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University of Otago’s Digital Approach to Game Studies

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New Zealand is elevating its education industry to leverage digital technology, marking a significant stride towards creating a more innovative and accessible learning environment. With a strong commitment to providing quality education, the country is embracing various digital tools and strategies to enhance the overall learning experience for students.

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One key aspect of this initiative was the University of Otago’s English and Linguistics Programme. The programme embraces the digital age by appointing a new staff member, Lisa Blakie, to teach game studies and game writing. Blakie, a member of Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, and Pākehā, brings her well-rounded experience to starting her role as a Professional Practice Fellow in game studies in February. Blakie will primarily focus on narrative design and writing for games and interactive media.

This appointment is important not only for the university but also for the local game industry. The position is designed to bridge the academic and local gaming sectors, with Blakie simultaneously leading Atawhai Interactive. Her mission is clear – to champion the creative possibilities within the video game industry and community and ensure that students can envision clear pathways into the industry, the community, or perhaps both.

Blakie emphasised that game development goes beyond coding and art and aims to highlight the various career pathways that require skills taught within the English and Linguistics department. Connecting with students and guiding them towards these pathways is a top priority for her. Her unique perspective, rooted in narrative design and indigenous game studies, adds an exciting dimension to the academic landscape.

Moreover, Blakie expressed enthusiasm about applying her creative practice to potential research outcomes within the university, collaborating with iwi (Maori tribes) and the broader game industry. This reflects a commitment to teaching and contributing valuable insights and research to the evolving field of game studies.

This appointment culminates in a three-year partnership between the New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (CODE) and Otago’s English and Linguistics Programme. During this collaboration, New Zealand witnessed the successful pilot of its first creative writing paper dedicated to video games. CODE’s mission involves supporting curriculum development and creating employment opportunities in the game industry for Otago graduates. The organisation has also been instrumental in establishing employment pipelines within the tertiary education sector.

Associate Professor David Ciccoricco, the Head of English and Linguistics, acknowledged the evolving nature of literature in the digital age, recognising that video games are undeniably a significant part of the contemporary cultural landscape. He emphasised the department’s commitment to preparing students for the demands of the industry, citing their 15-year track record in teaching digital literary studies and producing graduates with diverse talents attractive to today’s game and interactive media industries.

Additionally, another university in New Zealand has incorporated digital technology into its programmes. According to OpenGov Asia, Massey University has undertaken a programme redevelopment to integrate digital technology, strategically responding to the shifting dynamics across various industries as they adapt to a technology-driven environment.

Massey University is at the forefront of ushering the construction sector into the digital age by introducing its newly launched Bachelor of Construction (Honours) programme. Recognising the industry’s trajectory towards an estimated US$25 trillion by 2030, the university acknowledges the pivotal role of technology in this sector. By doing so, it positions itself to cultivate professionals who can adeptly navigate the changing landscape, aligning with the demands of an increasingly technology-centric construction industry.

The University of Otago’s innovative step in appointing Lisa Blakie reflects a forward-looking approach to education, recognising the growing importance of digital technology in literature and culture. Blakie’s dual role as an educator and industry leader aligns with the university’s commitment to providing students with theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and connections within the rapidly evolving digital landscape.


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