Phenomenology (part 1)

Phenomenology is a method of research that seeks to explain the nature of things through the way people experience them. It translates literally as the “study of phenomena.” Thanks to Cindy for breaking down this research method clearly, and opening up reflection on some of the pros and cons. The approach investigates everyday experiences while attempting to suspend preconceived assumptions about the phenomenon. In other words, phenomenological research studies “lived experiences” in order to gain deeper insights into how people understand such experiences. 

This methodology for research is descriptive – the researcher aims to describe (as accurately as possible) the structure of a chosen phenomenon. It is a popular qualitative method, and many scholars choose this method to gain a deeper understanding of how human beings think. The data collection involved might include observation through interviews, surveys, analysis of personal text, and focus groups and conversations, etc. Some challenges might come up with data gathering and data analysis (oftentimes new researchers are daunted with how time-consuming the process may be). Or there might be researcher-induced bias that can affect the outcome of the study. That said, this method is a great way to uncover what a particular experience means to a group of people, and how they experienced it.

Our class slides

I am glad to have shared an example of “creative” MA thesis project in order for you to understand how research plays into an ongoing fiction project (Gianna Lepanto’s MA Thesis Proposal and Lit Review submitted halfway in the process of developing her MA Thesis). Next week, I will share an example of a student’s qualitative research approach for a more academic study.



I am also glad you were able to further “workshop” your research ideas in part 2 of class this week. Please remember how important organization is to effective research work. You now have a central folder for all of your work, and an ongoing google doc for all notes you generate pertaining to research process and research inspiration. Valerie dubbed this google document as “the Dump Doc” (i.e. it will contain all of your generative note taking – the good, the bad, the ugly). The truth is that it takes a lot of thinking and processing to get to “the good stuff”. So I think that “catch-all” name is perfect for your “notes” document that will serve as a central location for all your ideas and thoughts that come to mind regarding your ongoing research work. Please remember that research is iterative, and cyclical, so expect to revisit your research questions more than once, as you keep refining the scope of your inquiry.

At this stage after the further brainstorming done in class this week, you might want to list new (more specific versions) of your inquiry questions – write them down and highlight them in your “notes” google doc. What move will you make next?  You should dive a little deeper. Database time! Select a database based on the search tips that Craig provided (or literally go into the library and make an appointment to work with one of the reference librarians) to find some articles to upload. Familiarize yourself with how the search engine works, and then run a basic query. Enter your topics/questions and see what comes up.  Which primary sources feel like an interesting yield? Which ones have zero appeal. What grabs your attention?  Read abstracts, upload articles and drop some of the better ones into your folder.

Continue to take notice of what you are noticing, and what matters to you. 

Your to-do list

Please read: A Phenomenological Research Design Illustrated by Thomas Groenewald.

Please write your ninth blog reflection (due 4/4) on the above Phenomenology article. Ricki will lead our discussion of this article in class. **In addition, please remember to work steadily each week on your Research Proposal progress and include an update in your blog.

Next week

We will have class next week in our Zoom room. I will send you the link on Thursday morning (it is the same zoom link we always use). See you on screen then, and have a great weekend.





“A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy” is this week’s reading by Seth Andrew Hudson, Ph.D. When I saw the title, I thought it must be a complex article to understand. Because I am not really into games, I have no idea about it when I have to talk about something. However, I tried to complete my reading and I found some interesting information. I immerse myself in the “Data Collection and Analysis” part. It gives me information about how to collect and analyze data. The study involved one-on-one interviews with participants at industry events and email lists. The interviews were conversational, allowing for the co-creation of knowledge and interpretation through a conceptual lens. The interviewer coded responses in situ, allowing for interaction and identifying emergent themes. Open coding was performed to identify points of emotional intensity. The data was analyzed using meaning condensation tables from Brinkmann and Kvale’s (2014) framework. The process involved revisiting the transcripts and audio, extracting natural units that accurately portrayed the context of specific responses. This curated sampling of natural units was the final data set. The engagement with the data was particularly useful as an educator, providing immediate insights for classroom practice and enhancing game writing pedagogy.

I think it must be a hard part of research. However, it plays an important role in research. When I read this part, I seem to understand partly the way to collect and analyze data.

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From A Writer’s Desk

A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy by Seth Andrew Hudson, PhD, seems to be the easier research theory to comprehend. Thus, I am eagerly excited to learn more about the theory in the lead discussion this week, and I’m saving some time to research and write the Research Proposal.

For instance, “There is nothing like game writing” captures the common sentiment of these texts as Wendy Despain frames her edited collection on writing for video game genres, which appears to be an industry-veteran authors’ alternative to “drowning our sorrows and crying in their beer.” It also looks like “statements like this signify the limitation of relying on these trade press publications as a scholarly assessment of the field” (94). In other words, the thinkable ways to consider writing with video games would be a thing for future generational use as a similar school of thought relating to Notes From a Writer’s Desk: Gamifying Research and Writing:


The object of gamification is to utilize game elements, including gameplay mechanics and structure, point scoring, competition, and prizes, to encourage certain behaviors. Companies often use Gamification to encourage consumer engagement with products. Frequent flier miles are a great example, as accruing points through repeated use of an airline can result in rewards like free flights or upgrades. Another noteworthy example is the system of achievements embedded in many video games. These achievements may be tied to core missions or game mechanics or associated with arbitrary tasks available in the normal course of the game, and they often reward the player with a score, digitally tangible badge, or in-game trinket.

We can utilize similar models to mask the “work” aspect of our research and writing by associating it with something fun, motivating, or rewarding. Graduate Student of Harvard School of Arts and Science Anthony Shannon proclaims how he used an achievement system towards the end of my dissertation work. His favorite arbitrary dissertation achievement was for his bibliography to have authors representing every letter in the alphabet, which he achieved thanks to an article on doubled divinities in the Phoenician world by Paolo Xella.

Recently, he led a workshop called “Gamifying the Dissertation,” where he presented ideas on gamifying research and writing. Anthony offered some basic examples of the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach that students could develop on their own or with a group of friends or colleagues, including:

Create a points system.

You can motivate yourself to write by assigning values to aspects of your writing, such as word count or time spent writing. You can track points at week or month intervals and try to set a high score. Alternatively, you can collect points and exchange them for rewards, like a weekend trip, a date with your significant other, purchasing a coat, or going to Costco. A points system is a fun way to categorize larger projects into smaller, more manageable chunks and to reward yourself for each step of the process. You can also share it with your friends and compete for rewards, or even recruit friends and family to supply rewards for you to strive toward.

Create your own game.

If you are interested in something more complex, you can create your own game centered around your research and writing habits. For example, you could create a list of enemies that require a certain amount of XP to defeat, which you can earn by completing certain research or writing tasks. You can introduce randomness by using cards or dice to determine the XP required to defeat an enemy or the amount of XP awarded per task. This can also be a group accountability activity, with each member responsible for gaining enough XP to defeat enemies collaboratively.

Workshop attendees brainstormed ideas for gamifying their work and for designing a useful system for students from different disciplines. They also raised interesting questions about gamification, including what can be considered an incentive—is ice cream an incentive, a motivator, or both?—and how to keep gamification from consuming us and hindering progress, thus defeating its purpose. One way to potentially avoid this pitfall is to use a ready-made platform for habit and writing tracking, such as:

Chore Wars

It is modeled after Dungeons and Dragons-type RPGs. It uses a dungeon master who assembles a player party and designs a campaign of pre-made or custom tasks that reward XP.


Allows you to specify your tasks, level of difficulty, and rewards. Its user-friendly interface reminds me of a gamified version of Trello and other similar task managers.


The Combat-RPG concept is aimed at writing, with a focus on word count that translates into XP needed to defeat a series of monsters on your quest.


Uses monetary incentives, allowing you to place bets on yourself to accomplish your goals. If you don’t meet your goals within certain parameters or with a certain consistency, you pay up.

Write or Die

Uses a variety of incentives in its three different base modes: Stimulus, which encourages focus and productivity by changing the audio-visual elements of the interface; Consequence, which punishes you with alarm noises and images of spiders; and Reward, which treats you to pleasant sounds and images like kittens and puppies. For real risk-takers, there is also Kamikaze mode, which will start deleting your work if you don’t meet your goals.

Written? Kitten!

On this free platform, you can set your word goal intervals (100, 200, 500, 1000 words), and at each interval, you are rewarded with a picture of a kitten, puppy, or bunny.


You will receive points for participating each day and for writing 750 words each day. You can also compete with others on monthly challenge leaderboards.

Fighter’s Block

This is a more active writing catalyst that pits you against a monster who drains your health over time and can only be defeated by meeting your self-imposed word goal.

Anthony concludes that there are many options available for those interested in gamifying their research and writing habits (The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2024). Conversely, any existing gaps in communication between the game industry and higher education should not serve as an excuse to retreat to our respective bases of understanding. Rather, those gaps are indicative of an opportunity for researchers to engage with a new field that represents a convergence of technology, art, storytelling, and interactivity in the digital age. Deployed in pedagogy, those efforts will certainly benefit the students we seek to serve and our field of study; they may also innovate the medium itself. (Husdon, p. 110). Selah. 🤔


This week, I’m taking a page out of Tyler’s book. These bullet points, in no particular order, are just some thoughts I had throughout. Overall though, I genuinely enjoyed reading this and exploring uncharted territory.

  • When I learned that this was about game writing, it instantly piqued my interest. It’s one of those jobs you don’t realize exist, at least not to me. Kind of like a camera engineer on an animation film or a hair fabricator on the set of Coraline.
  • “Remaining open to scholarship and methods in other established disciplines that may not seem relevant at first glance, offers a vital opportunity to explore more effective pedagogies of game design in higher education.” (pg.93) “Teaching writing with a focus on process, rather than product, is so widely accepted that “it may be difficult to imagine alternative instructional approaches” (De La Paz & McCutchen 2011, 32).” (pg.108) “Rather than simply amending coursework per the views of the practitioners in the field, faculty that engage in research on the industry in concert with academic disciplinary knowledge and teaching expertise, develop more effective instruction and approaches to curriculum design.” (pg.109) This made me think about my case study analysis, as Lin was a student in a program where the educators were very one-track-minded. It’s so important to be receptive to new ideas and perspectives so that you can bring freshness and more effectiveness to your teaching.
  • In my opinion, the three strands of pedagogical practices to support writers’ development (pg.95) are foundational and essential to help all writers. I definitely believe those are baselines all educators teaching writing should follow.
  • “Russell (2001) holds that effective writing instruction should focus on what instructors want students to do, rather than what they want them to know.” (pg.96) Personally, I think both are very vital to a student’s knowledge and success within a course. One is no more deserving of attention than the other.
  • “Despite romantic notions of video games being developed in basements by small groups of talented, enthusiastic friends, “[i]t is important to consider the mass production of games and the industrial process that makes their production possible, since both their aesthetic form and their consumption are influenced by this overarching structure” (Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al2015).” (pg.98) I love the concept of CHAT. As students and educators, we get lost in the sauce and sometimes find ourselves doing things just because it’s what’s expected and all we know. Giving historical background to things not only provides a better understanding but also can make the work feel more purposeful.
  • “Throughout the course of the study, I allowed my knowledge and experience as an educator to inform my efforts.” (pg.101) “Basic philosophical stances on phenomenology hold that it describes the essence of the lived experience, rather than draw conclusions based on the data collected.” (pg.104) To me, this is how you do research. Being led by your experience and knowledge makes things feel personal.
  • “(Semi-structured interview approach) allowed me to be present in the conversations without losing focus on the intention of the interview.” (pg.102) Conducting interviews can easily slip into a very formal experience, so I appreciated this reminder to be intentional and conscious when collecting your data.
  • “Game studios that “have indulged the writing process,” have created some of the most innovative and socially- engaged work to date (Bissell 2010).” (pg.110) I’m not a gamer, but occasionally I watch people play video games. This line, and really the entire article, made me think of games like The Last of Us, Life is Strange, or Until Dawn. These decision-making games, filled to the brim with emotions, are great depictions of phenomenal game writers. I mean, The Last of Us started as a video game and is now an HBO series. If that’s not indicative of good writing, I don’t know what is.
  • “We have to teach students more than just technology; we have to ask ourselves, “What can we give students that the internet cannot?”” (pg.111) As a teacher, this strikes me in a particular place. Technology has taken over so much of our lives, and innovation can be a struggle in education. However, I think this framework and mindset is precisely what today’s teachers need.

Phenomenology in Service of Pedagogy

In this week’s article, “A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy” by Seth Andrew Hudson, PhD, the author identifies a challenge in preparing students studying computer game design “with industry-specific skills” (Hudson 109) and argues that there should be more development of pedagogy for these students: “We have to teach students more than just technology; we have to ask ourselves, ‘What can we give students that the internet cannot?’” (Hudson 111). He believes that researchers can “engage with a new field that represents a convergence of technology, art, storytelling, and interactivity in the digital age” (Hudson 111) in a way that will benefit students. Hudson wants educators to come up with a better pedagogical approach to teaching computer game design. With each new study we read for this class, I wonder what happened after the study was published. Most often, I find myself wondering whether it changed anything. Taken alone, Hudson’s study does not result in the new pedagogical approach he desires. But Hudson mentions that he is a teacher, so why doesn’t he just continue working until his objective is realized?

The goal of phenomenology is to “[describe] the essence of lived experience,” which I take to mean that the researcher will be finished with the study once a description evolves. If I were going to engage in research to learn the “essence” of someone’s “lived experience,” I would want to do something more concrete and measurable with it in the end. I can’t imagine being satisfied at the end of a phenomenology research study. However, for those looking to scratch an intellectual itch or provide a basis for additional research that can eventually lead to action, I think that phenomenology is a good choice.

Game Writing

This week’s reading” “A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy” was quite interesting. As a formerly avid fan of open-world role-playing video games (I would probably still be one if I had the time), I have always been fascinated by the immense amount of writing and creativity that goes into the development of such games. It is, frankly, mind-boggling to consider that each quest, line of dialogue, item description, and so on was actively considered by a writer or team of writers. Perhaps most impressive of all is the fact that–unless the video game is not very good–all of the content contained within it feels unified thematically and stylistically. This, I believe, is mainly what sets game writing aside from other forms of writing.

In his paper, Seth Andrew Hudson more-or-less outlines the bones of a curriculum for a game writing pedagogy. First, however, he set out to understand what exactly sets game writing aside from other forms of writing. This, he deemed necessary, given the relatively small amount of relevant literature on the subject. He described such texts and the heart of his dilemma as follows: “these texts [texts related to game writing] are of limited use to researchers or educators looking to develop and enhance pedagogy. ‘There is nothing like game writing’ captures the common sentiment of these texts” (Hudson 4). In order to develop a better understanding of why game writing is “nothing like” any other form of writing, Hudson interviewed seven game writers in an attempt to outline areas of competency. These areas are as follows: writing and storytelling, communication and collaboration, understanding systems and dynamics, tool proficiency, and understanding play.

The writing and storytelling area of competency is rather self-explanatory, but I found the other categories to be quite interesting. First off, and as I mentioned previously, collaboration is a key competency for game writers. Most games, as Hudson points out, were not created in a week by a few individuals in a basement as is often the stereotype. In contrast, most games (especially large and detailed ones) draw the creative input of dozens–or even hundreds–of writers with their own contributions and visions. Due to this, communication and organizational skills are, no doubt, exceptionally important. In addition to being talented writers and communicators, however, game writers must also be somewhat familiar with the tools of the industry (how to actually make a game, use technology effectively, etc.). This, I imagine, is one of the most difficult aspects of the gaming industry and what likely scares many writers away. Finally, game writers must “understand play”. While films, television, and novels have their own rules; video games are no different. If a writer wishes to write a video game quest/ storyline like a novel they will almost certainly create a final product that does not lend well to actual gameplay even if the story itself is good.

All in all, game writing is far different from most other forms of writing and has many unique demands. As a result, game writing cannot be studied or taught in the same way as other forms of writing.

Game Writing Pedagogy

A Research- Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy

The reading this week was another digestible piece. This was a break through reading, personally. I was finally able to see writing our research proposal as a manageable task. I wouldn’t want to research the topic used, but it was interesting and I found my self actually wondering what was going to be discovered through the research. I had no difficulties understanding the information and it was nice to see an example of what’s to come for us.

Okay now getting into the reading. Basically the researcher wanted to know or “debunk” the idea that “there is nothing like game writing”. His goal was to figure out what it means to write for games, but was also humbly approaching the topic, open to learning any new information about the process and teachings of game writing. The methodology he used for his study was phenomenological interviews.

I appreciated how the interviews were conducted. They were semi- structured, meaning the interviews had pre-planned structured questions but the researcher also allowed for the interviewee the freedom to almost guide the conversation naturally. Having this approach is the best way to conduct interviews in my opinion. This just seems like the best way to get the most genuine answers. I kept putting myself in the shoes of the interviewee and I would not give thorough responds if I felt like the interviewer was sticking to a strict script. All participants were also kept anonymous, which aids to the comfort of being able to be honest with responses.

One thing I questioned from the study was the sample size that was interviewed? I would assume that having more people would make trends more accurate… Is that always the case? Does having a smaller group jeopardize the validity of the study ? The researcher here had only 7 different individuals. If thats okay I think I would be interested in doing something similar. Using phenomenology I guess I could see why it might be okay. You’re looking more at what the person saying about their experience not so much what they do.

I think… lol

Writing & Video Game Design – Phenomenology

Hey, hey, peoples ~~~

While reading, “A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy” by Seth Andrew Hudson, I instantly thought about how I know very little about game writing, and what kind of sub-features that writing genre entails. I would assume, essentially, that game writing involves writing detailed narration or prose with dialogue as to liven up the setting and the characters within the game. I would also assume that game writing entails a great deal of conflict within the game narrative, in which players level up once they have conquered or solved the assigned challenge (or conflict). My knowledge of the video game culture is solely based off watching my older brother and his friends play video games, each one of them connected to a headset so that I can’t miss my brother’s triumphant screams into his computer screen, which vibrate through the thin walls of our home (lol). From my direct observations, I’ve concluded that whatever kind of video game is being played – singular, multiplayer, or a free-roaming-role-playing game (open world games like GTA), that involves some form of fighting, battling, adventuring on quests, playing sports, or racing – all often call for setting up missions and changing levels.

So, inevitably, the game writer and narration designers are pushed to think outside the lines of the stereotypical plot arc of “good story telling.” The characters are essentially faced with a consistent inability (through failed quests or challenges) to achieve a noteworthy success, multiple times over. And if the players happen to be skilled in mastering challenges, the following levels must be more complex in design, like maybe including multi-step conflict challenges within one level, adding more characters into the video game storyline, or altering or inserting more pathways, rewards, consequences, or obstacles for each video game character, (depending on the player’s already-mastered levels or challenges, of course). I feel like writing a video game would feel similar to writing a ginormous, never-ending, action-packed, book series. I can imagine video game writing being very competitive in nature and extremely anxiety-inducing, as the writer must continuously write new creative plot ideas or paths or levels for characters to choose from, especially when there really are no successful teaching frameworks offered within this genre of writing.

The main problem in question for Hudson’s study seems to be that there are no effective pedagogies or theoretical frameworks to teach effective game design writing in higher education. (Hudson, 92). It also doesn’t help that there is little to no support and guidance in this inquiry-problem question from those in this writing genre community, like successful narrative designers, comic book writers, scene editors, and other game writers alike. Professional game writers within the field offer “limited attempts” on how to plan, establish, and execute a deliberate framework of game writing teaching methods that outline effective course design and instruction, probably because they were never taught themselves (Hudson, 93). I imagine these “professional game writers” used their unique writing talents and combined them with their passion for indulging in video games, and basically just taught themselves how to write effective video game designs through colleague collaboration or trial and error. I assume such because Hudson even explained how “the distance between understandings in these two spheres does not indicate a lack of sophistication on the part of the industry or of game writers. Rather, it is indictive of an opportunity for educator-researchers to engage with the field directly” (94). Therefore, there is a high demand for “research-enhanced pedagogy of game writing,” which is something new to my knowledge within the fields of writing studies and interactive digital media (Hudson, 92).

            Without delay, Hudson admits that “it can be difficult to develop pedagogies in creative fields” (92). Video game writing is a creative field of study or practice that not only embraces traditional writing features like composition and poetry, but also requires knowledge on technological design and computer skills. Therefore, teaching methods within video game writing as a genre must reinforce, discuss, and practice the importance of both of these skills for productive results. After reading through the “Conceptual Framework and Research Design” section, I’ve noticed that effective pedagogy of this writing genre really boils down to encouraging those studying the craft of writing (especially creative writing) and supporting them through analyzing rhetorical situations. Future instructors of this writing genre should also encourage them to think strategically when confronting new contexts, challenges, or situations (Hudson, 95-96).  

There’s much more to say about the ways in which institutions or departments heads can turn the sub-writing features and computer skills of video game design into effective, curriculum instruction manuals for teaching in higher education. With that being said, I think that’s all I’ve got to say for this week’s research reading ~~~

**The link to where I found the above photo is linked to the image**


Francesca Di Fabio 🙂

track 08. phenomenology

In “A Research-Based Approach to Game Writing Pedagogy,” Seth Andrew Hudson seeks to use a phenomenological study of writing practices in the game industry in order to “enhance pedagogy in computer game design (CDG) education” (91). This is due in part to the games industry itself not really having a well-defined role for video game writing or video game writers, so Hudson tries to alleviate this issue through his research, which consists of anonymous interviews about game writers’ “lived experiences in terms of writing scholarship and research” (95). The two major tools Hudson seems to use are rhetorical genre studies (RGS) and cultural history activity theory (CHAT), the prior for “providing rich descriptions of the social contexts surrounding writing,” and the latter for “defining the processes and the conditions for attaining concrete goals in a complex system” (97, 98). Given the amorphous role of game writing and the collaborative nature of game development, these seem like very pertinent methods to use for the discovery and defining of unspecified and undefined aspects in a writing job.

The actual labor being done though seems quite extensive. Similarly to other theories we’ve discussed in class, the phenomenological approach Hudson utilized took him a significant amount of time and research. In the “data collection and analysis” section of this article, Hudson describing how, during coding, he would have to go between the transcripts and the recordings multiple times made me laugh out loud as I read it because of how intensive the work seemed, especially since Hudson’s name is the only one listed as an author; that being said, I do appreciate immensely that he states that doing so helped him understand the people he interviewed, and that it aligned well with his purpose and choice of research methodology (103). I also appreciate the “limitations” section of this article, because he does highlight some drawbacks of his approach. A major one he lists is the sample size he uses for this research, but he justifies it with how using less people helps the data be more “rich” (103). Another one I picked up was that the interviewees were relating their experiences through hindsight, which in any other study could be hard to justify if there is no way to support or verify the interviewees’ claims. I do also think that not revealing, at the very least, how the seven subjects were chosen is an odd choice, as if he did so with general statements (like with years in the industry or even how many games they’ve worked on) it would have made the research feel a bit more reliable.

I wrote this response while listening to “Transistor (Original Soundtrack)” by Darren Korb (2014), as it felt pertinent given the topic of the article. This isn’t necessarily one of my favorite game soundtracks of all time, but it is one I listen to every so often and appreciate because of how well it evokes the atmosphere of the world the game takes place in; plus, Ashley Barrett’s vocals on the song “The Spine” brings me back to the time I first experienced that section of the game, and I think that alone is a good enough reason to run this soundtrack back.