Anne's Game Salon

By Anne Derryberry on December 16, 2010 0 Comments Ideas Experiments

Anne Derryberry, 2010-2011 fellowAnne Derryberry, 2010-2011 Fellow

Being an ambassador for the adoption of game-based communication requires persistence and thick skin. And creativity and fervor. And lots of patience.

When I arrived at RJI, I quickly realized that few of my colleagues – and surprisingly few of the students – admitted to being gamers. Indeed, and perhaps not surprisingly, the idea of melding online games with journalism was not especially appreciated by professional or student journalists. When I opened my presentation to a class I’d been asked to speak to with my customary question, “So, what games are you playing?” one student scoffed, “We’re journalism majors. We don’t have time to play games.” Tough crowd.

My suspicion was that lack of exposure and access were significant factors in the frequently derisory response I encounter when I proffer my “games as medium of communication” theory. If I could just get more people to experience the variety of games that are available, I imagined, I might begin to open some minds to the possibility that games have value, that games are a unique form of storytelling, that games can inform the way we think about presenting stories to news consumers, that newsgames might actually (re-)engage a dwindling, even elusive, audience.

So I launched “Anne’s Game Salon.”

The salon was held a half-dozen times during the semester, with an open invitation to all who were interested. And people actually came. Attendees included students, faculty, staff and even a few community members
(including visitors from Zagreb and Amsterdam)

 

For each gathering, I picked a topic together with 6-10 games that would exemplify it. The topics were:

  • How games tell stories
  • Newsgames (guest presenter: Eric Brown of Impact Games)
  • Games as documentaries
  • Advergames
  • Stories without words
  • Games that move you (move as in “movement/ motion,” not as in “bring you to tears”).

All told, we played about 50 games together. Some were PC/Mac games, some were console (i.e., Wii, Xbox, PS3) games. Very few actually had a journalistic intent; each had a lesson to offer the attentive players.

Each session, I have been impressed and delighted by the thoughtfulness of the attendees. We always spend a good 45 minutes talking about the games we’ve played together, and what we’ve learned as a result of our experience. The discussions are always rich, giving all participants something new or different to ponder in subsequent days.

Has this whole exercise brought value to the journalism community at Mizzou? Have minds been changed, or at least opened, about games having a place in the spectrum of journalism products?

If interest level is a fair metric, I’m making headway.

As the semester progressed, word got around about Game Salon. New folks would join the fun, and would introduce themselves by telling me how a friend or more had urged them to check out what we were doing. Regular attendees would bring friends, or housemates or colleagues. I’ve been stopped in the halls by folks who’ve wanted to apologize for missing a Game Salon event, swearing that they’ll be at the next one. One journalism professor got so enamored with a game she played that she was moved to text me about it late one evening, wanting to know whether she could bring a campus-based clinical psychologist to the lab to evaluate the game’s therapeutic potential. I’ve been flooded with emails from would-be attendees IF ONLY I would schedule Game Salon to fit into their personal schedules. What started as a Twitter dribble has become a bona fide Twitter stream leading up to a Game Salon event.

When interest morphs into musings, though, my hope meter shoots through the roof. At least once during every Salon event, someone has asked, “Do you think we (or even better, do you think I) could make a game about…?” or “Can I come talk to you about a game idea I have?” Be still, my heart.

Perhaps the best indication that Anne’s Game Salon has had an impact is the number of requests I’ve received to continue our meetings next semester.

Game on, people!

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