A variety of creative tasks are technically complex. Prominent examples include machinima—digital filmmaking using real-time graphics rendering in computer games— and digital game creation. Enabling novices to create these forms of content holds great potential both for the personal enjoyment of those creating the content and the greater creative practices involved. In our work on creativity support we sought to develop systems to support novices creating technically complex creative artifacts.

Working specifically in the domain of machinima cinematography (selecting the positioning and timing of camera cuts) we asked the question: can we support novice machinima makers in creative digital filmmaking? This led to two follow-up questions: (1) where do novices falter when making machinima cinematography? and (2) how can we help them overcome these challenges? In one study we found novices—as rated by experts—inconsistently violate cinematographic norms. We provided the first documentation of the violations novices make. To follow up did a Wizard of Oz study where we provided feedback to novices about cinematography violations in the machinima they had made. Without guiding the novices on how to correct these violations they were able to virtually eliminate all of these mistakes. We believe this method demonstrates an effective way to support intentional cinematographic violations as a creative practice for novices. Our evaluation process also demonstrated that new techniques for expert analysis of creativity may be needed when examining artifacts with temporal duration (such as machinima).

Based on these studies we are currently developing a rule-based artifically intelligent system to automate the process of providing the feedback we gave in the second study. To further lower the barrier to entry for machinima creation we have also been working to develop a gesture-based interface for controlling cameras. Coupled to a tabletop display of camera positions we hope to further support novices by easing the process of arranging cameras.

In related work we have begun exploring novice creativity in time-constrained digital game creation. The Global Game Jam is an event where (aspiring or actual) game developers join to make a game from scratch in 48 hours. This event crystallizes many of the problems novices face when first learning to develop digital games while also providing a wealth of data through the final published games and surveys administered to participants. As a first step toward understanding the creative process of novice game creators we surveyed participants in the 2013 Global Game Jam to understand qualitative aspects of their creative process. We focused on the question of how they developed their high-level ideas for a game as they built the game artifact and documented the major paths they reported their designs followed. Further developing this line of research has the potential to help novices overcome general problems in appropriately scoping and developing game designs while retaining their freedom to creatively explore and expand the medium of games.

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