The Blog

This Spartan Life at IPZ

I’m headed to the IPZ Conference in Istanbul, Turkey to give a keynote talk on Extending Outreach through Games and Virtual Worlds. For my presentation, I’ll be joined by my esteemed colleague and friend, Chris Burke, the creator of This Spartan Life, coming in through the video game Halo, live from New York. Using Halo as a meeting point, Chris and I will discuss the extension of game culture and virtual world space towards education and creative collaboration, while dodging plasma rifle-wielding aliens “under fire” in the game Halo.

Chris & I have been thinking about creative collaboration and civic engagement through games and virtual world space for awhile, even before he did an episode on Net Neutrality and I launched Kidz Connect to connect students internationally through theatrical performance inside virtual worlds. As we rehearsed this week, we bounced around Halo and talked about the importance of building community, and how this is enabled by giving people agency, ownership and a sense of identity.

1. Give your users agency by giving them the ability to make their own creations in your platform.
Your game or virtual world will be enhanced by what your users contribute. For instance, people usually play games to completion, and when they’re done, they don’t usually re-visit the game. However, give them agency to create and the game gets more interesting — it’s enhanced by their unique contribution.

2. Agency relates to ownership.
Once someone creates something, they’re more invested not only in their creation(s) but the feedback around it. They’ll go back again and again because they become invested in their creations and the community it creates around them.

3. Identity.
People want to feel a part of something, yet still stand out as individuals. Being able to customize your environment and avatar gives one a sense of self. This is part and parcel to creating community.

These facets and so much more are all a part of exploring games and virtual world spaces towards creating a sense of community for education, creative collaboration and many other objectives. We’ll be posting documentation of our IPZ presentation soon, and for those in Istanbul, please join us at IPZ!

This Spartan Life, which has been lauded for its brilliant combination of traditional filmmaking with the interactive possibilities of videogame technology, amassed over 1 million viewers in the first two years and attracted the attention of mainstream media outlets such as Wired and BoingBoing. Microsoft is currently commissioning episodes of This Spartan Life for Halo Waypoint on Xbox Live. Check out this recent episode in which the hit band OK Go is interviewed:


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