This past week, suits and ties roamed the halls of Becker College. I was in the computer labs as these individuals peered into our work stations. It would not be until Wednesday that I realized they would be part of the “Changing the Game: How digital games are changing entertainment and education” academic panel. The creation of MassDiGI, or the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute, was announced this past spring. MassDiGI will serve as a partnership between the gaming industry, academic world, and the public to develop jobs and stimulate economic expansion.1 Just days before his inauguration, Becker College President Robert E. Johnson, PhD was visibly proud at the MassDiGI ribbon cutting at Becker’s 80 William Street which will host the institute. “MassDiGI has a single focus of what it is trying to achieve” Johnson said.
In closing the panel discussions, Gordon Bellamy, executive director of IGDA, the International Game Developers Association, commented: “This is a unique moment in gaming history.” From his perspective, MassDiGI is realizing the breadth of the game industry’s role in Worcester and throughout the rest of the world. Pamela Goldberg took to the stage following the panel to announce a $30,000 donation from Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, MTC.
The afternoon’s excitement was also observable in Becker’s freshmen in attendance for the panel discussion. Our six panelists were swarmed with questions from enthusiastic newcomers in gaming related majors. Becker sophomore Sarah Como said that she is excited to see where MassDiGI is headed. Brian Little came to hear from actual professionals, and they delivered. Paul Cotnoir, Chair of Design Programs, said that all in attendance were there to “listen to the leaders at the top of their craft in the field of audio, design, and development of games.”
The audience also heard from panelist Jon Radoff, who represented the social side of internet video games at the panel. He reminisced of the days when he produced his first game at the age of 14. By 1991 Radoff had developed one of the first commercially available, multiplayer, online role-playing games, otherwise known as a MMORPG. At one point, he argued that if Leonardo da Vinci was alive today, he would be a game designer.
“Games have become part of our social currency” said Michael Levine, another panel member. Levine is a huge proponent of educational media for early childhood development. He is a founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop where he supervises the efforts to innovate educational media for young children.
Betsy Fuller, Vice President of Academic Affairs, commented: “It’s not just about playing games, but introducing a new concept of experiencing environments.”
The three remaining panel members included: Dave McCool, President and CEO of Muzzy Lane; Jeff Goodsill, Vice President of Tencent Boston; and Chad Dorsey, President and CEO of Concord Consortium, an organization which enhances education through technology.
Sandy Curewitz, Director of Communications at Becker College, not a gamer herself, believes in the potential expansion video games have in education. She acknowledged that the reading ability of an autistic student who graduated this past summer improved as a result of video games.
Hosting MassDiGI on campus will allow Becker College to continue to be at the forefront of education in the video game industry.
Brendan Testa, Staff Writer