chapter  13
20 Pages

Between Theory and Practice: The GAMBIT Experience

WithClara Fernández-Vara, Neal Grigsby, Eitan Glinert, Philip Tan, Henry Jenkins

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.