ELLIS ISLANDFaculty: Dr. Celia Pearce
Team Member(s): Josef Abboud, Pauline Chan, Joshua Cuneo, Betsy Gooch, Evan Mandel, Nigel O'Rear, Ray Vichot., and Audrey Whitman,
First-year Digital Media M.S. student, Audrey Whitman introduces the Ellis Island Project.
Please briefly explain the project. What is it about?
Ellis Island is an experimental, massively multi-player online game that is being designed to promote player interdependence and cooperative, narrative play. The game itself takes place in a historically accurate New York City during the Ellis Island period (1892-1954). Players (as new immigrants to the US) explore NYC, take jobs, help their families adjust to life in the new world, and explore their own narrative ambitions in an occasionally hostile world.
Do you like working for this project? Why or why not?
I love working on this project. Interactive history and role-playing are two big interests of mine, so when Dr. Pearce approached me to lead and manage this project, I was pretty excited. Most graduate students have a lot more difficulty finding project studios that align so naturally with their research interests, much less provide such an exciting environment in which to learn new skills; so working on the Ellis Island Project is a hugely lucky break.
What I wasn't expecting was how fascinating an opportunity this has been to connect to other students and faculty about their own histories. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one relative who passed through Ellis Island, so whenever I talk about this project I'm treated to all these personal stories about immigrant ancestors from all over the world. The interest expressed to me about this project has been amazing, I feel lucky to be working on a project that has so much potential to educate others and enrich their lives.
Who are the team members?
All of the team members (except Josef, who is an undergraduate student from the College of Architecture) are Digital Media masters students. Pauline, Betsy, Nigel, Joshua and myself are the first year students and Evan, Ray are the second year students.
What is your role in the project?
I'm the manager for this project. In practice, Dr. Pearce gives me a few guidelines (for example use paper prototyping, design an MMO about Ellis Island), and I direct the implementation process. I recruited a group of fellow graduate students, put together a schedule, organize and run design meetings, take notes, keep track of source materials, assign responsibilities, and perform a variety of other administrative tasks. Essentially I produce content like everyone else, coordinate with Dr. Pearce, and also keep everyone on schedule, informed of their responsibilities, and excited about the work.
In Spring 2009, with even more people to keep track of, and two design tracks running simultaneously, I'll probably be a little less involved in the production process than I might otherwise like, but I do enjoy being able to keep other people motivated and on top of their work.
How long have you been working on this project?
This is a new project, that started about five months ago.
What are the biggest challenges with this project?
The Ellis Island Project is a huge idea being produced by a relatively small group of people, so it has the eternal set of project difficulties: not enough time, not enough people, and sporadic access to proprietary technology. The group I'm working with is so amazing and creative that we haven't run into any significant design hurdles yet, which we're all appropriately thankful for. For me personally, the biggest challenge has been stepping into a management role. I didn't have any prior experience in project management before coming to Georgia Tech, so it's been something of a trial by fire. Starting immediately, I needed to direct a group of my peers through the fairly rigorous production schedule I put together, while actively producing content myself, and trying to pick up all the incidental management skills, like addressing interpersonal conflicts and maintaining group enthusiasm; that project like this needs to survive. It's been difficult, but very rewarding, and I feel like I'm gaining a huge amount of practical experience in the process.
Did the project supported by any grant/award?
Dr. Pearce and I are looking for funding to produce both the digital product and the board game we produced as a side effect of the paper prototyping process.
Prepared by Tanla Bilir