2008 Sandbox Symposium


Gamer Communities, Design, and Learning

Shree Durga, Sean Duncan, Ben DeVane, Moses Wolfenstein

Though much of the study of games and learning has understandably emphasized the interaction of game players with specific games (e.g., Gee [2003]), recent work has shifted to the understanding the social sphere around games and communities of engaged gamers (e.g., Squire and Giovanetto [2008]; Wright et al [2002]). In particular, online discussions around and supporting games are an increasingly ubiquitous feature of popular games, providing venues for passionate gamers to discuss games, critique each other’s work, and interact with game designers. We argue that the ways that communities of gamers interact on the Internet show the inextricable nature of a variety of design activities and approaches to learning in contemporary gamer cultures, across a wide range of game genres. For this panel, we propose to discuss online “gamer communities” [Squire in press] from a number of game genres — turn-based strategy games (Civilization III), massively-multiplayer online games (World of Warcraft), console and handheld adventure games (The Legend of Zelda series), sandbox-style console action games (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), and first-person shooter games (Team Fortress 2). Through the creation of new knowledge (be it in the form of written text; e.g., “Zelda timelines” or a collaborative website such as WoWWiki), the development of game design skills (e.g., Civilization III scenarios or Team Fortress 2 level design), or means of representing one’s identity (e.g., models of rappers using Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas), we aim to show how gamers are productive in their relationship with games, and why. We will draw implications for how game design influences the nature of online discussions around games as well as how discussions in gamer communities feed back into game design. Our overarching goal is to shine a light on “gamer communities” as productive arenas of learning and literacy, and show the ways that common gamer activities involve practices of value (for both the participants and game designers). For, while the term “gamer” is often used in the popular press as a pejorative, we will highlight the ways that productive activities — meaning-making, new literacies, argumentation, and the design of creative artifacts (stories, models, databases, and new games) — are part and parcel of engagement in gamer communities.

Four Views of Procedural Character Animation for Computer Games

Ken Perlin, Chris Hecker, Craig Reynolds, Friedrich Kirschner

This panel aims wide, showing four complementary aspects of procedural animation technology for computer games. Each panelist will briefly present core ideas of their respective technology, and then the discussion will center around how these complementary techniques can be used together. The panel will conclude with a discussion about opportunities for the future. The four procedural animation subtopics would be, in brief: Emotive Actors, Aliens, Flocking, and Puppetry.

IGDA Panel: "In the Production Trenches: Developers Tackle Roadblocks"

Jason Della Rocca, Judd Simantov, Didier Malenfant, Kellee Santiago, Jamie Fristrom

While the game industry is booming, there is still a lot of growing pains down in the production trenches. What obstacles are holding back the game industry, or more so, the art form? What are developers doing to tackle the roadblocks of today, and prepare of those just appearing on the horizon? This panel of embattled industry pros will explore topics ranging from technical/production nuts and bolts, to the business of games, all the way to industry structural factors and the overall culture of games. Sadly, there’s stuff getting in our way at every turn...


Ethics and gaming

Karen Schrier


At this workshop, we’ll determine and debate the critical ethical issues surrounding the games industry. Taking this a step further, we will also consider how games themselves can potentially help us reflect on and experiment with our ethics.

New tools and techniques in games

Peter Binson


Attend this workshop to talk about cutting edge tools and development methodologies. Discussion topics may include: SCRUM, integrating user testing with game design, and the latest tools being used by the development community.

Women and games

Ronah Harris


Transmedia storytelling and games

Geoff Long


This workshop will analyze several successful franchises to discover the keys to successful transmedia storytelling.

New business models and games

Chris Swain


This workshop focuses on the quickly changing landscape of the game business. Discussion topics may include digital distribution, microtransactions, console wars, social networks and games, and evolving gamer demographics

Acting Workshop

Brenda Harger


This workshop will provide participants with an introduction to improvisation and will also encourage participants to seek out continued opportunities to more fully explore the connection between improv and game design.