In past semesters when this assignment has been given, students have expressed that the primary struggle they faced was a feeling of a lack of creativity when writing the storyline for their game. Many students expressed frustrations that they felt that although they understood the physical structures of the code, they found coming up with an interesting and relevant storyline to be difficult. As such, part of your discussion of the assignment and reading should focus around giving them some inspiration on how to approach this assignment.
We have found that one of the best ways to encourage this is to encourage students to discuss the processes they took while working on this assignment. In the times this assignment has been given, students have expressed taking several different approaches while working on the assignment. Some students decided to approach the assignment by creating their storylines for their games first, while other students first wrote their code, and then made a storyline that fit the structure of the code. Additionally, some students created main story arcs that they thought would be the paths most commonly chosen, and then created a few branches from this storyline that were less likely to be used, and therefore had less complicated storylines. In contrast, other students tried to make all of the possible paths comparable in both length and complication of story and code. There did not appear to be a significant difference between these approaches in terms of the quality of the final results.
Many students found it strange, yet fun, to not have to design their code for an auto grader. They tended to enjoy having increased autonomy when designing their code. The main challenges students faced involved general coding practices, such as difficulties formatting large amounts of text for increased readability, naming variables without being repetitive, and figuring out how to test edge cases.
When discussing the accompanying reading we recomend first discussing why Twine has become associated with the LGBTQ+ community. This is an excellent opportunity to encourage student engagement and participation.In past discussions, students have come to the consensus that Twine does not have inherent politics, yet, because of the value assigned to it by users, it has gained significance in LGBTQ+ community.
The second important topic to cover is the design of Depression Quest. The game, Depression Quest, was designed to create a feeling of helplessness in the user in order to simulate the experience a person with depression might have. This was done in a myriad of ways, but what many students have previously related to seemed to find powerful were the choices or lack thereof that they were given while playing. They found that the possibility of the game giving you a choice and then taking the choice away, essentially creating a sense of helplessness in the user, was powerful. Should students be struggling to find a place to start the conversation, this topic has resonated with students in the past, and is a topic that is likely to helo spark student participation in the discussion.
Overall, this discussion is important for several reasons; but, the most important of these is how it demonstrates the interaction of code and social content in design, and demonstrates to students that the physical structure of code can have as much of an impact on the user’s experience as the storyline that was written to go along with it. From it, students should begin to understand how the way they write code can impact people in the real world.
This discussion usually has a high level of participation from students, as students tend to enjoy the interactive aspect of this reading. Overall, this discussion should aim to engage students and let them learn how to express their thoughts regarding expressing social concepts in code.