At our academy the patreon remains steady, the discord small, but the discussions lively. Somehow we’ve made it through our first year. Let’s celebrate with some good old-fashioned retrospection, and look ahead with much gusto.

First, a fun discussion about Animal Crossing with the better half of the Video Game Academy and our stalwart third-strongest patron. Happy Holidays!

Animal Crossing New Horizons: How to Start the Wedding Season Event, What  Rewards Are There? | USgamer
From a quaint wedding season guide at USGamer

As mentioned there and in the final Hex discussion, whose audio we’ve hidden behind fiendishly difficult ciphers buried in an imaginary friend’s video game’s code–or possibly just lost–we have big plans for our Video Game Academy in the new year. On the academic side, we’ll continue conversations invaluable in the moment and still pretty interesting after the fact. We owe Steve a few videos. They may end up being little more than slideshows, but we shall deliver. We want to weigh in on more major releases and relatively new games to go with the classics, and we have ambitions to offer critiques and reviews of others in the field. Besides books and articles, that means videos, podcasts, and all the fun social media artifacts out there might be fodder for debate.

Would a fresh run at more established youtubers and podcasters net some new readers? Certainly their audience is apt to overstate the strengths of their analysis, if the effusions of the kids on Outschool are any indication. Maybe this is the time to make mini-overtures, via comments and retweets, and try to find a few kindred spirits.

Surely the place to build out first, though, is at home, by restoring the confidence and earning the trust of such audience as we have already got with more consistent, quality posts. In terms of form, this means upgrades to the website, better recordings, and dipping a toe into those daunting videos and streams everyone seems to like so much. As to content, cool little games like Among Us and Animal Crossing are the order for the holidays, although thereafter it might be time to tackle Nier: Automata. Down the line we’ll see about another ur-text like Chrono Trigger or Mario RPG.

By the muddle of my words I come to know the jumble of my thoughts, and yet it still seems to me that some teaching of video games should be possible, even desirable, in the vanward of this larger project of educational renewal and reimagining that we’re after. What would a curriculum, to say nothing of a canon, of games for learning and discussion look like? We’ve been circling around this question informally, but now that it’s stated, we can hope to explore it directly.

The role of games has always been prominent in the fantasies of learning and teaching, from the Sword in the Stone to Harry Potter, Rabelais to Emile, Chaucer to Tristram Shandy, Huck Finn to Hopscotch. A long-term project for a series of posts over the coming year, then, will be a guided tour through the representations of play and games in literature.

Just as salient someday, perhaps, will be some of these first forays into video game studies and the popularization thereof. Atop the to-read stack: Pat Holleman’s Reverse Design series and Boss Fight’s lineup of authors and editors; Bogost’s Rhetoric, Kohler’s Power-Up, Bissell’s Extra Lives; and all the great video essayists giving shape to that dynamic form.

More vital than any of that verbiage, though, are our relationships with other people, the end-in-themselves all our playful communication’s meant to serve. In this strange time, neighbors become co-op pals and saboteurs, and old friends stay in touch playing games together online. Whatever the state of our democratic experiment, the pursuit of happiness is alive and well. Still, as anyone can see, the ever-increasing pressures on teachers, to say nothing of other workers, might make the cultivation of the intellect, the inner life, creative pursuits or even just a hobby practically impossible anymore. More than anything else, then, the work we undertake this coming year will be to support and encourage and appreciate the efforts of people who dare to play, to hold open the possibility of free time and uphold the value of freely-chosen activity. Ludere aude.

One thought on “Retrospectives and New Horizons

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