Between Theory and Practice: The GAMBIT Experience
In the ﬁrst Video Game Theory Reader, Walter Holland, Henry Jenkins, and Kurt Squire described how the Comparative Media Studies (CMS) program at MIT was beginning to integrate game design into its humanities curriculum. The program had embarked on a resource-restricted journey to the frontier of video game theory: “Our students are working through games on paper, examining existing games, brainstorming future directions, and through this process, trying to address central issues about games and education.”1 The essay drew an analogy to the work by Lev Kuleshov and his students in the early days of ﬁlm studies; without any experience or access to ﬁlm-making equipment, they produced thought experiments and insights that came to inﬂuence a generation of Soviet ﬁlm makers. Through the Games-to-Teach research project, CMS students generated game designs as a form of theory through practice. The program sought to supplement academic theories of games with more “vernacular” theories, asking its students to think through real-world challenges facing practitioners. The essay also anticipated a near future in which CMS and other academic programs would build the resources and expertise needed to turn prototypes into polished games, training its students to become
game designers, much as Kuleshov’s training paved the way for Pudovkin and Eisenstein.