This study investigates jury-based assessment work as part of professional activity in an emerging profession, the gaming industry. Drawing on prior studies of professional learning (Mäkitalo, 2012), jury deliberations (Garfinkel, 1976), and assessment practices in related settings, assessment is approached as a way of making professional knowledge and learning visible. With an analytical focus informed by ethnomethodology, the paper builds on the idea that detailed studies of local orders of collaborative assessment in creative organizations could contribute to the understanding of assessment in professional learning.
Although previous research on games development point to a multifaceted body of knowledge and considered its development in terms of professionalization (cf. Bennerstedt, 2013), there is a lack of empirical studies of professional game developers practices, particularly addressing the key object of criticism - the games. Games assessments are not only a common preoccupation at game companies and in game education, but also at so-called game awards where novices send in playable demos. Games evaluations share similarities with assessment practices in other professional and educational settings, such as design reviews in architectural practices (Lymer, 2010). However, the assessment activities and object of assessment largely differ, as the qualities of playable games have to be discovered interactively and therefore include a range of learning trajectories and troubles.
Based on fieldwork augmented with video-recordings at a game café, the paper explores a small group of invited professionals’ assessment when reviewing a large number of game demos for a national game award event. By focusing on collaborative work conducted in private deliberations, it is shown that the professionals are faced with a number of challenges when ranking and grading the demos. They discover problems and qualities with the games by taking departure in fixed categories, established standards and emergent criteria, but make collaborative decisions that are governed by the jury members’ varied access to the assessed demos. The variations with respect to access are tightly related to the time schedule of the reviewing, but also the design of the interactive material. They accomplished their work by drawing on jury members’ as well as organizers’ access to, and knowledge of, demos in terms of playability, progression, emergence, visual appearance, technical solutions, etc. Critical for overcoming knowledge gaps are the ways the jury manages access by engaging in hybrid activities, i.e. moving between assessments and instructions/demonstrations of demos.
Pedagogical implications of the analysis are discussed, and it is suggested that the jury-based assessment of digital material shed new light on how professionals deal with ad hoc learning and instruction.
Bennerstedt, U. (2013). Knowledge at play: Studies of games as members’ matters. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Lymer, G. (2010). The work of critique in architectural education. Göteborg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
Mäkitalo, Å. (2012). Professional learning and the materiality of social practice. Journal of Education and Work, 25(1), 59-78.
The Second International ProPEL: Professional Practice, Education and Learning Conference, Stirling, June 25-27, 2014