Dr. DeFehr is an instructor in English and Film Studies.
Winter 2012 Interdisciplinary Course Seminar Grant, Cycle One
Advanced Gaming Narrative: Animating Avatars in Virtual Worlds, Winter 2012
Video and computer games enjoy widespread popularity currently, with millions of players participating in a variety of gaming formats. Games offer many connections to the study of narrative, which could complement other approaches to literature studies. These connections include discussions about the meanings of traditional features such as setting, character and plot, and also political elements relating avatar relationships with each other and their virtual environments. Many pre-packaged, and professionally released video games have contributed to classroom activities, where students learn the rules of the game, attempt to meet a prescribed goal, and then report on the learning that took place. This course, however, would utilize a script composition program called ScriptEase to create video games of the students’ own that would explore various aspects of narrative such as genre, politics, and plot development. ScriptEase has been developed at the U of A by professors Duane Szafron and Jonathan Schaeffer among others. The development team has published their findings on high school student involvement with ScriptEase to demonstrate the possibility of creating video games from scratch by non-code writing students. As well, ScriptEase is currently being used in courses offered by Computing Science as well as Humanities Computing. In the English Department, ScriptEase would have a “literary” focus, where students would be required to construct narratives with some level of sophistication that would qualify as literary merit well beyond the cliched violence of commercial video games.