Monday, April 22, 2013

Preparing for Checkpoint II

Checkpoint II, or the midterm, will be our 'thesis' (our 'written component' for Studio II). I'm not exactly sure what this entails. Obviously it is impossible to have done all the research necessary for writing a thesis paper that isn't to be done until the very last quarter of our masters' degree (which is a year away for me), on a project that we haven't done yet! But I'm assuming that this Checkpoint II will be an evaluation of whether we've done our background work/literature review, our basic reasoning, our criteria for what constitutes a finished thesis, etc.

Basically, I'm assuming that our teacher is instructing us on the how of writing the thesis. Some of us barely even have a thesis yet! So I believe that what he's looking for is to help teach us to think like graduate students, and to write like graduate students, and to research like graduate students. My assumption is that the midterm Checkpoint II will be a document that shows we're on the right track in terms of thinking, writing, and researching our final thesis project. This will lay a solid foundation on which we will actually be able to produce and evaluate some end implementation.

Still, that's going to be a hard checkpoint to reach for me. I believe I am one of a minority of graduate students in the major who currently has a very solid grasp of what her current thesis is and what her current thesis project will be. But that just means more is going to be expected of me. My academic inclinations and my very thorough understanding of my topic warrants a document that shows just how much thought I've put into my work. This is a thesis I've already been working on for a year and a half, and which has deep ties to my own experiences of being a female gamer and suffering from anxiety/depression.

Right now I'm concerned because according to my schedule, I'm already supposed to be working on my reasoning process- the process that will determine what my design principals for the new genre will be. However, I'm currently in a writing phase, and I'm still very much focused on background research.

It is to my great fortune that I seem to be getting better at researching. I'm less distracted by interesting statistics and information that do not directly support or effect my arguments. And I'm also getting a lot better at hunting down the 'missing links' between my logical reasoning bastions, and getting the data I need in order to support my claims.  But at the same time, a lot of the background research I have to do is very difficult to lock on to. Sifting through countless articles on mental illness is something of a chore, but its necessary in order to get the data I need to construct my arguments. On the other hand, sifting through this data also reveals a lot of important factors I need to be thinking about when designing my game, as well as tips for what a well-designed game will actually look like.

For example, it wasn't until I started doing my background psychology research that I realized there was already a discipline of psychology (positive psychology) that was closely linked with studies on play, and which already understood that the mechanisms in games can be used to promote human happiness. That's a ton of pre-existing data I can use in order to structure my game in such a way as to promote joy. Furthermore  researching the gender gap in depression really draws attention to not only what makes women happy, but also the stressors that they face, and the difficulties I'm going to experience in designing products that both fit their busy schedules and also encourage them to take more time for themselves.

I learned some very valuable things. I should be designing a game that is very moral in how it treats its player. The game should not encourage play outside twenty hours a day, so as to avoid gamer regret and accusations of 'addiction.' The game can and should encourage the player to experience happiness-producing actions outside of the game (recommending that players take breaks, meet up with friends in real life, or which offer praise and incentives for doing things like household chores.) My game can actually help gamify a woman's life, and like games like Superbetter, it can improve both her relationship with the game and her overall mental wellbeing. How could I have known that my main character should reward the player for doing her real-life chores, if I hadn't studied these things?

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