My project for the last course centered around a brief history of video games paired with a forum for people to share their experiences. For this course I would like to delve into the history aspect of that project. The main difference is that the previous project was a superficial look into the past highlighting the major developers and games, whereas now I want to ask why arcades and home gaming has become such a huge industry. The nature of this type of research is not solely a historical one, in that it also involves some sociological research and is a modern subject that is still evolving, but the roots of this industry goes back into the 1950s.
My main problem in teaching this to students is that the subject is only really interesting to those who are a part of the video games circle, and making this history relevant to those outside the gaming community will be difficult. It is also relatively unknown to them as well. One of the things I can highlight within the project is that modern games and companies are branching out, most notably Blizzard making a Warcraft film based on its MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game.
The ask of teaching history has a few issues that need to be addressed in order to be effective. The first is how to get the students to think about history as something other than a series of randoms facts and events. One of the ways I can think of to do this is to highlight that history is more about the story of what happened, rather than this thing happened then and was followed by this.
Another key question has to do with the design aspect of teaching: how to go about telling this story. In my work in the Digital Humanities this has two parts, how to structure the content and what technology will be used. Most of my work to this point has been in using Omeka, which brings in a wide range of metadata for an item and presents it in an exhibit alongside content. Other examples I’ve seen are network analyses that show the connections between people, places, and events.
One main question about teaching history is how to get the students engaged in learning history. This goes hand-in-hand with my first question, but it also highlights how they are still learning how to do history. One of the things I personally include in my projects is to have a wide range of media: photos, videos, text, etc. I do this because as a student of history myself, having too much text based material (especially in an online setting) can become cumbersome.
I am currently enrolled in the MA in History program alongside the DH Certificate at George Mason University, and just completed my first year. I have also completed an advanced degree in Educational Multimedia, and one of my goals for this particular class is to see how I can use the knowledge from that coursework within the realm of history. I ultimately plan to work in a library or museum setting dealing with their digital projects, whether it’s digitizing their collection or creating online exhibits. I currently work with this at Fenwick Library, as the Digital Humanities Graduate Research Assistant. I feel that this course will blend my interests in education and history in an exciting way.
The process of building my Gaming site was a fun one. While I had little experience designing a public history project, I was able to pull in my personal experience as a hobby into the project. My main issue was with finding historical sources, as much of the academic writing has been about psychological or social issues of the people playing the games. One of the thing I like about Omeka is that I can use a wide range of media, and without that element my project would not be as strong. Gaming is based in the audio-visual world, and without seeing and hearing the game, visitors would have a harder time grasping the draw of them. I had experience using Omeka, but that instance was to use the exhibit as a teaching tool one-on-one rather than presenting information to the public. The modules of the course showed me the types of things I can include to help facilitate the discussion, particularly with oral history. If I decide to continue with the topic of gaming this will come in handy, as I can record people’s experience in their own words and then include them in the overall project.
One of the things with my project I am curious about is how the forum would be used. That is outside the scope of the course, but I am curious about what people would say and what sort of suggestions they would have for my exhibit.