Game Dev Adventures!, Ph.D. Adventures!

It’s been a while! (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Weeks 10-What week is it again?… 14?… Nope! 13!)

TLDR:

Read through lots of theory papers to support my educational game design theory. Found more appropriate publishing venues for the type of research I am doing. Lots of work grading. Upgraded my game project from Unity 2018 to Unity 2019 (an error was keeping me from doing this earlier). Made some excellent, albeit small in some cases, strides forward in my personal goals.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

Dang, so many weeks went by without an update that I forgot which week I’m even on! … Okay, I checked, it is currently week 14, so the update is for weeks 10-13, my longest week span evah. 🙂

  • Research
    • Read up on VR for vernacular from Munzer’s paper
    • Read three game design theory papers my advisor sent me (Two he co-wrote, and one that he based his other off of and has been a standard in game design theory)
    • Been reading up on Cognitive Load Theory and prepared a presentation for my QED lab on it.
    • I now have a clear idea of where to take my paper
    • Came up with another paper idea
    • Found better publishing venues. We uncovered that the Computers journal we were originally targeting with a February deadline is most likely a publishing venue that will not value the type of research I am doing. So I made a list of three, no four (and counting), publishing venues that value more human-centered and theoretical research:
      • The venues:
        • FDG
        • CHI Play
        • Meaningful Play
          • which publishes their own conference proceedings and submits the top six papers for publishing to the Journal of Serious Games
        • JSG (Journal of Serious Games)
      • So our new target is FDG… with a January deadline (a month earlier)! YIKES!
  • TA/TM
    • Graded lots of assignments
    • Helped my advisor with some instructional design
    • Got to see how to handle a difficult student
  • Game Dev
    • Got my project updated from Unity 2018 to Unity 2019!!
    • I got my little brother to set up a gitlab repository on his server computer for me. 🙂 So I spent some time uploading game projects to the gitlab repo to easily transport my projects between computers as my laptop has been dying.
  • Self Dailies… maybe more like 3-5 times weeklies?
    • Definitely has helped me feel more centered and sane even as the workload continues to increase as we come upon end of semester (which is only three weeks away if we count finals week!)
  • Goal Dailies… maybe more like weeklies?
    • I’ve been making progress on five different goals by working on them at least once a week for a small period of time. This gives me a greater sense of accomplishment
    • I’ve also been refining how I go about my goal dailies and prioritizing, since I have a timer set to five minutes, the tasks that need to be done for each goal.
    • Something else I did was I assigned two-three (of my five) goals to each day of the week. That way if I don’t have time for everything, I know exactly what to focus on first, then second and third.
  • Personal health goal
    • Outside of my self and goal dailies (remember these have 3-5 minute time restrictions), I have a personal goal that I have been working on: completing 100 days of workouts, and getting flat again in my splits within those 100! I am on day 20 and I’ve already lost several inches and am nearly, properly flat in my front left splits. Very exciting!
    • My husband let me get a yoga hammock! So I am also building up my time for inversions. I used to be able to do 15-20 minutes completely inverted, but now I start to get a headache around two minutes. I love my yoga hammock! It makes me so happy. Also my husband makes me happy! When I bought the hammock he told me, “Merry Christmas,” because he was a little hesitant about having it… but once he’d installed it he had fun playing with it too.
  • House projects
    • Have finally started to slow down, though there are still several on our list. We graded our backyard properly and laid down some free sod my little brother got for us (he got it from the neighbors by helping them move their sod), put up a retaining wall, and made a raised garden area in our backyard. We also got a matching living room set with a quartz electric fireplace. It’s beautiful! I’ve never had a matching living room set before! Ha ha. I’m not one to buy something new when the old is sufficient, well the old wasn’t sufficient anymore. And I love sitting by the “fire.” I’m doing that right now!
    • I’ve been learning how to compost for the garden we’ll plant in the spring. Now is a good time to go get a compost bin since I’m sure not all the Thanksgiving leftovers will be gotten to.
  • Funding for the Spring
    • There is a need in an EAE for special topic courses. I proposed one, but it was too technical. So Rogelio said he would help me design a course that I could teach in the spring. If it gets accepted it would be a dream come true. I’ve been wanting to teach my own college-level course since I was an undergrad!
  • Fun
    • I’ve been cross-stitching some frogs. They’re really cute. I’m never doing a cross-stitch again though. Jeez. It takes for freaking ever!
    • I helped my daughter make a stuffed animal cat for her mom.
    • Went bowling with my husband and the kiddos, wherein my son beat me! 😦 … 😉
    • I continue to play Dr. Mario on occasion with my lil’ bro. I went up to level 19, he plays on 10 and I usually play on 18, and he demolished me. Sometimes we’ll do speed rounds on level zero, but they are all anxiety inducing!
    • Been playing Don’t Starve Together with my little brother and sister. I got to kill a tree guard with my catapults, but the best was killing the spider: I let it chase me to my three catapults, dumped some nitre in the generator, and then all three catapults came alive and immediately demolished that spider! Bwa ha ha ha ha! He made some good meatballs too. 😉

What’s next

  • Apply scholarship (Due date Dec 4th!)
  • Design a course to teach in the Spring
  • Research
    • Finish reading through cognitive load theory 20-year review paper.
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Read through a school “research” paper I wrote last semester to glean the theory I want to create from and to also highlight the papers I want to cite in my new paper.
    • Write, write, WRITE! (January deadline!)
  • Do grading for TA and TM
  • Continue dailies and personal health goal
  • Continue house projects
    • Learn to compost!
    • Find furniture for the house (dining room chairs)
    • etc.
  • Continue something else that has slipped my mind…
  • Get some sleep (me tired!)

Roadblocks

I feel I am in a pretty good place right now. I have a lot of things on my to do list, but I’m in a good emotional state, at least today! 😉

I’m tired, just physically though, not mentally or emotionally, which is different for this time of the semester. Those dailies and workouts must be paying their dividends!

Ph.D. Adventures!

Lest I forget again… (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Weeks 7-9)

TLDR:

Most importantly I got one step closer for my research paper by writing up an abstract and locating appropriate references to use in the paper. I also read the comments made by Rogelio who reviewed it. The rest of the time was filled with lots of TM/TA responsibilities, dealing with more fun home ownership issues, and an impromptu fall break. And lest I forget again, several weeks back, I made some of my own very simple game art which also resolved a programming issue! Hooray!

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

Dang, three weeks went by quick!

Lest I forget again… again, nearly a month ago I made my own game art, a rounded corners square, to not only make a highly casual game I’ve been making look more polished, but it also had the wonderful side effect (after a few iterations) of solving a programming problem. I have never made my own 2D art to put in a game, so yeah me! Second, I did it using GIMP, so it’s all free to use. Third, I don’t know what I’m doing! Fourth, the first iteration of the rounded square improved the look of not only the gameplay quadrants, but the buttons as well. When I played the game I was thinking I might have to replace rounded squares in the middle of the game with regular squares except on “corners” (of which I would need to each iteration of gameplay discover whether or not a square was a “corner”), but I conjectured that if I made the art just right, when I scaled to just above 1.0, to say 1.1, then I wouldn’t need to swap or turn off any images. It took me a few iterations but it did work. I was not only correct, but I also didn’t have to spend a lot of extra time on programming. (I realize that this description may not make sense, but this is for a game I plan on publishing, my goal is by end of year, so no screenshots… yet!)

Lesson: if you can solve a programming issue with some intelligent art decisions, do it! I’d already learned this lesson at Waterford Institute when the technical artists beautiful artwork caused a load time of mere seconds to expand to 45! By making an intelligent switch, without actually changing the look of the scene, I got it to load faster than the original scene! So, smart art choices => faster load times.

For my research I looked into a potential publishing venue my advisor sent my way, we were originally targeting ACM’s CHI conference, but this new journal, which we hadn’t even been on our radar, is doing a special issue on educational games. It looks very promising but has a much sooner deadline (Feb 2021, instead of Sep 2021 for CHI), so I’m going to need to get writing!

Rogelio directed me to write up an abstract as 1) A guide to where we want to take the paper, and 2), and more importantly, to use as a potential submission to feel out the waters for a journal we are aiming to submit to. It was really useful to think through what it is we are trying to create with this new theory and where we believe it will go.

I did a lot for my TA/TM responsibilities: grading, setting up the lab computer with a new account (for me) and the Oculus for VR grading, more grading, etc. I let the professors guide when I would complete the grading as one professor got ill and fell a little behind, but that led to having to grade five assignments within a week of which I haven’t quite completed yet.

My house heater broke. So I got to deal with the fun-ness of home ownership and meeting with HVAC technicians in the middle of class! LOL!

Finally, let’s talk about fall break: I know, I know, the University of Utah didn’t have an official Fall Break this year, but my advisor gave me a week off and I took full advantage and went to one of my favorite places with my family: California. We visited my in-laws, who are wonderful people, and my brother (whom I lived with when I worked at EA). So lots of good old memories and new memories. My brother and sister-in-law have eight wonderful kids and all the cousins were excited to go swimming together on what my brother said was probably the last feasible day of the year to do so as their pool is not heated. So a years worth of telling my kids to pack their swimsuits “just in case” finally paid off!

What’s next

  • Theory paper:
    • Read up in VR for vernacular
    • Read game design theory paper my advisor sent me
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Read through a school “research” paper I wrote last semester to gleen the theory I want to create from and to also highlight the papers I want to cite in my new paper.
    • Write, write, WRITE!
  • Do grading for TA
  • Continue dailies

Roadblocks

Make sure I’m honoring the time I’ve set aside for research. I’ve had a lot of “emergencies” happen, that were legit from my or my kids perspective, but hopefully those things have subsided now so I can focus on completing my paper. However, I think if I miss my designated research times that I need to make sure I am pushing them to other days and not just skipping them entirely.

Ph.D. Adventures!

Joyful Movement (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Week 5)

TLDR:

Found a whole bucket load of papers on cognitive load and cognitive load theory. It will take a while to dig through and find some key papers, but I have some ideas. Had a great conversation with Rogelio about how to model and talk about the theory. Started working out! My daughter started M-Th school yesterday and it’s been great so far!

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I had no idea when I went looking for cognitive load papers that I was going to open pandora’s box! My goodness! Loads of research! The hard thing will be just locating the paper(s) that will explain the theory and be a backbone for mine.

Rogelio and I talked a lot about creating models, something visual that explains the theory, and taxonomony, something verbal that we can call these things we know about but don’t know how to discuss. So I’m going to be doing reading in other areas to find vernacular that we can borrow from.

There is a LOT of grading I have to do this week. It is a little overwhelming and… if I’m being honest, grading isn’t my favorite task. It’s why I don’t want to ever teach a writing or reading and essay writing course: it takes so long to grade and you don’t always get a TA.

What’s next

  • Theory paper:
    • Read up in VR for vernacular
    • Read up on types of models
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
  • Continue with self and goal dailies, as well as working out
  • Do grading for TM and TA

Roadblocks

Motivation and time to grade. :/

Doing the hybrid and homework thing with my kids takes up wa-ay more time than expected. My husband and I discussed homeschooling the kids this year and I told him that if that’s what he really wanted me to do I could do it if I dropped out of my Ph.D. program, because I know from spring semester that I would not be able to keep up. He is supportive of me pursuing my Ph.D. so we put the kids back in school (the best decision for the mental health of our daughter, and myself, I believe). But they are still home, or have been, more than 50% of the time and the teachers haven’t made it easy for us. So I feel I am constantly behind on everything. I’m really stressed, but only about keeping up with grading. Also, we are all struggling, and my professors have been giving me things to grade on days that I don’t have time to grade and asking me to prioritize that grading that day is a little much to handle, so I don’t. Might get me in trouble, but I can’t do everything.

Extras

Adding in the Movement

Been loving my self and goal dailies so much so that I felt I could make the time to workout again, finally. I know, it sounds terrible, but I didn’t have the space in my home, nor the time or care to really make working out a priority last year. It is really nice to be working out again and I have a much healthier attitude about it than ever before I think. It’s okay to not push myself to injury, I can still enjoy myself, and it’s okay to miss a day, or two (or three!), because I’m doing my best and I give God the rest. It’s been really energizing, and reenergizing, to move in a way that makes me happy and honor my body by taking the time for joyful movement again.

Things Keep a Changing!

My daughter started M-Th school and I have to say that it is going great. She liked that her older brother didn’t start that this week because he got to walk her to the bus stop. Thank goodness because she forgot her mask and older brother had to run, neigh, SPRINT home to retrieve her mask before the bus arrived.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of Jr and High School, those schools won’t be starting M-Th school until November. However, I think it works out better that at least it is my son home and not my daughter as she needs more in-person contact for her happiness, and my son will do better at home without his sister constantly distracting him, and visa versa. So it all works out.

Game Dev Adventures!, Ph.D. Adventures!

I don’t wanna! (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Week 4)

TLDR:

PICKED A DIRECTION FOR MY RESEARCH THIS SEMESTER!!!!! I am going to work on writing a theory paper. I’m really excited. I also started doing 5 (instead of 15) minute goal dailies and continued my 3 minute self dailies which have really helped me manage my mood and stay a lot happier. I joined the GradSWE committee.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I realized late in the week that I didn’t want to do an assignment from my advisor, Dr. Rogelio, so it stopped me in my tracks on all things research. Finally, I decided to just start working on my research by doing what I want to do, doing something is better than nothing, and I got myself organized and started to get to work on my theory paper! It’s been so much FUN! I feel that my math degree was a long time ago, so I don’t remember a lot of details about how to solve specific problems. However, I am very good at how to solve problems and write proofs. It feels like I get to write one long proof which sounds very fun to me.

I had a math professor tell us that mathematicians spend months, even years or decades and a whole lot of paper trying to solve a problem, and then when they do they come out of their closets, he mimed a mathematician pointing to a paper, and they say, “See, it’s easy! It’s only six lines!” I’m in the closet phase of the research paper. That’s the fun part.

I also started programming again on a game which my Dad commissioned me to make back in 2014 (I made five whole dollars!). I made it in Unity 5, so I wanted to bring it up to date. I haven’t been able to get it updated to Unity 2019 LTS (Long Term Support), however after a week’s worth of work I was able to bring it up to 2018 LTS, though I am getting two errors in that version the game still works. It was quite the process. I tried porting it directly from 5 to 2019 but it was packed with errors. So then I ported it to 2017, made some updates, then 2018, made some updates, and finally last night I ported it to 2018 LTS, and made some updates!

My next step is to download an older version of 2019 and see if I can get the game working in that version of Unity. If I can do that it should be a much simpler task to update it to 2019 LTS. If that doesn’t work quickly I will be moving on to programming some new features for the fun casual game. I just heard about a competition that Unity is running and I might need to update it to 2020 even. It is unclear right now what I need to do for it, but I’ll make the changes as necessary.

I also took some time and drew out several design pages for the game. There is a lot I could add. So my next step on that one is to pick the most important features I want/need to add to the game, an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) if you will and implement them so I have something to submit to the competition.

I didn’t have a strong desire to participate in SWE, but when I heard about GradSWE, and after talking with the president, I decided to join the committee. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

What’s next

  • Do the programming assignment from my advisor
  • Theory paper:
    • Find papers for background information
    • Continue building my list of mapping items
  • Continue with 3 min self dailies
  • Complete all items on my 5 min goal dailies

Roadblocks

I just need to do something I don’t want to do. I am kind of tired of writing algorithms that already exist in every game engine I will ever use, when what I really want to be doing is programming gameplay. I’m not saying it isn’t valuable to program these things, I’m just saying, I don’t wanna! Ha ha!

Extras

5 minute goal dailies

I just couldn’t get myself to even start on 15 minutes. It just felt so daunting. With six items on my list (research/writing, game development, learn interesting topic, challenge programming problems, a fun crafting project (I have a whole bin of started and want to start projects!), and then do ANYTHING F-U-N), doing 15 minutes each is 1.5 hours.

After not even doing a single thing on my list I finally decided to just start with five minutes, which would mean I would complete them all in 30 minutes, and voilà! I started on them! The idea is to spend at least five minutes and then up to 15 minutes on each item. However, I ended up spending 15, 30, even 60 minutes or more on the first two items and so found myself only getting to one or two of the other items on my list. But as the other items on my list were less urgent for me to get to, it was a good start!

The BEST news!

My daughter and son have been going to school on Mondays and Wednesdays and have been remote the other days. Well, next week my daughter starts M-Th in-person school, and the following week my son will be doing M-Th in-person school as well. I’m super excited! My daughter said she was more excited than me, but I’m not so sure… 😉

Cool Stuff!, Ph.D. Adventures!

So Far So Good! (Ph.D. Year 1, Spring Week 7)

TLDR:

I stuck with my research time and was able to make an outline for my literary review and recoded some of the articles within my literary review. I’ve also set out a timeline for the rest of the semester for the simulation educational research I’m doing with Dr. Wiese. And I went to Nevada for the weekend to visit a family friend. I also now have a 38 out of 40 charms in Hollow Knight.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I listed my accomplishments in the TL DR. One thing I didn’t mention is that I started doing Hackerrank challenges in C++. I’m doing one challenge a day pretty much. It’s been a lot of fun; once I finish a challenge I ask myself if I can do it better, if I can do it in place, if I can use a different structure, etc., and I think through those things since that’s usually how my technical interviews have gone. It’s also fun just to see if there is an improvement that can be made.

What’s next

  • I need to create a 3-week plan for Dr. Wiese on for what we’re going to do for the next three weeks.
  • I need to look into creating an IRB for my researcher with Dr. Wiese.
  • There is an article I need to read called fostering the intelligent novice.
  • Figure out how to do citations in latex.
  • The stick with my research times and keep plugging away at my literary review.
  • As always, coursework.
  • Personal goals.

Roadblocks

  • Figure out how to do citations in Latex

 

Ph.D. Adventures!

Meeting with Myself (Ph.D. Year 1, Spring Week 6)

I’m using text-to-speech to write this week’s blog. Please forgive anything that I missed correcting.

TLDR:

This week I got scheduled. I scheduled a time to do my research. I also got a mentor to hold me accountable for my research times. It’s actually opened up my schedule to have these times set. I survived my heavy course load and even with that I still held my meetings with myself and read through six articles related to my literature review and educational game design research.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I spoke with Rogelio last week and chose two times to be held accountable to do my research. During those times At the beginning, I tell him what I would like to focus on and/or accomplish, and at the end of that time, I tell him what I accomplished. I could make it better by sharing what I will focus on for next time. Having this time set aside has really helped me to focus on my research and put it first over other school and Ph.D. related activities. These times are meetings with myself. So if anyone tries to reschedule during those times, I just tell them that I have a meeting. 

Despite my heavy course load being able to keep to my research was a very big accomplishment for me, and I was also able to complete all of my coursework and last week was my heaviest coursework load of the semester. This shows me that this is something that I can stick to you even in the future. The two times. They chose our short periods of time 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours and yet even with just two of those times. I am much further along than I would have been if I hadn’t set that time aside. I use this in other areas of my life to schedule other things that I have been deprioritizing. Even just giving them half an hour to one or two hours, then they don’t fall by the wayside and never get any attention.

What’s next

  • Make an outline for my literary review. 
  • Make a mapping function between usability heuristics and instructional design.
  • Coursework 
  • Personal goals

Roadblocks

Patience. Getting better. Taking time for self-care. Taking time to enjoy life.

Ph.D. Adventures!

Star Struck! Meeting Julian Togelius (Ph.D. Year 1, Fall Weeks 11-13)

Oops, life got away from me, but that’s okay! Here’s a three-week update!

TLDR:

I had a minor procedure done (all went well), I updated my website with an about me, I completed and got rejected for the HERTZ, we didn’t have time to complete the AISL, and I got great feedback and direction from Tallie the librarian for my literature review! OH, and I met Julian Togelius the editor in chief for the IEEE Transactions on Games Journal! What?!?!? 

For the Interested Reader:

Star Struck!

I should preface: I don’t usually get star struck! But when I met Julian Togelius, I definitely felt the struckness!

Julian Togelius visited our university and I had the opportunity to attend the grad luncheon. He politely, and with good humor and an upbeat spirit, listened to and engaged with us and our research areas and ideas. It was a great experience. Afterward, he emailed me personally with two papers he had written on psychotherapy games (a core interest of mine), and I got to talk to him for a bit after his talk also. I was def star-struck. It was great!

Taking Time for Me

In my last post, I talked about being a woman pursuing both career and family goals: in that pursuit, I had to take some time away from school and I fell a little behind. I am all caught up now, if not with the all-star A’s I had before, I am feeling I need to push through so as to let other women know you can do both, and it’s okay to shift from one to the other. As a doctoral student being a 4.0 isn’t as important as it used to be, though I love getting my A’s, it’s okay to let perfection in the pursuit of better, more impactful things!

Accomplishments

I got rejected from the HERTZ!

We’ll be applying to the AISL (or another related grant) next year.

I took time for my personal and family goals.

The Marriot Library has FREE research consultations for students and employees. At the suggestion of my advisor I did one, not really expecting much. Boy was a blown away! I got SUPAH great guidance feedback from Tallie the librarian on my literature review. She definitely helped me frame my research question, get to my target databases, how to save my work, emphasized the Prisma (which I think will be a fun visual to include in my paper), and was in general fun to talk to and very supportive.

What’s next

Got to do these things:

  • Start the meat of the literature review: downloading, reading, and writing
  • Survive the end of the semester
  • Register for Spring 2020
  • Read the many papers that have been sent to me to read from my advisor, Julian Togelius, and my peers.

Roadblocks

I’m burnt out from the semester. My classes are only slightly related to my area of research and I’m getting really tired of reading and doing writeups on papers that aren’t even remotely related to my core area of interest. There’s a reason I didn’t go into writing, as much as I loved being an editor and journalist, I get really bored when writing and reading is all I do all day. This semester has been one very long reading-writing session. I’m all burnt out.

I need to work with Rogelio on what my schedule is going to look like next semester and how my work this semester can be carried into my lab rotation with Eliane next semester: I’m excited to see what we can possibly collaborate on.

Ludology, Ph.D. Adventures!

The AISL, Sickness, Arches, Campfire, and a Corn Maze! (Ph.D. Year 1, Fall Weeks 6-8)

TLDR:

AISL grant proposal won in the University of Utah competition. WAHOO!! Celebrate! Now we (Rogelio the PI and myself) need to write the full proposal. Need to complete my Hertz application, finalize my keywords for my systematic review, and lots of homework and an exam all need to be completed (or taken) all in the next eight days. Should be fun. 😉

Despite being sick, kept up with school work (at least the minimum required), and had a good fall break with camping and fires, Arches National Park, and a corn maze!

The Full Story:

An exam review, two weeks of sickness, and fall break made me miss the last couple updates. Here is my three-week catch-up.

Accomplishments

I wrote up a draft for the AISL grant proposal for the University of Utah competition. Because we found out about it close to the deadline, my illness, and Rogelio’s own busy schedule, he took my draft and finalized it for submission (he is the PI on the grant as it is anyway). If you compare the two you can see my content throughout, just elevated, by a large margin. I’m excited to be working with someone who is such a good writer so I can learn from him. Oh yeah, our proposal was accepted! Now we write the full proposal. 😉 More on that later…

I did preliminary searches and read a previous literature review on educational game design and have found that no one has addressed my specific research question about educational game design, so I am moving forward with my research topic. It also fits very nicely into our AISL grant proposal.

I got sick but somehow managed to keep up with the MVP for my classes. My professors are all really kind and understanding. Hopefully, I will be nice professor one day.

Over fall break I specifically did not do anything school-related. I thought I might get bored, and I did start to, but then my husband decided we should go on an adventure after all, called his work and received the time off, and we headed down to Arches National Park for two nights! That meant we got to build two campfires! That was fun.

On Saturday we took the kids and their uncle Zeke, my younger brother, to a corn maze in Lehi, Utah. My husband’s favorite part was seeing how fast he could throw a baseball, my favorite part was seeing how good my soccer skills still are when kicking a ball at various targets, Mikey’s favorite was the zipline (despite hitting his head on the rope at the end), Uncle Zeke’s was lifting a 400 lb haystack (all by himself), and Chelsea’s favorite part was the corn maze. Gotta take time to have fun!

What’s next

In order of priority (for the next 1.5 weeks): finalize keywords for systematic review, finish Hertz application, keep up with classes (I’ve got a lit review, group project announcement, two-week homework assignment, multiple reading writeups, and an exam), and the AISL full proposal.

Also, try to get the rest of the way better. 

Roadblocks

I’m still recouping from my two-week illness, still feeling sick, and having side effects from being sick so long and from all the medication. I’m back on herbal and essential oil remedies so the side effects should start subsiding. 

I really do not enjoy one of my classes — it is not related to my area of study and the class is mostly busywork. The professor himself even told me that last part before classes started– and it takes a very long time to do the homework assignments, so motivation is low.

Game Dev Adventures!

Down to Brass Tacks (Ph.D. Year 1, Week 4)

TLDR:

This week I got down to brass tacks (which idiom no one knows the origin of): I began an application for outside funding, and started a list of research questions to use for a systematic review. I further refined my research interests which is almost ready to be shared on the QED lab page.

The Full Story:

Accomplishments

I officially changed my name! I am now Nancy N. Blackburn. Hooray!

I have a list of several systematic review questions.

I started a dreaded application for outside funding. (They are a lot of work!)

What’s next

Do a search in the current literature to see what literary reviews have already been compiled and use that data to select a research question to move forward on.

Continue to fill out my applications for grants.

Finish my QED bio and get it published.

Roadblocks

Feeling discouraged about my applications for outside funding. The competition is stiff and while I feel that I am deserving I am definitely wondering how I “prove” my value. 

Game Dev Adventures!, Ludology

The Plan and Burnout (Ph.D. Year 1, Week 2 & 3)

TLDR:

Finished semester plan. Main two research goals are to apply for outside funding and  write a systematic review.

This week I’ll create a set of research questions for a systematic review and begin applying for outside funding.

The Full Story:

Accomplishments

I have been reading meta papers and looking at different ways to read and write different kinds of research papers. I have decided this semester to focus on writing a systematic review in the educational games/intelligent tutoring systems area.

I also shared several of the games I made in 24-48 hours with my lab and discussed the design ideas and purpose behind each. It was a good review to me. My chosen area in games is for pedagogical reasons, however games have purpose far beyond just entertainment and education.

It’s one of the other things I did this past week was defending the rigor of games research. I have come across several researchers who use game terminology without actually understanding the field of games. It is particularly important to note that what many researchers have called “game design theory” is actually gamification. Without proper understanding of the difference of game design and gamification, the application of these principles can actually backfire and undermine the overall purpose of the application as a whole. 

Two books I am enjoying delving into are Dan Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things, and Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design by Scott Rogers. Part of what I want to do as part of my Ph.D. is to define and further develop design principles for learning games.

Something I realized 2.5 weeks in is that if I don’t take time between research and coursework projects to work on personal & family goals then I don’t make progress my personal or family goals. The thing is research and school is that those things can balloon and take up all your time. It’s important to set appropriate boundaries for everything and not allow those things to consume your life unknowingly. With this in mind I was able to start making progress on personal and family goals as well which has made me feel better about my life overall since I am not ignoring important aspects of myself.

Finally, I finished my semester plan and have a clearly defined path to accomplish my goals this semester.

What’s next

Create a set of research questions for a systematic review.

Begin applying for outside funding.

Roadblocks

Adhering to my scheduled time blocks to accomplish different tasks. Issues here are: under/over estimating (mostly under) time it takes to accomplish tasks, unplanned activities (such as having to spend an extra hour getting somewhere, forgetting lunch, etc.), and burnout. The burnout bit is an issue for me when I’m working against a deadline and I’m sick of doing the task in front of me.

I think I have a solution, by switching up tasks, going for walks, taking time to eat, relaxing about perfectionism (which has been a big thing for me), but when you have to get something done and you need all the time you have been given to accomplish it burnout sets in…

This semester has also been a lot heavier on the reading/analysis then expected and not so much on math and programming. I have done little programming and not in any way that I truly enjoy, and I don’t have time to make games, which makes me sad. So yeah, burn out is an issue.