Gaming in Education: Otronicon 2012

16 Jan

“Made in Florida, Played in Florida.”

This is one of the key principles behind the annual interactive event, Otronicon. Now in its 7th year, Otronicon’s video game and simulation technologies fill the four story Orlando Science Center, attracting 10,000 adults, teens, and children to the four day event.

With exhibits and partnerships from technology leaders like Walt Disney World, Florida Hospital, UCF, EA SPORTS and Lockheed Martin, Otronicon is a comprehensive showcase of innovation in Central Florida. I took my daughter to the event on Saturday and was not disappointed with all they had to offer. Jeff Stanford, VP of Communications at the Orlando Science Center, shares that the event aims to provide eye-opening experiences about “the amazing careers built on technology right here in the Orlando area.” From Virtusphere adventures to EA Sports augmented reality to laproscopic surgery simulations, there was truly something for everyone.

As a teacher and parent, I was impressed with the number of educational offerings throughout the event as well. In addition to game designers and engineers working throughout the event, there are also a number of free workshops offered from middle and high school students, ranging on topics from iOS game design to using Photoshop. Jeff Stanford shares that, though there may have been past concerns that “video games will rot your brain,” it becomes clear at Otronicon that video games and simulation technologies are vital to the future of military and medical advancements, among many other 21st century career fields.

On Saturday, we also had the privilege of attending a panel discussion on video game design by five industry leaders. What did they have to share?

Advice to Kids on Video Game Careers:

Wes Platt from JoinTheSaga.com said he pursued Newspaper Journalism, thinking that was a safe career path, but as culture and technology advance, so do the careers. So, what should kids do? Jeremy Vanhoozer of Row Sham Bow and the other panelists adamantly agreed – it takes hard work to get into the video game industry. To make it, students need to be “super driven,” work really hard, and “learn skills that you can apply at any job, like writing, art, math and programming.” And their best advice? Break into the industry with an internship to network and gain real experience.

For educators looking to motivate students in all academic areas, Otronicon.org provides a great section of “Career Bytes” with posters that demonstrate how various academic fields feed the video game and simulation industry.

Future of 3D in gaming:

EA Sports Art Director, Tony Stanley, shared that stereoscopic 3D gaming is the dream, especially where you can see the depth of field in games like Madden Football. So, how soon will we see it? Could be in the next five years, but 3D games are expensive to develop and render. If gamers wants to see this technology take off on consoles, 3D hardware, TVs and glasses will need to be more accessible to the gaming population… or go glasses-less. In the meantime, gamers can enjoy The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo 3DS for a taste of what’s to come.

Story vs. Gameplay:

The age-old question: What’s more important, the story or the gameplay? For many fans of games like Final Fantasy, the story is what draws them into hundreds of hours of gameplay. Even Jason Barnes, Creative Director for EA Sports, admits you need good story to support the gameplay, stating, “Even Angry Birds has just enough story that you hate those pigs.” Yet at the end of the day, Barnes boldly concludes, as so many at Otronicon agree, “Gamplay is King!”

 

To find out more about this event, visit Otronicon.org. Educators, feel free to use or share the video above under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

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