For a big part of her life, IUPUI student Brittany Conway has loved games — all kinds of games — and costumes. In fact, she won first place in the costume contest at the 2010 Gen Con, an international event based in Indianapolis since 2003.
But for Conway — nicknamed “Brat” because two of her best friends share the same first name, and they all needed a way to differentiate themselves in conversation — games also can be serious business.
“I’m a gaming fan who hopes to change education by making it fit with games,” said the southside Indianapolis native, who believes children’s interest in games reveals ways to engage them in learning.
That’s a big reason that Conway, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in Media Arts from the School of Informatics and Computing, also pursued a psychology degree when she started college. She said she realized “social psychology is a really big part of gaming.” In May, she will pick up her master’s degree in Media Arts.
She has seen youthful passion for games of all sorts — computer games, role-playing games, desktop games, cosplay (shorthand for costume play) — lure significant numbers of high school students to the School of Informatics and Computing’s Game Camp, which she has helped run since 2010.
The popularity of 46-year-old Gen Con, which drew more than 49,000 participants this summer, also is an indicator of the rich possibilities for educators who want to link games with the quest for knowledge.
“People love the games, and love being around others who feel the same way,” Conway said.
Informatics has become a key player in that trend. The school has developed games for youngsters in elementary school, who use game-playing techniques to learn how to identify creatures. Informatics also launched a new game for Gen Con 2013 called “Return of Aetheria,” a collaboration between the school and the event.
Conway believes that gaming could help people who battle autism, like her younger brother, find paths to success. That’s one of the reasons she has felt an attraction to the STARS program — Students and Technology in Academia, Research and Service — a national organization aimed at women, under-represented minorities and people with disabilities.
For Conway and others who share her passion, Gen Con and games like “Return of Aetheria” help them explore other parts of life. “Aetheria,” for example, is a quest to restore magic to the world and uses technology, gaming skills, live theater space and actors for those who play. But the magic may be as much about finding it within themselves and their friends, as in the game.
Conway noticed it the year she won the costume award, when “I couldn’t go more than a few feet before someone wanted me to stop and get a picture,” she said. Wearing her costume, which includes a diver’s helmet, proved taxing, but it was important to others as much as it was to her.
“For most of us, Gen Con is more than an event,” she said. “It’s our summer vacation.”
For more information on the School of Informatics and Computing, visit http://soic.iupui.edu
For more information on the Media Arts and Science program, visit https://luddy.iupui.edu/undergraduate/mas/
For more information about the STARS group, visit http://stars.iupui.edu
Story courtesy of Ric Burrous, IU Communications