Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Students and Academic Roleplay: Some Responses

Cast Pic  
Location: Virtual House of Usher, Second Life

The work in Jokaydia Grid last semester gave my students the chance to sound off about roleplay. I was pleasantly surprised how many of them slipped into character. In a post last month, I looked at ideas students had for improving future expeditions to the House of Usher: new settings, characters, effects, and props. In this post, I share some reflections about what students felt they did well to make the improvisational roleplay work, or not.

My student Elon, who is drafting an academic article about the nature of story in the game Mass Effect, replied a great deal with useful information. Like a good academic, he's drafting ideas for the later project.
  • Logan: students were required to think critically and put effort into the simulation if they expected to gain a better understanding of the story, and quite possibly change the story altogether within the simulation.
  •  Elon: In order to be a proper role-playing character, the user has to continuously maintain the world’s setting and authenticity. To do this, I had to first find out about the House of Usher by reading the story, and then I had to carefully maintain who I was within the simulation.
  • Emily:  A character must be created and maintained, usually conforming to some specific guidelines but otherwise left up to the player. For example, my character was given a motive of holding a grudge against the Ushers due to the fact that they had denied her a loan. 
  • Elon:  I decided to tell Roderick I admired his paintings and wanted to wander around a bit. I still couldn’t find the family papers. I was panicking by the time Roderick called for us to see our quarters, but luckily Mark drew Roderick away to explore the island with him. This gave me the opportunity to find the papers, detailing his family history and more information about the nature of the land.
  • Emily:  If my character had not chased Roderick out into the swamp, then [a major clue] would not have been found. Since my partners were convinced at the time that Roderick was evil, it is likely that the ending of the story would have played out altogether differently if I had not possessed that proof of his innocence.
  • Elon:  The interactive experience isn’t purely just with the game engine, but also with other users . . . . The result is an experience where everyone has their share of invested time, choices, and manipulations of the plot.

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