Two classes have been offered at Albion College, one on designing video games and a second on developing video games. Students create the games and work as a team to design and develop a functioning instantiation of a game. Creating video games is multidisciplinary — involving design, visual arts, music, narrative development, and digital technologies — and integrates well into the liberal arts curriculum.
Also, liberal arts students need to develop the basic social skills and cultural competencies so that they can participate fully in today’s digital media and culture. They need to learn about the participatory culture that exists online – the participatory culture that they will be expected to take part in work environments and social environments. In fact, many students are already engaging with participatory culture and need to become more skilled and reflective in their participation. Digital literacies constitute core cultural competencies and social skills that people need in our new media landscape. They are referred to as “literacies,” however they also shift the focus of literacy from one of individual expression to one of community involvement. They build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical analysis skills taught in the classroom. All of these skills are necessary, even essential, but they are not sufficient, for an individual to achieve twenty-first century literacy. Digital literacies should also be seen as social skills, as ways of interacting within a larger community, and not simply an individualized skill to be used for personal expression. We must push further by examining how meaning emerges collectively and collaboratively in a digital environment and how creativity operates differently in an open-source culture based on sampling, appropriation, transformation, and re-purposing. The social production of meaning is more than individual interpretation multiplied; it represents a qualitative difference in the ways we make sense of cultural experience. In this world our students must acquire skills needed for working within social networks, for pooling knowledge within a collective intelligence, for negotiating across cultural differences that shape the governing assumptions in different communities, and for reconciling conflicting bits of data to form a coherent picture of the world around them. The collaborative development of interactive digital games is an effective and useful way for students develop their digital literacies and extend their understanding of their role as participants and creators of digital culture.
Skills enhanced through this course include play, performance, simulation, appropriation (the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content), multitasking, distributed cognition, Collective Intelligence, judgment, trans-media navigation, networking, negotiation, and visualization. (List taken from Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century, Jenkins et al., 2006.)