Hello, my names is Jack Bogaard, and I’m a Computer Game Development major and double minor (Programming & Psychology) at DePaul’s College of Digital Arts and Media. I’d like to briefly share my honest thoughts and opinions regarding the recent opportunity I had to get my JYEL credit done in a really fun and engaging class which focused on helping to solve a real world game development problem. Essentially, the class was a quarter long collaboration between DePaul students and IThrive, which is a company pushing for positive psychology principles, like empathy, resilience, mindfulness, and gratitude to be incorporated in games. The class was small, but filled with classmates who were intelligent, articulate, hardworking participants in our ten week long quest to investigate games which showed positive psychology principles. Our end goal: to extract from our research the best way (or at least a way) to purposely incorporate positive psychology principles in a fun, popular game.
Going in I knew very little about IThrive and about positive psychology, but after doing a little research I remember thinking it was going to be next to impossible to make a “positive psychology” video game. Educational games are difficult enough, even ones target at kids, and our goal was to teach, or at least promote, difficult and abstract, very adult concepts. I had no idea how we were going to accomplish this goal in the beginning. We began the class with a very long and detailed questionnaire which IThrive had designed; a way for people to play games and then “rate” their features in order to see if any patterns emerged when looking at games that we thought might contain positive psychology principles. Basically, the idea was to find games that were well liked but that also seemed to instill positive psychology principles, then study what those games to find a the right design approach so IThrive could make their own game – decided totally to teaching positive psychology principles. Somewhere along the line we realized that all the best games we played, like Journey and To the Moon, were too different from each other and finding what they had in common was too difficult and time consuming using the initial Matrix. It seemed like the questions we were asking weren’t giving us the information we needed, so we threw some out, changed some, and started asking new questions. We realized that some big features which most mainstream games have weren’t included in a lot the best games, leading us to believe that what wasn’t in a game was just as, if not more important, than what they all had in common with each other. This idea sparked the creation of a second questionnaire, a sort of negative matrix questionnaire if you will. Shortly after this happened we realized that our time was running short, and so to conclude the class in the most efficient and effective way possible, our professor asked each student to attempt to design a game which teaches positive psychology principles in order to once again analyze the similarities and differences, both in terms of what we as students included and didn’t include in our designs, in order to figure out what works best.
While in the beginning I was prepared for the worst but hoping for the best, now that the class is over I can confidently say it was productive and instructive class, and I think DePaul should host more classes like this which collaborate with companies to focus on real world problems. I think I learned a lot, despite the fact I think our work was nowhere near done by the time the quarter was up. Although we just scratched the surface of this design challenge, I think IThrive learned a lot from this experience as well. I have to briefly give credit where credit is due, as the partnership between DePaul and IThrive was no less than a manifestation of the will and imagination of one Doris C. Rusch, the professor of the class. Professors like Doris who bring real world experience along with a passion for the subject matter are such as asset for students at DePaul’s Game Development Program. To be honest, before this class appeared I was a little worried about what I was going to do for my JYEL credit. Even though I understand and can appreciate the value of real world experience, I didn’t know if I was going to find the right fit for me. I knew Doris was gifted at both teaching and doing, as evidence by her work at the Play for Change Lab at DePaul, on other games, and my experience in other classes she has lead, so I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of this collaboration. In the end I’m glad things worked out the way they did and I was able to participate in this class. I encourage every student to find teachers they relate to, who are involved in the school, and in their field, and to use those student/teacher relationships to get involved themselves if possible. The experience and the connections will probably serve you well in the future, even if aren’t thrilled about the project at first, you may be surprised. If you still have to complete your JYEL credit, I’d be on the lookout for the e-mail that’s sure to be sent out the next time a class like this becomes available.