Published: “Game-based Health Education: The Case of Hexacago Health Academy”


I don’t post much about my day job on this blog, but I thought I’d give this a bump: Ci3 just published an article on the Hexacago Health Academy summer program in Journal of STEM Outreach. It’s the first article coming out of Ci3’s work that I’m listed as a co-author on, and the Hexacago Health Academy is a program that I’ve been involved with before, even before I was in my current position (although this paper specifically deals with the summer 2015 session, and not the summer 2016 session that I acted as a game design facilitator for).


It is a well-documented fact that women and minorities are currently underrepresented in STEM higher education degree programs and careers. As an outreach measure to these populations, we established the Hexacago Health Academy (HHA), an ongoing summer program. Structured as an informal learning environment with a strong youth initiated mentoring component, HHA uses game-based learning as both a means of health education and stimulating interest in careers in medicine among adolescents from underrepresented minority populations. In this article, we describe the 2015 session of the Hexacago Health Academy, which focused on the topic of sexual and reproductive health (SRH). The overall structure of HHA, with its dual focus on game design and enabling youth interaction with science and health professionals, is discussed. Qualitative data from the 24 youths that participated in the 2015 summer session was collected. Results indicated that the initial session of HHA succeeded in its goals of developing critical thinking skills among participants, encouraging teamwork, broadening understanding of the health sciences, and encouraging risk-taking in education. The overall potential efficacy of informal learning environments that use game design as a core component to stimulate interest in STEM fields is discussed.

Link is here. It’s open access. (Hooray!)

Let’s Study Half-Life 2, Pt 5

Part 5 is up!

Parts 1 & 2 were adaptations of existing material—namely, the first chapter of my dissertation, and this lesson plan. Parts 3 & 4 consisted mostly of newly-generated material. Part 5 returns to being an adaptation of existing writing—this time around, this blog post.

I had to scale back my ambitions for this particular video. Originally, it was going to feature a tour through some .OBJ outputs of the coastline maps, following in the footsteps of Robert Yang’s visualizations. Everything was going smoothly for awhile: I successfully extracted all the necessary textures with GCFScape, successfully opened the maps in Crafty, and got myself an education license for Maya. But try as I might, I just couldn’t quite pull off the trick that Yang did, and get the textures to affix to the .OBJ files. (He kind of glosses over that crucial step the blog post.) All I could produce were textureless grey blobs of level geometry.

So I fell back on a tried-and-true method of compositing a bunch of noclip screenshots in Photoshop. In addition to not having that cool 3D model look, it was also an enormous time sink, though, and slowed me down a lot. C’est la vie, I suppose.

Script below the jump.

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Published: “Do(n’t) Hold Your Breath: Rules, Trust, and the Human at the Keyboard”


My article “Do(n’t) Hold Your Breath: Rules, Trust, and the Human at the Keyboard” was just recently published in a special issue of New Review of Film and Television Studies entitled Breath: Image and Sound, edited by Jean-Thomas Tremblay. Readers of the blog may recognize it as being built on the bones of this previous blog post. Hooray! Academic blogging acting as a stimulant for future writing, just as it is supposed to.


The maintenance of rules within the ‘black box’ of code, away from human eyes, constitutes a major difference between digital games and the social history of their analog counterparts. Meanwhile, the incorporation of new types of human behavior into digital games’ rulesets has placed games on the cutting edge of machine surveillance technologies. This article examines several digital games that stand in opposition to these trends, by opting out of monitoring certain aspects of player behavior, and opening social dynamics of trust and cheating that digital games have historically avoided or shut down. Chief among these examples are Asphyx (Droqen, circa 2012) and With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, 2014), two games that incorporate player breathing into their mechanics, while forgoing any technical means of monitoring players’ respiration. In place of the usual command/output logic of human–machine interaction, these games map a more intimate alternative, in which players’ relationship to their avatars and in-game actions is built from a foundation of trust, shared truth, and consent between human bodies and software operations.

DOI link for those with institutional access here. I’ll be uploading a post-print version, suitable for those who don’t have institutional access to New Review, soon. [UPDATE: It’s here.]

Let’s Study Half-Life 2, Pt 4

So, I actually uploaded this one to Youtube on Thursday, but forgot to embed it here until now. Oops!

I’m going to try to teach myself some new tricks for Part 5, so expect a bit of a wait before that appears.

Script below the jump.

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Half-Life 3 Confirmed!

Er, that is, “Let’s Study Half-Life 2, Part 3″ confirmed.

(That is to say, it’s live now on Youtube.)

This video is the longest so far, and will likely be the longest video of the whole seven-part series. Putting these together has been taking a lot out of me, so expect somewhat shorter installments in the future, along with longer breaks between each installment. (I won’t be posting more than one a week, now.)

Transcript below the jump.

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Goodbye, Final Cut Pro 7


So, I have a confession to make. Apple released Final Cut Pro X in June of 2011. I remember the moment well. In April 2011, the University of Chicago Film Studies Center was lucky enough to score a talk with the legendary editor and sound designer Walter Murch, and the very first question he took in the Q&A was someone who practically leapt from his chair to ask him what he thought about the new program. Murch seemed uncertain, and equivocated in his response, attempting to soften his obvious distaste for the new UI. And, in the coming months, as the software was commercially released, that distaste spread far and wide. Editors weren’t picking up Final Cut Pro X. They were teaching themselves Avid, or Adobe Premier, or announcing that Apple could pry their Final Cut Pro 7 from their cold, dead hands. And Apple did, in fact, continue supporting Final Cut Pro 7 for an unusually long time.

And I stuck with it. At first, I wasn’t editing video much in graduate school, so it made sense to just keep old software on my computer, rather than to attempt to learn a new UI. But then I started making things again. This and this and this and this were made on FCP 7. Less than 4 weeks ago, I made a video on FCP 7. I put up with countless headaches in my continued devotion to software released in 2009. I put up with agonizingly slow rendering. With severe lag that frequently made frame-by-frame viewing of clips untenable. With the program’s complete inability to deal with MPEG-4, which meant hour upon hour spent on transcoding. With the fact that the program would instantly crash to the desktop any time I tried to use some of its titling features. And with the fact that I couldn’t upgrade my main computer to High Sierra, because Apple had finally dropped support for FCP 7 on its most recent operating system.

Well, no more. I got FCP X two weeks ago, and already edited parts one and two of “Let’s Study Half-Life 2” on it. I think I’m adapting pretty well, so far. I have minor quibbles with the UI, but that’s true of any piece of software. And, seven years on since its launch, its benefits far, far outweigh any tradeoffs when it comes to replacing the now-fundamentally-broken FCP 7.

Anyway, just a small life change for me. Probably not worth sharing, but, what do you expect? This is a blog, after all. Oversharing is baked into the format.