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The Serious Games Era, with Erik Champion

On Monday, October 3rd, Ca’ Foscari University and the International College welcomed a very special guest, professor Erik Champion. His lecture gave the audience a fascinating insight into the world’s brand new goldmine, the game industry.

Professor Champion, an academic at Curtin University in Perth and Chair of Cultural Visualization at UNESCO, tackled the general notion that computer science is so far removed from humanities. During his thought-provoking talk, he provided examples of serious games which turned out to be incredibly useful for teaching or working in the fields of archeology, history and art.

Linea 20 managed to interview him.

 

LINEA 20: How long does it take to develop such a game? There must be a lot of work behind, a lot of research on the field.

ERIK CHAMPION: If you want to create a game, which is really similar to other games, you can do it very quickly. If you have a lot of money you can buy almost all the programming, hardware and 3D content you want. However, if you want to make a unique game, that takes time. Nearly everyone who says they want to create a game, well, it takes them at least from two to five times more than they said it would and if it’s 3D, it becomes far more complicated. But most people, they don’t do the product typing.

 

LINEA 20: One of the most curious things about serious games is the fact that they could give some incredible psychological insights. You can say a lot about the way people react because, when playing a game, you don’t usually stop and think about what you’re doing.

ERIK CHAMPION: You’ve given me a good question. In fact, I’d like to think of ways in which the characters do something that makes you stop and think “Why am I doing that?”. I think I could create that situation. But that is a future research project.

 

LINEA 20: Usually, in our world, humanities are perceived as a sort of secondary field, as the one that pays less. Do you think this kind of industry could be a break in the current trend?

ERIK CHAMPION: It’s difficult but yes. For example, in creating Assassin’s Creed, In think they took their historical information from Wikipedia; but imagine Wikipedia as a great humanities project or a MediaWiki run by historians and created specifically for games designers to build historical games… So, there are ways in which humanities can give people content to use in other ways.

 

LINEA 20: How is it possible to conciliate real heritage with the virtual heritage? Some people are pretty skeptical about it.

ERIK CHAMPION: Well, for instance, I think there are some good things about, say, augmented reality. First, we don’t need to model anything which allows us to make a quicker game. Second, you’re bringing your own equipment so you’re not damaging the museums’. Third, you can take some of the experience home. Last but not least, you can overlay what is and what could have been. I think museums should be more into that.

 

LINEA 20: Last question, what would you suggest to a student who wants to follow this career? Is a degree in the humanities a sort of impediment?

ERIK CHAMPION: About ten years ago, I would have had trouble finding game designers who specifically have a humanities background and use it, but now, there are many designers who have this kind of background or even a degree in History or Archaeology. So, I believe we are turning into a new phase.

 

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