Creativity can be defined as making previously unseen connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena - in other words, what scientists do when we study nature and what game designers do when we design game systems.
Furthermore, game design is by necessity trans-disciplinary. As game designers we are often borrowing — i.e. making unexpected connections with — systems from other fields, including science. Examples can be as surprisingly intuitive as gravity in Portal, as delightfully arcane as chemical bonding in SpaceChem, or as abstract (and problematically-implemented) as evolution in Spore.
As your field guide, my goal is to provide a science-y take on the creative approach of making games (whether science-based or not). You have been warned: your risk of encountering a rewarding review of biology concepts is high. This brief foray will scaffold a discussion of how art can inform science and vice versa, as well as a few design perils to avoid in order to realize the rewards of creatively combining these disciplines in games.
I will conclude this tour with a final reflection on how the shared definition of creativity between science and game design provides a compelling justification for the oft-called for but less-commonly explicated goal of increasing diversity in both of our industries.
Ariel E. Marcy finds ways to pursue both biology and game design, having published scientific research and shipped titles through Stanford University. A former Fulbright Scholar and IGDA Women in Games Ambassador, her company, STEAM Galaxy Studios' mission is to encourage a wider diversity of kids to pursue STEM by emphasizing the critical role of creativity. Their flagship game, Go Extinct! successfully kickstarted on Kickstarter, got covered in Science, and won the Society for the Study of Evolution's Thomas H. Huxley award for outstanding outreach achievements. As a current PhD candidate in Australia, she asks research questions like, why are there no flying kangaroos?
Serious Games Don't Need To be Serious
Matthew Dyet of Citrus Shark Games
Serious Games have a reputation for being boring word dumps ending in a questionnaire asking what you learned. Our games fluctuate between trying to teach too much and being very little fun, or being great fun and teaching too little. In this talk, we'll find a happy medium between education and fun, examine how a local West Australian company has remained successful by making fun learning experiences, and provide a solid argument for not being so serious about our serious games.
Matthew Dyet is a Western Australian game developer and producer. As a student, he studied games and game development with a heavy emphasis on serious games for almost 7 years before entering the work force. Now three years later, he runs Citrus Shark Games with his business partner, works with Stirfire Studios as a producer, occasionally teaches game development and programming, and does contracting work creating serious games and exhibition pieces for a science exhibition centre called Scitech.
The Presence and Absence of Chronic Health Conditions in Videogames
Dakoda Barker, DCA Candidate (Serious Games), University of the Sunshine Coast
Issues of representation are becoming a key consideration for game developers, but chronic health conditions don't seem to be given the same level of focus as other under-represented aspects of identity like sexuality, gender, and race. But chronic health conditions affect many people, and many players, so it's important for developers to understand what chronic health conditions are and what role they might play in a videogame. Through past and present examples of chronic health conditions in videogames, we'll explore the current state of representation, how it can be improved, and why it's even worth talking about in the first place.
Dakoda Barker is a DCA candidate at the University of the Sunshine Coast researching the representation of chronic health conditions in videogames. He currently tutors in the serious games program at the University of the Sunshine Coast. His writing has been published online at Kill Screen, PC & Tech Authority, and Impulse Gamer, and in print with HYPER and PC Powerplay.
Matthew Lee has been exploring the collision of game design, psychology, and network culture for over a decade. In the long and tangled path that brought him to Australia as a Fulbright Scholar, he's been an Aerospace Engineer, Drama Therapist, Community Manager, Registered Nurse and a Game Designer. One of the pioneers of research into network culture and an early, early explorer of Virtual Reality (in the days when that meant Second Life and OpenSim, not Google Cardboard and the Oculus Rift), Matthew has crafted powerful interactive learning experiences on a staggering number of platforms, for clients such as the American Nurses Foundation, the US State Department, the UN and a few clients he's not allowed to talk about. Today, he serves as chair of the International Game Developers Association's (IGDA) Serious Games SIG, where his work involves promoting inter-disciplinary collaboration, research into online communities and investigating the potential of integrating therapeutic and elements into existing mainstream media.