Wikis are useful tools for co-authoring, co-developing ideas, managing data and media assets for their capability of retrieving everything saved from the history. Whilst Wikipedia (or Uncyclopedia) and Wikileaks have been becoming centres of attention in mainstream media (for various reasons), it was surprising to find out how few “digital natives” was familiar with wikis.
Since last year, I have been incorporating wikis into my CVG project management curriculum. This year, when introducing wikis to my 1st-year undergraduates, I again asked them to use the dedicated wiki page I set up on Wikispaces.com to produce a GDD within 30 minutes – the first time (on 1 March) with the whole class, and the 2nd time (on 8 March) with the group they chose to work with (they could also work alone).
The 1st experiment could probably be described as a shamble. Students did not know where to start and were unable to articulate their game concepts. They spent too much time adding names and roles to the team, and posting funny clips (claiming it was the main character). The GDD they created on 1 March here was completely pear-shaped. No clear or consistent game concept emerged from this 30-minute work.
The 2nd experiment went better. Again, they needed to create a GDD within 30 minutes. But, this time, students were given the freedom to form a team with whomever they liked (they were also allowed to work alone). Some worked with people they haven’t worked before. Some worked with their assigned team. And one chose to work on his own. At the end of the 30 minutes, each team was able to present a fairly consistent game concept.
Asked to reflect on what they have learned based on the 1st and 2nd wiki-based GDD experiences, the seemingly unorganised ill-coordinated activity on 1 March was not completely useless after all. Students said it was creative and it was interesting to learn the wiki tool. They just needed some time to learn how to deal with everyone’s differences, and some people had gone too far with their comfort zone. Obviously they had better outputs to show with the 2nd attempt. They found the GDD created in a smaller group was with better quality. It was more effective and easier to coordinate and communicate within a smaller team. Of course, it was likely because they had learned not to repeat the same mistakes from the 1st experiment.
The two experiments reflect two distinct ways of game design: one taking place on line wide open with total freedom (such as Free/Libre Open Source Software projects or the collaboration on Kongregate), and one taking lace in a controlled team (usually in house in a gaming company). I think our observation has potential of becoming a useful contribution to the research into small groups. And vice versa – the small group research can shed light on game design and development process as well (see for example Small Group Research). I should look into it. This is truly research-informed teaching, eh;-)