By: Hailey Temple

To encourage the concepts of game design and gamification, Associate Professor Scott Nicholson is creating a series of classes and an organization for students at the School of Information Studies (iSchool).

This semester, Nicholson is offering “Meaningful Gamification,” where students explore how to use game design elements in a real-world context. Throughout the online course, students will have the opportunity to see how games are used in many facets of society and technology: social media, education, marketing, information systems, and healthcare. While the concept of gamification has been used for years, the term has only recently been adapted, and the iSchool is one of the first colleges in the nation to offer a course on this subject. However, Nicholson wants to ensure students are using gamification for the greater good: “Gamification can be used to manipulate others easily, and many use the concept without thinking of the long-term effects,” said Nicholson. “I want the students to understand how to use games for engagement rather than rewards so that they can improve an industry or community.”

Nicholson also plans to host a 3-weekend “Game Design” course in the spring, where students will make analog prototypes of games together. The course is focused on design rather than programming, and will allow students to explore various types of games to spark creativity.

To facilitate student and faculty interest in gamification, Nicholson is also creating the Game Designers’ Guild at Syracuse University. The organization is open to students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members interested in the field of game design and with the passion to explore its possibilities. The guild intends to help budding game designers collaborate around the creation and play testing of game prototypes. By bringing interested members of the community together, Nicholson hopes aspiring game designers will have a place to bring their ideas to get tested and receive feedback from other members.

“I want to expose members to many different types of games so they see what is possible with game design. It is not all about screens and controllers; games can be used in creative ways to impact the community and engage others without the need for reward,” said Nicholson.

The Game Designers’ Guild will also extend their ideas and creativity into the community, as local organizations will approach the group and pitch ideas for games where they are needed in a given industry. The guild will be a place where organizations can meet with interested gamers and create prototypes that will be applied in the real world.

“While I hope some projects can potentially get funded, we are looking for opportunities to help create games for informal learning facilities, such as libraries, museums and parks,” said Nicholson. “I want to use Syracuse University’s idea of ‘Scholarship in Action’ and use the guild’s passion for gaming in a positive way.”

The Game Designers’ Guild will host meetings at Hinds Hall in room 347. Meetings will be held the second Friday of each month from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm throughout the fall semester starting September 14.

The Game Designers’ Guild is a project created by Because Play Matters, Nicholson’s iSchool game lab that creates transformative games and play for informal learning settings including libraries, museums, and other community spaces.