Games people play in the Tinkering Lab

Posted on Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A student, wearing a headset, plays a video game on a TV screen.

Remember when you were in middle school and your parents kept telling you to put away the video game consoles and do your homework? For three dozen lucky uOttawa theatre students, those video games became their homework in an innovative course offered in the technology-rich Tinkering Lab.

Professor Peter Kuling leveraged the full potential of the new Learning Crossroads (CRX) classroom for a special topics course on theatre and gaming in the fall 2018 term (THE 3310). Students sat in comfortable chairs as they watched video games on giant, high-resolution screens mounted on the classroom walls.

Professor Kuling stands in front of his class, while students sit in chairs around him.

The course in theatre theory focused on video and board games, analyzing their dramatic elements, performances and role-playing. Kuling selected popular and mainstream games, such as Fortnite and Dungeons & Dragons, for students to review and analyze their theatrical aspects. The room proved to be the ideal space to hold the course.

Kuling believes that video games are the entertainment format of the future across the globe.

“They have surpassed film, theatre, literature and music as an industry that will drive income, jobs, ideas and experiences,” he says.

Students sitting in chairs with a TV behind them displaying an animated character.

But what’s the connection between theatre and gaming?

“Player performances and theatrics manifest themselves in the video game experience. Games contain complex characters, with players making choices about outcomes and results. And games have their own ritualistic way of playing: a controller, a certain narrative, a certain goal, an achievement to unlock. It’s about training the body and the mind to work in certain ways to make achievements come together – and it’s not unlike actor training.”

Students watch video games play on giant screens on a classroom wall, as the professor and a student playing the game stand at the front of the class.

Course assignments were unusual as well. For their final project, students could choose between writing a paper, producing a 40-minute podcast or creating a 20-minute YouTube video.

Jonathan Degan, an active learning technologist at the library, says the course was a good fit with the Tinkering Lab’s intended purpose. The library created this room in CRX to be a rich learning environment that allows students and teachers to use cutting-edge technology to engage with their material in new ways.

“It’s a unique space on campus, and we’re really happy to see how Peter has taken full advantage of what our Lab can do,” Degan says. “With the 16-foot, 8K video wall, multiple virtual reality and gaming stations, and flexible seating, teachers and students can explore in a space where the only limitation is their imaginations.” 

A student examines a set of sixteen screens displaying a mountain range.


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