Just Press Play: Episode 0

Most people never read the “About” sections of blogs, so I’m going to assume that you don’t know anything about me.  I happen to be studying Game Design and Development at Rochester Institute of Technology.  Never heard of it?  Don’t feel bad, if it wasn’t for the nationally ranked GDD program, I’d be just as clueless.  However, RIT is getting some press recently due to a new initiative called “Just Press Play,” sponsored by Microsoft.  It’s being dubbed “a game layer for student success,” and it’s being beta tested by students in the School of Interactive Games and Media only.  The whole shindig launched on October 13, but I can’t start until October 17 because I need a “Play Pass,” which I’ll explain later.

So, it isn’t hard to Google “Just Press Play.”  I’m not going to repeat the information verbatim.  Rather, I intend to chronicle my experience with the program and explain it all in my own words.  With that said, here is my interpretation of the basics of Just Press Play, based solely on the information presented before the experience starts.

Just Press Play is an ARG (augmented reality game) where we as students are supposed to complete achievements while following an alternate-history style narrative of the creation of RIT.  We were shown a flashy trailer that I must admit was cool, if not a bit cheesy.

The trailer, combined with the info I already had, provoked some interesting thoughts and questions.  First of all, how will these achievements lead to “student success?”  Also, what’s to stop someone from carrying the Play Pass of another and using it to score mass achievements (they use RFID technology).  Most importantly, why play?  I know that Just Press Play is a big deal.  It basically stated that it was a big deal.  Still, what do these achievements lead to?  I was surprised that not many other students cared about the answer to this question.  Most students just seemed excited about getting achievements.

The initial thought that inspired the project was: “Why can’t students get achievements for being awesome?”  To an excited IGM student, the question seems almost like a call to action,  but it bothers me.  Why should students get achievements?  Do they have value on their own?  Am I going to end up living in a giant Skinner Box?

Now, I know I sound critical and pessimistic, but I felt it necessary to be this way.  As I said, this current run is a beta test with only IGM students, and I take beta tests seriously.  Somebody needs to be that guy, the one who questions everything while everyone else is busy having fun.

So I suppose the magic starts tomorrow.  I’ll be documenting my experience sporadically as I gain new insight.

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