Oswego State professor acquires grant for online game

Oswego’s Professor Received $20,000 grant for Alternate Reality Simulations Project

Professor Ulises Mejias of the Communications Department received $20,000 Innovative Instruction Technology Grants (IITG) from SUNY’s Office of the Provost. The IITG grants encourage SUNY professors to develop and experiment their technological innovations with students. The results of the projects will be shared in SUNY Learning Commons to support future projects and improve other SUNY schools.

Professor Mejias has been fascinated with Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG) since he had an opportunity to see the “World Without Oil” Project. It caused him to focus on developing something similar that will affect Oswego students about global and local issues. The grant that Professor Mejias received will be using Osw3go.net to develop his Alternate Reality Simulations Project.

The project is based on Alternate Reality Gaming (ARG). But what exactly is ARG? It is not like a normal video game that you play with your colleagues for relaxation. ARG is a revolution in gaming and learning because it combines the real world and the online world. It creates a hoax environment that influences players’ gaming engagement.  When the game starts, players have to find puzzles or clues that will lead to another. These secret clues are hidden in different circumstances that vary from player to player. It is necessary to collaborate with other players to collect all the clues. Players eventually have to put all the clues together to accomplish the mission. Famous examples of ARGs are “Halo2-I Love Bees” and “Nine Inch Nails-Year Zero.” Since ARGs require high-level processes of thinking, analyzing and collaborative skills, it is a perfect combination of excitement and challenge for our SUNY Oswego students.

Over the spring 2011 semester, Professor Mejias offered a course on Islamophobia. Islamophobia is a prejudice and hatred against Muslims due to the misconception about Islam. There were 150 participants in the class. Islamophobia increased dramatically after the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy.

One of the participants said, “When I first heard the Islamaphobia course was going to be offered, I have to admit I was a little skeptical to whether I would enjoy the idea of a ‘game’ style course. As the weeks progressed, I was astonished to see the preconceived notions that I had about the Muslim faith and how bias [sic] they were. I can honestly say this short class was one of the most informative classes I have taken while at Oswego. Not only did it challenge me to think critically about the subject, but it forced me to look at other points of view and really open my mind to the way that this religion is viewed. If I was not graduating this semester I would undoubtedly sign up for the next one.”

It is amazing to see that students have learned and gained a new perspective on Islamophobia through the ARG class. The grading system also motivates students to dig deeper into the issue by giving them options to participate in numerous events and explore other sources. The students earn their grade by completing tasks that are assigned on their levels. The first level requires players to participate online. The second level allows you to share your interest with your friends by sending them requests to join you. The third level asks players to attend events outside the game such as joining the discussion or watching films about the issue. The fourth level encourages you to set up and organize an event about the issue. The fifth level lets you brainstorm ideas with other players and create a community project on the issue. Out of all the students playing last semester, only 10 to 15 percent reached the fourth level and only one to five percent reached the fifth and highest level.

Professor Mejias will continue developing more ARG classes, such as one on hydrofracking, and expects the number of participants to rise. The ARG classes for the upcoming semester will be CMA260-Oswego Alternate Reality Research and CMA 261-Oswego Alternate Reality Stimulation. These classes are open to anyone who is interested.

Ulises Mejias, professor of the Communications Department has developed an online game to raise awarness against misconceptions of Islam.