AU Game Design professors participate in White House Game Jam

A hundred and two game developers from across the country were invited to the White House and were tasked with one goal: make a game teachers can use in a K-12 classroom. AU game design professor Chris Totten, along with professors Josh McCoy and Mike Treanor, did just that.

The three AU professors showcased their video game making skills at the first annual Educational Game Jam at the White House that ran from Sept. 5-8.

The event, which hosted game designers from companies as monumental as Disney and Ubisoft, was developed as a direct result of a 2011 Obama administration call for the development of educational technology, according to a Washington Post report.

McCoy and Treanor could not be reached in time of publication.

The developers had only 48 hours to make a video game suitable for educators. The AU professors created a game they called “Function Force 4.”

The game teaches players to transform mathematical functions through tasks found in the game, said Totten, a designer in residence at AU.

“Function Force 4” represents one of many educational games made in categories ranging from history to science at this year’s Jam, according to the Washington Post report.

For Totten, the White House Educational Game Jam proved that video games serve a higher function than just entertainment.

“Games are no longer seen as distractions,” Totten said. “They are pieces of media that can be expressive and useful.”

In addition to the work performed at the White House, the AU team of professors also works extensively in the University’s Game Lab, a game design graduate program where students learn to make games with more than entertainment in mind.

“At the Game Lab we make games for real-world purposes, be that through causes or through other organizations.” Totten said. “We build a game literacy for people, so they can design games about the real world and that affect the real world.”

The games that come out of the Game Lab often carry with them some argument in hopes of creating social change, according to Totten.

“Black Like Me,” a color matching game is designed to raise questions in how humans identify people on a daily basis, according to the game’s webpage.

The game jam at the White House was just one of many such events that take place around the world, one of which will be partially hosted by AU.

The annual Global Game Jam, which will take place in January of next year and is cohosted by AU, brings people from around the world to create games in an effort to foster a global community of game designers, according to the Global Game Jam website.

Totten, who will be a site coordinator for the 2015 Global Game Jam, believes events such as this are important for those who wish to communicate effectively in the modern era.

“Games could be the medium which defines the 21st century,” Totten said. “My job is to help games become part of a larger media world.”

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle