place your research into a philosophical context.

 

Link to developing a philosophical approach

 

Developing a heuristic + -

 

Does your thinking about your thesis develop through deductive reasoning?

Or is it one (or combinations) of the following:
Ontological 

Empirical

Conversational

Phenomenological 

Continental 

Anglo-American 

Eastern philosophical approach

Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of Mind

Activist 

Other new emerging approaches: Eastern and Western approach, Activist, Feminist, etc.

 

Readings:

Augmented Ontologies or How to Philosophize with a Digital Hammer

by Stefano Gualeni
https://philpapers.org/rec/GUAAOO-2

 

Excerpts from:
Culture as Weapon:  The art of influence in everyday life
by Nato Thompson

https://www.google.com/books/edition/Culture_as_Weapon/nb4IDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1

Introduction and Chapter 1

 

Visitor: Dr. Tony See Sin Heng, University of London SIM Global Institute, Singapore, Political Science and International Relations, Political Philosophy and comparative East-West Philosophy

 

 

5. Become or Inhabit Nature in Games or VR:
due: March 10

(5 points) 

For those technically able: scan a leaf, a piece of wood, a photograph of nature. Make a height map, create a level in Unity or Unreal, walk around in it, experience it from multiple viewpoints.
Or create an online and/or physically geo-located eco-exploration game.

Or for more theoretical approaches, create a short paper about a spatial experience in a game you have found particularly engaging.


Readings:

Excerpts from:

The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate
by Peter Wohlleben

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/09/26/the-hidden-life-of-trees-peter-wohlleben/

 

Visitors:

       Dr. Krysia Kornecki, RPI alum Geologist, Ecologist

       Jacqui Lewis, PhD student Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, freshwater ecology and anthropogenic stressors. evolved tolerance, and conservation .

 

6. Games, Art, & Science due March 17

(5 points) 

Meet with a scientist from the team, together  identify an issue, idea or pressing matter that can potentially be helped by games.
Create a design board or conceptual approach to a potential game that would enlighten and activate about the issue.

 

Visitor: 2:45pm- Paula Escuadra, IGDA Eco Sig Chair, Senior User Research Lead, Stadia Games & Entertainment, ecological activist https://docs.google.com/document/d/112SA5zLUcbNlIIIuPTAGyRR2ekSb0DGnDrUzphoH5nk/edit

 

7. Identify Open Energy/Materials due March 24
(5 points) 

Comment on, or generate energy for your game, 

or create new kinds of biodegradable game peripherals

 

Excerpts from:

Gabrys, Jennifer. 2011. Digital Rubbish: A Natural History of Electronics. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv65swcp.1?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Preface and Introduction

 

 

Optional:
Sound, Music, and Resilience
Winifred Phillips
video game music composer http://www.winifredph
https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/WinifredPhillips/20210216/377468/Video_Game_Music_Concerts_in_2021.php?fbclid=IwAR0jqLHUchJWu9J-lt62XY4ABJNpm3hYf_cpqD75-D0pHLw_FWuMFMcQV6k

 

Musical Ecologies in Video Games by Michael Kamp



8. Final Project: (45 points) due April 21

Create your game

        Identify an issue that resonates your research

        Develop an agenda seed

        Create a mind map or idea board

        Market research: what has been done, what was successful, what was not, what was left out. 

        Develop the Advanced Game Design Document

        Develop a prototype

        Complete your game, or write a 15 page written game proposal


All Perfected work due April 28

 

Participation/ Reading Reactions:

(20 Points)

 

Grading Criteria

Course in a Nutshell: https://homepages.hass.rpi.edu/ruiz/EGDFall2020/Experimental_files/image001.jpg

 

Short Studies:

       Representation: due Feb 3 (5 points)

       Resilience: due Feb 10 (5 points)

       Agenda Seed: due Feb 17 (5 points)

       Philosophical approach to your research: due March 3 (5 points)

       Become or Inhabit Nature in Games or VR: due: March 10 (5 points) 

       Games, Art, & Science due March 17 (5 points) 

       Identify Open Energy/Materials due March 24 (5 points) 

Final Project:Create your game due April 21 (45 points)
†††††††††† Create your game

        Identify an issue that resonates your research

        Develop an agenda seed

        Create a mind map or idea board

        Market research: what has been done, what was successful, what was not, what was left out. 

        Develop the Advanced Game Design Document

        Develop a prototype

        Complete your game, or a 15 page written game proposal

 

Participation/ Reading Reactions: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage in discussion, reflection and activities. (20 points)

 

 

 

 

Point to Letter grade equivalents for the course are as follows:

LETTER GRADES

PERFORMANCE DESIGNATION the 4000 level

POINTS

A+

EXCELLENT

90-100 points

A

85-89 points

A-

80-84 points

B+

GOOD

77-79 points

B

73-76 points

B-

70-72 points

C+

SATISFACTORY

67-69 points

C

63-66 points

C-

60-62 points

D+

MARGINAL

57-59 points

D

53-56 points

D-

50-52 points

F

UNSATISFACTORY

0-49 points

 

Attendance Policy

As an enrolled student, you have made a commitment to this class and your attendance is a significant part of that commitment. Attendance will be taken at every class. An absence is considered excused if the student has informed the course instructor by email or in person before the beginning of the class and the excuse is considered reasonable by the instructor.


Late Policy:
 All students are required to be on time and in attendance for each and every class. Students arriving to class more than 10 minutes late may be counted as absent.  Two (2) unexcused absences will result in a reduction of one entire letter grade. 

 

Adherence to deadlines is expected. It is the individual student's responsibility to keep track of deadlines and to present the work to the class and instructor on the specified dates. 15% per day will be subtracted from late assignments.

 

If a student needs an official excuse for medical or other reasons, please go to the Advising & Learning Assistance Center https://info.rpi.edu/advising-learning-assistance/

 

If you are concerned about your creative trajectory or your grade at any point during the semester, please do not hesitate to contact your Instructor and schedule an appointment.

Academic Integrity


Student-teacher relationships are built on trust. For example, students must trust that teachers have made appropriate decisions about the structure and content of the courses they teach, and teachers must trust that the assignments that students turn in are their own. Acts that violate this trust undermine the educational process. The Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities and The Graduate Student Supplement define various forms of Academic Dishonesty and you should make yourself familiar with these. In this class, all assignments that are turned in for a grade must represent the studentís own work. In cases where help was received, or teamwork was allowed, a notation on the assignment should indicate your collaboration.

Submission of any assignment that is in violation of this policy may result in a penalty of a grade of F for the assignment on the first offense and a failure of the course for any subsequent offense.

Violations of academic integrity will be reported to the appropriate Dean (Dean of Students for undergraduate students or the Dean of Graduate Education for graduate students, respectively).

If you have any question concerning this policy before submitting an assignment, please ask for clarification.

Collaborative or group work is encouraged where appropriate and where mutually helpful and where the collaboration has been approved beforehand by the instructor. Each member of the collaboration must clearly write their full name, email, and phone # on the assignment and describe their specific contribution. Cheating is using others work as oneís own. and plagiarism is also forbidden. The penalties for cheating and plagiarism are a grade of zero will be given on the first assignment where a violation is detected. If there is a subsequent infraction the student will receive a grade of F for the course.

Other Course-Specific Information

 

Resources

Tools

 

BOX Upload Info

 

Support Services

 

 

Associations, Conferences, Publishing Opportunities:

 

DiGRA, the Digital Games Research Association https://lists.tuni.fi/mailman/listinfo/gamesnetwork

 

International Game Developers Association (IGDA)

http://www.igda.org/members/group.aspx?id=121079
Albany IGDA

https://igda.org/chapters/us-ny-albany/
 

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Game Festival & Symposium held each Spring
http://gamefest.rpi.edu/

 

Independent Games Conference
 
http://www.igf.com/

 

The Game Developers Conference
San Jose, California

http://www.gdconf.com/

 

Montreal Game Summit

http://mtldgtl.com/en/migs/


Gamesutra
http://www.gamasutra.com/

 

Game Studies: the international journal of
computer game research

http://gamestudies.org/0601