Terrell Page, Undergraduate Student, University of Arkansas, FayettevilleHIGHER EDUCATION
I seek to present the methodology and outcomes of a funded undergraduate research project focused on Collaborative Worldbuilding in a high school Creative Writing class. Working in groups of 4-5, students created worlds based on their chosen genre—fantasy, horror, or science fiction. Over three weeks, the groups drew maps, created controller layouts, set goals for their player characters, and presented the worlds they created. At the end of the classroom unit, each student created a short story set in the world their group created. Each group produced 4 to 5 different short stories set in the same world—sometimes featuring the same player character—but involving completely different choices and outcomes. This was meant to illustrate the interactive nature of games: different people can play the exact same game but make different choices. The project demonstrated that Collaborative Worldbuilding with a game design lens is an interdisciplinary way of teaching students to create nuanced versions of common literary elements (like character and setting) in their stories. It welcomes non-gamer students by showing them that videogames aren’t all about coding or hyper-realistic graphics. It validates gamer students by giving them insight into the craft of writing for videogames.
The audience will learn how to use collaborative worldbuilding as a valuable, productive approach for using videogames in the classroom for when they lack actual videogames and do not wish to use Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), because of the complexity of the rule set and the length of play sessions. They will also learn the relationship of worldbuilding as a creative process for setting and characters to possibility spaces as the implicit or explicit rule sets that frame narrative and game play. Through analysis of project data, attendees will learn how the lens of worldbuilding through games impacts the creative process, from 2D art to short stories. They will see how this encourages students to think of writing as communal, introduces them to the challenges of writing for non-linear media that include player choice, and encourages them to think critically about the "rules" of genre, and when they can be creatively and effectively bent. This presentation will be illustrated by a sample map of one group’s world and the controller options they designed. This will be distributed to every attendee.