Serious Games: Counterintuitively Delightful

Posted on: May 18, 2017

This content was originally published on gamedev.msu.edu

When you see the phrase, serious games, do you think of something educational and boring? Or do you think about games to teach college professors how use active learning approaches in their teaching?  Games to inspire computing teachers in Qatar about how algorithms help solve social problems such as traffic jams?  Games designed to encourage young learners of English as a Foreign Language to correct each others’ common grammar mistakes?

Do you think about games designed to cause game design students to think about why they play? Games to motivate todays’ youth in China to save the endangered Pangolin?  Games to raise college student awareness about the harsh challenges for civilians who live in war zones?

The coolest thing about Michigan State University’s serious game graduate certificate program courses is the students.  The second coolest thing is the projects our students create.  I offer you a quick tour of a handful of the many great spring 2017 serious game projects from MI830: Foundations of Serious Games.

ALL

Active Learning Land by Nick Noel, Instructional Designer, Michigan State University and MSU Educational Technology MA student

Audience: University faculty who teach undergraduate courses and are at a development workshop.

Serious Goals:

  • Introduce simple active learning activities to university faculty
  • Show that these activities can be implemented easily
  • Introduce the concept of synthesizing technology and class activities

trafficManager

Traffic Manager by Hanan Aishikhabobabkr, Computing Education support for middle and secondary school teachers and MSU Educational Technology MA student (who lives in Qatar)

Audience: Secondary school computer teachers in Qatar with ICT (Information and Computer Technology) background who will be trained to teach computational thinking.

Serious Goals:

  • Experience some of the ways where algorithms can be used in solving problems in the real world
  • See how algorithms are executed
  • Notice some of the factors to consider when making up an algorithm

warzones

WarZones by AJ Moser and Bingzhe Li, MSU Media and Information HCI MA students

Audience: 18-24 year old college students who may be active voters, and care about the innocent people suffering from war and would like to know more about them

Serious Goals: 

  • Give players a sense of what it is like living in a war zone as a normal civilian
  • Show a variety of serious problems civilians might encounter
  • Demonstrate the cruelty of war on people living in the area

EFL

EFL Foundational Grammar Decks by Justin Thibedeau, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and MSU Educational Technology MA student (who lives in Taiwan)

Audience: English as a foreign language (EFL) students

Serious Goals: Motivate students to generate meaningful language as they recognize and practice grammar patterns to combat native language (L1) influence

pangolin

Pangolin! Protect or Poach? by Yiqing Ling, MSU Media and Information HCI MA student

Audience: Chinese teenagers

Serious Goals:

  • Evoke interests of pangolins
  • Enrich knowledge of pangolins
  • Raise awareness of their biggest threat – poaching

cloudwalker

Cloudwalker by Mars Ashton, Director of Game Art in the department of Art and Design and Assistant Professor at Lawrence Technological University

Audience: Budding game designers

Serious Goals: Teach players to question what games are asking them to do and why on a critical level

In MI830, students begin by completing a series of short “gamelabs” to  learn the serious game design process. Then they embark on a 10-week “epic quest” to create a serious board or card game. They create a prototype, playtest the prototype, and iterate the design.

More than half of students in the graduate certificate program are full time working professionals, including K-12 teachers and university professors, corporate trainers, museum professionals, outreach professionals, fortune 500 employees, IT workers in the healthcare industry, game designers, and more.

The graduate certificate program also serves MA and PhD students in Media and Information, Educational Technology, other MSU departments, and other universities.

The deadline for applying for admission in Fall 2017 is June 15.  All three courses can be taken online. For more details, visit the SGD site.  Or email professor Carrie Heeter, director of the serious game graduate certificate program (heeter@msu.edu).

By Carrie Heeter, Professor of Media and Information, Michigan State University

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Professor Constantinos Coursaris Awarded the IIE Fulbright Greek Diaspora Fellowship

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University of the Aegean top image

Dr. Constantinos K. Coursaris, associate professor for both the Media and Information and Advertising and Public Relations departments of ComArtSci, has been awarded a fellowship by The IIE Fulbright Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program.

As part of his new role, Coursaris has traveled to Greece for two months to collaborate with the University of the Aegean’s Department of Information and Communication Systems Engineering on curriculum co-development, collaborative research on digital entrepreneurship and to assist with the professional development and mentoring of graduate students in digital entrepreneurship and electronic government.

Working abroad

From April 24 to June 24, Coursaris will work with Dr. Dimitris Drossos to create a new exchange program that would allow MSU students to spend a semester studying in Greece, while MSU would host Greek students from the University of the Aegean.

Coursaris will also explore new research projects with Greek scholars in the area of digital entrepreneurship and mentor graduate students on topics ranging from creating a professional portfolio, to designing rigorous research studies and using advanced statistics to analyze data.

“My interest in this project primarily stems from my passion for supporting MSU’s World Grant Ideal,” said Coursaris. “This is enacted, in part, through a greater internationalization of our East Lansing campus, the provision of study abroad opportunities to MSU students and the bilateral mobility of teacher-scholars.”

The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program

Constantinos Coursaris

Constantinos Coursaris

Coursaris is one of 21 Greek- and Cypriot-born scholars, from 16 prominent U.S. and Canadian universities, traveling to Greece in order to conduct academic projects with their peers at Greek universities. They are working in areas such as public health, chemical genomics research, urban food security and a variety of others. Twelve Greek universities were selected by the GDFP to host the fellows for collaborative projects that meet specific needs at their institutions and in their communities.

The Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program is designed to help avert Greece’s brain drain and develop the long-term, mutually-beneficial collaborations between universities in Greece and the United States and Canada. It is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in collaboration with the Fulbright Foundation in Greece, and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

“Having been born and raised in Greece, I was also personally motivated to explore opportunities to support higher education in Greece, particularly during this difficult time period,” said Coursaris. “Investing and transforming Greek higher education in such a way as to support entrepreneurship and innovation is arguably the most effective approach in overcoming an increasing brain drain coupled with ever-diminishing resources.”

Looking ahead

Over a period of two years, the program will award fellowships to 40 U.S. and Canadian based academics to collaborate with universities throughout Greece to develop curricula, conduct research and teach and mentor graduate students in priority areas identified by the Greek universities.
“I feel honored to have been selected in the very first cohort of scholars selected for IIE’s Greek Diaspora Fellowship Program,” said Coursaris. “It’s an ambitious agenda, but given the faculty and student talent at the University of the Aegean, along with the hosts’ warm and engaging personalities, I am confident in the successful completion of this undertaking.”

By Kaitlin Dudlets 

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Fake News and Filters Aren't Fooling Internet Users

Posted on: May 4, 2017

This story was originally published on MSU Today

Despite what some politicians argue, fake news and biased search algorithms aren’t swaying public opinion, finds a Michigan State University researcher.

william-dutton

William Dutton

Commissioned and funded by Google, William Dutton, director of MSU’s James and Mary Quello Center in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, and researchers from Oxford University and the University of Ottawa, conducted a survey of 14,000 internet users in seven nations: United States, Britain, France, Poland, Germany, Italy and Spain.

“The role of search in the political arena is of particular significance as it holds the potential to support or undermine democratic processes,” Dutton said. “For example, does online search enable citizens to obtain better information about candidates for political office and issues in elections and public affairs, or do the processes underlying search bias what citizens know in ways that could distort democratic choice?”

While there are country-specific findings, universally, concerns about internet searches undermining the quality and diversity of information accessed by citizens are unwarranted, the study found.

Indeed, search plays a role in how internet users obtain information about politics, but there are several factors that come into play, Dutton said.

“The results from our study show that internet users interested in politics tend to be exposed to multiple media sources, to discover new information, to be skeptical of political information and to check information, such as that seen on social media, by using search,” he said. “These findings should caution governments, business and the public from over-reacting to alarmist panics.”

Key findings:

  • The argument that search creates “filter bubbles,” in which an algorithm guesses what information a user wants based on their information (location, search history), is overstated. In fact, internet users encounter diverse information across multiple media, which challenges their viewpoints.
  • Most users aren’t silenced by contrasting views; nor do they silence those with whom they disagree.
  • News about fake news has created unjustified levels of concern; people use search to check facts and the validity of information found on social media or the internet.
  • Cross-nationally, there are consistent patterns of media use, but people in France and Germany use search engines less and rely more on traditional media. In Italy, residents use search more frequently. Out of the seven countries in the study, internet users in Poland trust search the most to keep them informed and in Spain, users are particularly prone to use the internet to check facts. In the United Kingdom, people use search less, placing more trust in broadcast media.

Most research on internet searches has focused on one platform, such as Twitter or Facebook, Dutton said. The MSU study is one of the first to concentrate on the wider context of a person’s informational and social networks and the wide range of media people consume.

The study can be downloaded from the Social Science Research Network.

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Junior Strengthens Audio Interest Through Student Organizations, New York Field Experience and Music

Posted on: April 21, 2017

arthur

Over spring break on the New York Field Experience trip through the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, Arthur Jones, media and information junior, was not only able to observe audio, video and music industries individually, but he was also able to see his interests work together in the media industry as a whole.

His interest in audio started his senior year of high school, when he took a class with someone who owned a local recording studio.

“I knew I liked to play music and thought the class looked neat at first, but I happened to really like the recording aspect of the class,” Jones said.

The one visit that Jones found particularly interesting during the New York City Field Experience was the group’s stop at MTV.

“We learned how important their social media teams are,” Jones said. “Because their demographic is early to late teens, they constantly have to stay up-to-date with new app trends. Whenever something new comes out, they have to learn how to best apply it to their audience.”

The biggest thing he learned from alumni on the trip was the fact that, in college, you never truly know what city you will end up in.

He also learned a lot about careers in the audio industry.

“I knew New York was a big media market, but I really learned so many valuable pieces of information related to all things audio,” said Jones. “Whether it’s in TV or radio, doing something in audio would be my dream job.”

The market in New York City made Jones aware of potential job opportunities.

“I definitely am more open now and saw the possibilities of different careers in the media industry,” Jones said. “The New York trip really broadened the potential I saw in the different jobs I could do.”

A change in tune

Jones first came to MSU as a student in the James Madison College. When he discovered that he wasn’t passionate about what he was studying, he left MSU to study at a community college in his hometown. He pursued a music degree and learned how to play an instrument – the double bass. When he returned to MSU, he decided to major in media and information with a minor in music.

“Even though there aren’t a ton of audio classes, MSU has so many students making student-films and other projects as well,” Jones said. “I was pulled into the fiction film class and Theatre 2 Film. I also work at Recording Services in the music building.”

In addition to all of those commitments to expanding his craft, Jones also plays in the concert orchestra at MSU.

Valuable skills learned

Jones doesn’t regret taking the time away from MSU to learn what he wanted to do. He said the experience was “valuable.”

“I thought I wanted to do international relations, but I realized the reason why was to be on NPR,” he said. “It’s still a dream job of mine to work on an NPR special, but I feel like I can accomplish that with what I am doing. By leaving and coming back, it made me very secure in what I want to do.”

His advice?

Jones suggests if students don’t know what they want to do, to think about an interest and pursue it more.

“You have to think, ‘Could I do this for years?’” Jones said. “College is the time to figure out your interests and experiment with those interests. At MSU, there are so many clubs, which makes it fun and easy to try out anything and everything.”

By Meg Dedyne

 

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Bob Albers prepares for retirement from MSU, premieres film at CCFF

Posted on: April 18, 2017

MSU Media Sandbox photography exercise; with Zydecrunch, performing atop the Comm Arts & Sciences parking ramp. 9/17/12. photo: w.r. richards/CAS-MSU

After a 35-year career teaching at MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences in the Department of Media and Information, Senior Video Specialist Bob Albers will retire after the current spring semester.

Albers teaches one of the Communication Arts and Sciences classes that many ComArtSci students choose to take as a part of their degree programs. The course is called Story, Sound and Motion, which explores the central role of storytelling, sound and editing in media communication. That being said, the number of students that have had the opportunity to learn from Albers reaches into the thousands. He has had a particular impact on students who have taken his documentary capstone class. In fact, last year, a film produced by students in Albers’ class, From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City, earned entrance into several film festivals and even won a Student Academy Award.

Before he retires, Albers has been able to cherish the relationships and connections made during his time at the college. The department recently celebrated the sixth Albies Awards, an Oscar-like awards ceremony recognizing students for their work in production and film. It simultaneously commemorates Albers and his name for the impact he has had on the program.

At this year’s Albies, Albers was celebrated with a plaque from the students, “It was one of those bittersweet things. I think, ‘Why am I leaving? I’ve got this group that I’m a part of that I am still connected with and I can tell they care about me’ ... So, I’ll miss that.”

Celebrating his craft and most recent film

You have likely experienced that moment when you’re doing the thing you love and you enter this state of being where you’re absorbed in the action or performance, commonly referred to as being “in the zone.” Albers’ recent documentary film, Chasing the Moment, follows 11 individuals who have experienced those moments and continue to seek them out in their lives every day.

The film features a chef, a marine sniper, a pulitzer prize-winning photographer, dancers, an Olympic Silver Medalist and more. It recently premiered at the Capital City Film Festival in Lansing on April 8. 

“(The film is) about how do you get to that place where everything goes away and you’re not thinking about anything, you’re just being whatever it is that you do,” said Albers.

Like the people in his film, Albers said he has experienced this sensation, too. Before entering the classroom, he was a college basketball player at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, where he studied psychology. He said the feeling was present as an athlete, but it also happened later when he picked up the classical guitar and when he went to art school to study sculpture and photography, too.

Throughout the course of his life, he’s been a teacher of various subjects and crafts, including teaching science to junior high school students, giving guitar lessons and, today, mentoring and educating future directors, editors and other industry professionals about all aspects of film and documentaries.

Albers’ teaching went beyond the classroom during the 4.5-years of production for Chasing the Moment. He selected a handful of MSU students and two faculty members to assist him.

“Some of them were involved in the shooting (process) and so I feel as if that’s a window into the professional world for those people,” said Albers. “They get to do classes, but then they get to work on a big project."

The 2016 Albies attended by over 200 members of Telecasters, alumni, staff and guest. 04/23/2016. Photo Credit: Amanda Pinckney

Leaving a legacy

Albers’ ability to connect with his students dates back to the 90s when Bob Gould, a professor in the School of Journalism, was a student of Albers’. When Gould later returned to ComArtSci as a professor, he said Albers was a friendly face to see walking the halls.

“The first semester teaching here, I leaned on him a little to get some professional advice, but every time I would see him in the ComArtSci building, I would smile and was a bit nostalgic. In fact, even today, 10 years later, I still feel that way when I see him or talk to him,” said Gould. “He had that kind of impact on me and so many other students. His kind soul and quiet demeanor always creates a calming effect when stress levels are high. I’m sad to see him retire, but it is so well deserved.”

Gould said one of the last things he did as a student at ComArtSci was create a small documentary as an independent study with Albers. Now, 30 years later, Gould’s daughter, Ilene, a freshman media and information student at MSU, is doing the exact same thing.

“He knows how to teach creative, out-of-the-box thinking and I’ve definitely learned better ways to approach storytelling," said Ilene. "He’s just a genuine and kind person and shows a lot of care for his craft, but most importantly for his students."

His daughter’s work with Albers has impressed Gould and he is happy to know she had the chance to learn from one of the greats.

“When I heard Bob might be retiring, I told my daughter that she should take an independent study with him and learn as much as she can from him. I thought it would be a really cool thing for two generations to share that special mentorship,” said Gould.

Just as Gould and his daughter have enjoyed learning from him, Albers has taken equal joy from teaching, “I really do like teaching a lot and I enjoy being around young people. You know they say it keeps you young, but I don’t think that’s true, maybe a little bit younger than you would be if you weren’t involved with young people. They see the world differently than I do, maybe clearer in some ways than someone like me does. That’s a thrill.”

What’s next?

Albers, a Kentucky native, looks forward to moving back to his home state after 37 years away to build a home with his wife and “get to know Louisville again,” especially through his photography.

By Savannah Swix

 

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Film by MSU professor and WKAR producer to air on PBS

Posted on: April 7, 2017

LATIN MUSIC USA (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

A groundbreaking documentary on Latin Music from WKAR producer and Michigan State University professor John Valadez will air nationally in primetime on PBS this May.

His film, The Chicano Wave, is the third hour in a four-part series, called Latin Music USA. This entertaining and insightful documentary dives deep into the history of Mexican American music to showcase how the Latino culture is a part of all of us. Featured in Valadez’ film are musicians and performers like Selena, Ritchie Valens, Los Lobos, Linda Ronstadt and more.

John Valadez

John Valadez

“In America, we are all interconnected in ways that are complicated, often subtle, unseen, and unarticulated, and so this series, Latin Music USA, that’s kind of what it’s about. It’s about making unexpected connections that are actually very beautiful and surprising,” said Valadez. “The show is about music, but in a sense it is really America. It’s about what it means to be American.”

Valadez believes a film like this would not have been possible without the expertise and thoughtful research of scholars from Chicano/Latino Studies Programs like the one at MSU’s College of Social Science. He states, “You do not get something like Latin Music USA unless there are dedicated folks writing the books; unless there are people exploring and elucidating the history; unless there are talented musicologists who are placing it in context.”  

Valadez has often been called “the hardest working Chicano in the Doc Biz,” and in this case the dedication has certainly paid off. The series will be shown on primetime national television in May, with Valadez’ film broadcast on May 5 on PBS at 9 p.m. – Cinco de Mayo.

In addition to his role with WKAR, Valadez has joint appointments as professor of practice with the Department of Media and Information and the Film Studies Program at MSU.

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MSU Game Design Ranks among Princeton Review’s Top 20 and #1 in Big Ten

Posted on: April 3, 2017

One day, you’re at home playing your favorite video game after school. The next, you’re stepping into a classroom to learn how to design the next generation’s go-to game.

With a brand new multi-million dollar media space and technically-skilled faculty, Game Design students at Michigan State University are receiving an education that ranks among the Princeton Review's top 20 and number one in the Big Ten conference.

At number 10 for undergraduate programs, and with a graduate program right behind that at number 11 in a separate ranking for graduate schools, MSU is making its presence known.

We have made significant investments in our program in the last year including hiring three new games faculty, creation of the interactive media and motion capture studio and revising our curriculum within Media and Information to add several new game art and design courses,” said Brian Winn, director of undergraduate studies and an associate professor in the Department of Media and Information.

gelStudents who enroll in classes for the game design program, housed in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, come from a variety of majors including studio art, computer science and engineering as well as media and information.

“Our program is very interdisciplinary,” said Winn. “Students collaborate on teams (in classes), assuming the role most closely related to their major, to build game projects. This gives them a very authentic game making experience that closely resembles the real-world.”

The program and its courses enable students to graduate with priceless knowledge, which translates into an impressive portfolio of creative work completed as classwork or for external clients.

The curriculum offers students the option to work with both games for entertainment and serious games. Johannes Bauer, chair of the Department of Media and Information, explained that serious games are strong at the graduate level.

He added that the program’s students show immense talent for furthering the industry, “The students have a very deep knowledge in game design and game development. Some of them come from more of a creative side, others come from a technical and programming side. Our curriculum offers them both opportunities.”

With spaces like the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab and the recently opened Immersive Media Studio, fit with the technology to design and produce virtual reality gaming experiences, the program at Michigan State University continues to help students use and build upon their individual skill sets and support them to excel in their future careers.

For Peter Burroughs, media and information senior, the program has taught him new ways to evolve his talent for traditional art that he discovered in high school and apply it to 3D modeling, concept art painting, visual effects, art direction, project management and asset implementation. In addition, he says the program has to work with others and to embrace the skills and contributions they bring to the team.

“The professors and upperclassmen have taught me an incredible amount about making video games, and my peers in the program have become like family to me,” said Burroughs. “Working together during all-nighters will do that to you!”

By Savannah Swix

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MSU to Partner with Indian Media Giant, Helping Local Farmers

Posted on: March 14, 2017

indian-media

This article was originally published on MSU Today 

The project involves the university’s communication and agriculture experts and the Ramoji Media Group, a multi-media giant that reaches some 620 million Indians with television stations, films, newspapers and online media.

The Hyderabad-based Ramoji is launching a new channel for farmers struggling to feed a growing population. MSU will help Ramoji identify stories about agricultural innovations that can help meet climate change, drought, flooding and other production challenges.

The partnership includes an exchange of materials between MSU and the media company, such as education and research, publications, academic information and media content. MSU faculty and research scholars aim to work with producers at RFC to create television programming in multiple Indian languages.

“This project is an important intersection of content, distribution and expertise,” said Amol Pavangadkar, director of Sandbox Studios and senior specialist with media and information in MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “MSU knows agriculture and communication and RFC has the creative programming capacity and reach needed to engage farmers and other stakeholders.”

MSU officials from the collegamol-pavangadkar_lges of Communication Arts and Sciences, Agricultural and Natural Resources, Education, Engineering and Business, as well as International Studies and Programs and MSU Extension, signed an agreement to work on the project during a recent visit to India. They met with government, higher education, foundation and corporate executives and reviewed partnership options. Each college has submitted development ideas, research and concepts for consideration to pitch to RFC for future programming.

“This cross-continental partnership, involving a media empire and a higher educational institution, is unusual in that complementary institutional strengths are being leveraged to address global issues,” said Satish Udpa, executive vice president. “The goals of the partnership are truly aligned with the rich traditions of MSU in transforming lives and advancing knowledge.”

The project will also benefit from The Food Fix, a multi-media news service produced by MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, that reports on food systems innovation as part of MSU’s Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.

“We’re looking forward to helping Ramoji identify and produce similar stories,” said David Poulson, senior associate director of MSU’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism. “The kind of research MSU supports provides plenty of material about safely producing and distributing food. These important stories need to be told globally.”

The project also continues the long relationship between RFC and MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Science, established by Pavangadkar through his study abroad program. The students undertake production workshops and seminars on Indian and world cinema and translate their experiences in India into a script for a short film, which is then produced and premiered at the end of their trip.

“The MSU partnership with Ramoji Film City offers a number of opportunities for collaboration,” said Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. “With a reach of more 600 million people through cable TV channels in 14 languages, RFC offers a big audience for MSU researchers in areas such as education, agriculture, health, entrepreneurship and childhood development.”

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ComArtSci alumnus Geoff Johns named President & Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment

Posted on: December 9, 2016

Many people dream of turning their passions into a career. For Geoff Johns, his love of comic books and their iconic characters - Superman, Batman, The Flash and Green Lantern - was all the fuel he needed to pursue a career in media and entertainment.

In 2016, Johns hit superhero status at DC Entertainment when he was promoted to president and chief creative officer of the company. Johns is now leading a new era for the DC Universe, revamping the stories of his favorite childhood superheroes - including Wonder Woman, who will be at the center of the first female-powered superhero movie, set to release in summer 2017.

geoff_johns_color_story

Geoff Johns

Becoming Geoff Johns
Johns graduated from Michigan State University in 1995 and studied media arts, screenwriting, film production and film theory. As a student, he took advantage of the unique opportunities at MSU, from film club to physics classes.

“I’ll set aside the fact that it’s a beautiful campus, that the culture is amazing, that it has the biggest comic book collection in the world, which is awesome,” Johns told us, while reflecting on his time at MSU.  “But, the thing that was so valuable to me is that you find that whatever you’re interested in, they have something for it.”

Johns was drawn to classes in film and media production, and crashed MSU’s library of comic books, as he worked to develop a better knowledge of film, screenplays and characters. He also found value in the basics like economics and physics, ultimately preparing him for the business side of his budding career.

Two physics classes in particular made a lasting impact. “The physics of light and color and the physics of sound. Those two classes were really valuable to me both in my storytelling as a writer, as well as in production, because they actually taught me how light works, how color works, how we interpret sound and how sound works.”

He continued, “If you want to be a screenwriter, my advice would be don’t just take writing (classes). You need to study production, accounting, history, everything that you think will help you tell your story. I think that the more you can broaden your horizons the better, and you can do that at MSU.”

Meanwhile, across the country...
After college, Johns started his career in Los Angeles, working as an intern alongside the original Superman director, Richard Donner. He later became an assistant to Donner, wrote alongside him, and picked up industry insights along the way. In his professional career, Johns has become one of the most decorated comic book writers of his time. He has written highly acclaimed stories starring Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Teen Titans and Justice Society of America and is a New York Times best selling author for his comics.

As a hero in the halls of his office, Johns will play a crucial role in DC Entertainment’s current rebirth, aiming to bring DC Comics back to the basics and focus on storytelling first. Ultimately, striving to minimize the gap that lies between diehard fans and movie critics.

“At the end of the day, the thing I’m most interested in and the thing I’m most passionate about is story and character," said Johns.

One idea Johns picked up from Donner that stuck with him is the concept of superheroes as “healthy junk food,” promoting a positive message while also entertaining. Johns told us that Donner believed, "you never do entertainment under the guise of a message, you do a message under the guise of entertainment. Whether it’s Superman’s inspiration and hope, or Batman’s justice - they all have these wonderful moral qualities to them and I think that’s why people respond to these characters so much."

According to Johns, superheroes aren’t just fun to watch. It’s more about why they do what they do and how they do it that matters and is exciting to the viewer. When asked what superhero was most like him, he said it changes everyday.

“There are some days where you think you feel like Batman, where the world is dark and you have to fight back. There are days when you want to inspire like Superman. I’d say (I’m most like) Green Lantern. I love Green Lantern, I wrote him for 9 years, he’s all about willpower and perseverance and that’s how I got to where I am. I’ve got a lot of willpower and perseverance and I love what I do. And if you want to succeed that’s what you need to have.”

Wisdom built and shared
Perseverance, willpower and the ability to learn from past mistakes are all traits of popular superheroes - and even Johns himself. These traits have allowed him to face challenges head-on, working and learning as his career progressed.

“The truth is that the hurdles that I’ve faced in business and in my career have just been learning experiences. There are times when you try a new project and it doesn’t work or you’re working with someone and the chemistry isn’t producing the best work,” Johns told us. “Any kind of hurdle or challenge, as long as you keep working at it and try to learn from it, it’s ultimately a very good thing.”

Johns’ positive outlook on professional experiences - good or bad - has helped him to grow in his career. Never expecting a handout, always working for everything he’s received, Johns set out to prove himself and encourages current students to do the same.

“Being in the real world, in the job, you’re not going to be promoted just because you’ve been there a year. It’s not like school where you move on and you move up. You’ve got to prove yourself. You’ve got to work hard,” said Johns. “I loved Michigan State. I got so much from it and learned so much from my time there. And the one thing that they can’t teach you is when you’re in it. Get out here and really be a part of it.”

Sparty the next superhero?
Johns gave us some insight into what Sparty might look like as a comic book character, sharing how he would draw him.

“If we were going to draw him, he’d be as broad as Superman, maybe a little taller. We might want to give him a flowing cape, a green cape would be cool. I think he’d definitely be on the Justice League, though. He’s kind of a cross between a superhero and Popeye.”

And we’re sure that just like Johns, Sparty’s superhero would show the world how Spartans Will.

By Nikki W. O'Meara

 

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ComArtSci professor aims to improve family wellness with NSF Grant

Posted on: October 28, 2016

How can a virtual pet or plant help a family to establish healthy routines? Wei Peng, associate professor in the Department of Media and Information at the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, is developing a system called FRESH (Family Routine, Education, and Sensing Health) that will use familiar objects and environments to help families track wellness and improve health.

The goal of FRESH is to use mobile technology, like tablets and cell phones, to monitor a family’s behavior - including their diet, whether they eat together, their physical activity and sleeping habits. The built-in audio, motion, and light sensors necessary to acquire this information from families, as well as a unique algorithm for an app, are being developed in collaboration with MSU’s College of Engineering.  screen-shot-2016-10-18-at-4-16-06-pm

“The reason that we wanted to focus on these family routines is because these activities are very important for obesity prevention,” Peng said.

FRESH works by accessing and collecting data through sensors placed on family member devices with their permission.

The app then uses the information collected through the system, to show the findings through scenes such as a blossoming flower. As a family’s routine improves, the flower will grow and thrive, offering participants an image of their progress. The program also provides families with a support system since the app enables them to communicate with and learn from other families.

Peng said that preliminary testing in Greater Lansing shows that people are willing and excited to participate.

“Most of the families are very accepting because they see the benefits of helping the whole family to be more healthy,” she explained. “This outweighed the risk or the privacy concern.”

The collaborative project between Michigan State University and University of California, San Diego received a $1 million grant in September from the National Science Foundation and an additional $880,000 from MSU. Peng said the funding will solidify and support their 4-year plan.

By Savannah Swix

 

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