The entertainment industry is constantly and unstoppably expanding, always inventing new ways to enthrall its audience, always introducing dazzling spectacles and mischievous shenanigans to keep its appeal. Similarly, education is growing as new, inventive methods are developed for optimal learning and curriculum is presented through multiple mediums. And, of course, several attempts have been made to mesh the two, with varying success.
Presently, SLV’s video game composition and design club is pursuing the quest to involve fun in school and school in fun with their budding game, Finals Fantasy. The game is intended to be a blend of classic, good ol’ dungeon crawler mechanics (which, for those not familiar with gaming lingo, is a bird’s-eye-view design style in which the player must navigate obstacle-ridden mazes to reach a final goal, whether that be a door to the next level, a special item, or otherwise) and material students will need to study for semester finals.
Hopefully, the final product will be a source of enjoyment for the student body of SLV as well as a useful study tool. “But how can studying ever be fun?” you might ask. The answer is simple, my friend: the key to a game’s success is variety. The dungeons are planned to have five distinct parts (jargon alert): a room of enemies, a room of traps, a room of enemies and traps together, a puzzle area, and a boss. Each will incorporate strategic gameplay similar to that of the 1986 classic Legend of Zelda with a variety of questions pertaining to the student’s selected field of study, which will usually be presented by the enemies. The boss might present a longer question—perhaps a particularly complex math or science problem—and the puzzle area, being the most open-ended room in the dungeon, will vary in terms of question delivery.
The club itself is comprised of students who have an interest in games, and not just in playing them, but in exploring their intricate inner workings. They not only aspire to create games, but to study existing successes and analyze what made them successful, taking an approach similar to studying literature or rhetoric in an English class. Founder Adrian Miller states what he regards as a sort of working thesis of the group: “I created the club as an academic environment in which my fellow students can discuss video games in a critical, educational manner. We strive to learn to appraise them in the same way our school’s other classes teach us to appraise more conventional art forms. Along the way, we began making our own game . . . The project will continue for years to come.”
As the game design club’s first major project, Finals Fantasy is still in the midst of a long development process, and will take time, effort, and more people (to drop a very obvious hint; come to room L2 on Fridays at lunch to participate) if it is to become a schoolwide phenomenon. However, despite its present embryonic state, the game is progressing smoothly with an enthusiastic team and a variety of skills at the club’s disposal. Rumor has it, in fact, that some in the club are conspiring with professional game developers from the AAA industry. When the game comes into full bloom, who knows what will happen? “This club is destined for greatness,” says a world-wise wizard from atop the highest tree in Fall Creek. “I foresee the day when rigorous study and rigorous play are joined as one.” Wait—that guy was a wizard, right?
But all silliness aside, Finals Fantasy shows real potential. Before you know it, studying might no longer be a tedious process. And even sooner, you could be involved in this game’s development as well as the development of games to come. You need not be a designer or programmer to join; the gaming business has a place for many talents. You could contribute your gifts as an artist or a writer, perhaps. Whatever your particular skill may be, the club would certainly benefit from your involvement. And you could benefit from the club, too. Imagine the name of a completed video game, one that you helped create, on your college resume; and imagine your game being played and enjoyed by the students of SLV. So help spice up the academic life of your school with a new approach to studying, and in the long run, learn more about the intricacies of one of the most quickly growing forms of entertainment: join the club.