Final Reflection

This class has been a very enlightening journey for me.  I was a kid when the original Atari came out, and very quickly discovered that I have no talent for twitch games and not much interest in playing them. (Except Breakout — I loved Breakout). 

Breakout on Atari 2600 

At age 12, I wanted to become a programmer for the same reason everyone else goes into software does — to be able to code Asteroids and play with robots. I became an embedded software engineer (i.e. wrote software for machines that barely have a GUI) but never got around to doing either one. A few decades and 3 kids later I was looking to reenter the workforce after a career break and ended up as Director of Software for a startup making therapeutic video games to help kids with autism improve their visual attention. I played a few iPhone, PBSKids, and Lego Wii games along the way but otherwise remained woefully ignorant about this new art form (I didn’t even know what an endless runner game was.)

Attention Arcade by Brainleap Technologies is played with an eyetracker

I decided my future lay in developing educational software for kids with learning differences like dyslexia and autism. I applied to the Learning Design & Technology program because I want to make things that are grounded in more than just my intuition.  I signed up CS247 because I couldn’t bear it if I made software that kids hate as much as my kids hate Zearn.  (Plus my LDT project actually ended up being a game, and I really want it to not suck…) Before this class, I had no business inflicting educational games on anyone; after this class, I think I’ve learned enough to at least begin to ask the right questions.

Early prototype of my LDT project, a morphology game

My kids will be happy to know that the first thing I learned is I need to play a LOT more video games. In this class I learned how to analyze a game, figure out why it works, and communicate the details to someone else. That will come in handy when I go looking for mechanics to steal  to use in the future. I also collected a list of classic games that I really need to check out. From the projects I learned the importance of playtesting and how to listen to what players are saying.  And then there is sketchnoting. I was skeptical that I could do it with my lack of drawing skills, but found it to be an interesting way to summarize and highlight the main points of an article or video.  I even (and here is my bid to get extra credit by making Christina cry) attempted to sketchnote a few papers from my Educational Neuroscience class!  If there’s room in my schedule, you may see me again in CS247B or CS377G next year. Thank you for an amazing class!

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