Developing Games with 5CollDH Student Fellow Isaiah Mann

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Over the last few months, we’ve run interviews with 5CollDH Student Fellows to learn more about their projects and research process. We finish up our series with Isaiah Mann, a third-year student at Hampshire College.

What is your 5CollDH project about?

My project was creating the infrastructure for a student game development studio: GlowLime Games. I worked with a team of dedicated student managers to form and maintain the logistics, development cycles, & group dynamics of five different development teams across the Five Colleges. Early in the organization’s formation, I assumed the role of Executive Director. I also served as Producer for one of our projects: a mobile, narrative-driven, strategy card game, Lex The Wizard (created by Marcus Maulucci).

How did you get interested in these questions? Were there particular classes you took, professors you worked with, or other projects that inspired your approach?

I’ve taken a variety of game development courses at Hampshire College, all with Professor Ira Fay. Across these courses, it was clear that the number of students interested in game development was far too great for the teaching resources available. I also interned at the MassDiGI Summer Innovation Program, where I saw the results a team of student developers could produce, working largely independently. My main motivating factor in creating GlowLime Games was providing more opportunities to create games to students.

What tools are you using for your project? Did you have experience working with them before, or are you learning how to use them for the first time? How are the tools you’re using influencing your approach to research?

The main digital tools I used were Unity, GitHub, Slack, Trello, & Google Drive. Unity and GitHub were used in the creation of the games themselves. Unity is a freely available game engine with support for the C#, JavaScript, and Boo programming languages. GitHub is a form of version control: for collaborating remotely on coding products. Slack is a professional messaging platform. Trello is an intuitive project management software with a simple visual interface. Finally, Google Drive was used for file storage, documentation, and collaboration. I’d worked with all of these tools before, but trying to bring them together to form a cohesive organization was a significant challenge. These tools call for constant connection, which brings with it the consideration of time cost.

What’s one thing you wished more people know about digital work?

As I mentioned in the tools that I used, there are a massive range of powerful software applications available for free. It’s important for people to know about the breadth of these tools and how useful they become when you take the time to learn them.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve uncovered in your research so far?

It was surprising how difficult it was to form an infrastructure. The details of the organization’s structure seemed largely trivial at the onset, but as soon as an issue arose, it became clear how important it was to determine and document every detail of the GlowLime’s operations.

What challenges do you anticipate facing as you’re doing this work?

The main two challenges in creating and leading GlowLime were group dynamics and defining the organization. Group dynamics are inevitably a challenge, especially considering we worked with over 40 students during the semester. Much of the work was also done remotely which introduces an additional complication. Defining the organization was also difficult and is still an ongoing process. From our work to define it thus far, it falls somewhere between student group, business, and non-profit. I anticipate the exact nature of the organization will emerge as we continue the work in future semesters.

Jeffrey Moro
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5CollDH Senior Post-Baccalaureate Resident

Jeffrey Moro is Senior Post-Bac with Five College Digital Humanities. He helps wrangle most aspects of the program, particularly the Student Fellowships and Microgrants. He's a PI on the AIRLab and E.LIT / NET.ART, and a close collaborator on The Space of Mexico City. He tweets at @jeffreymoro.