For this week, I’d like to share a Twine assignment that I use in my game studies classes, one that I’m also reworking for my IAH 206: Gaming Representation, Identity, and Community class this Summer. Basically in past game studies courses I’ve taught I’ve had students make their own Twine games. My original thought behind this (one that’s still valid, though things have shifted a little) was that in order to understand games, students needed to know how they’re made and the processes of game design and development. Twine is a wonderful platform for this because it allows students to engage in these processes using accessible, open-source tools that are easy to pick up even for those with little or no coding experience. At the same time, Twine is versatile and can accomplish more complex tasks for students who know more coding, or for students interested in learning more after the course ends.
The assignment I’ve used before has been a course-long project that happens in several stages. The first stage is playing other Twine games and getting a sense of what Twine is and what it can do. The second stage tasks students with starting their own game, and writing and linking several passages together. The final stage has them finish the game–at least as far as they’re taking it in the course–but writing more passages and applying several special effects (a catch-all term for things like changing fonts, colors, adding images, videos, or music, etc.). In the past I’ve made this project a very customizable one: students could choose what they wanted their game to be about, and could choose which Twine capabilities made the most sense to pursue in the course. I made the evaluation criteria flexible to accommodate this customization; for example, with the special effects students could choose to either pursue several relatively easy effects, or spend more time and pursue more difficult/complex ones.
For IAH 206 this Summer I want to preserve this flexibility, customization, and variation, because I think it gives students the space to experiment and grow as critic-creators. Yet I’m modifying the assignment slightly to task students with thinking through their own experiences in their games–in other words, using the games to reflect on and revisit something they value, a particular memory they have, or an important part of their identity. I’m being careful in the redesign to not task students with revealing anything they don’t want to, as the goal of the course isn’t to force people to perform their personal selves for others. Yet my goal is to get my students thinking critically about who they are, where they come from, and what they value, and to play with those narratives using games.
I’m attaching a copy of the overall assignment handout here: IAH Twine Major Quest. Let me know what you think, and check out Twine at a workshop I’m running next week with Howard Fooksman as part of the MSU DH workshop series! Info and registration link here.