Oberlin Blogs


April 16, 2012

Ma'ayan Plaut ’10

The Social Media Coordinator inside of me groaned when I saw that Twitter account @UberFacts first posted "At Oberlin College, it's possible to major in Super Smash Bros." last month. It got retweeted about a billion times, and then it sort of fizzled out. But last week, it happened again, and this time, I cringed. First off: how unoriginal. You tweeted the same exact non-fact twice, UberFacts. Second of all: we, uh, still don't offer a major in SSB. Thanks for getting our name out there, UberFacts, but I think you might need a fact-checker.

So, for any of you who arrived at this blog post by Googling "Oberlin Super Smash Bros. major" congratulations, you've come to the right place. Unfortunately, we don't exactly offer a major in Super Smash. In the past, there's been a student-run course (we call 'em ExCos round these parts) in theory and practice in SSB, but as many of us students know, one course does not a major make.

I know that Oberlin gets some flack for offering "frivolous" courses sometimes. At first glance, ExCo courses may seem a bit silly. Classes in Lady Gaga? Playing hockey like your mom? Calvin and Hobbes? The West Wing? It looks like all we're doing is playing and having fun, but I would like to offer this consideration before casting a critical eye on what we do here:

When learning, it's not just about content, but intention, meaning, involvement, and approach to the process itself.

What I mean is that through the ExCo department (it IS a real department at the awesome and accredited Oberlin College), we learn from our peers by teaching them. We learn about ourselves through teaching. I'm probably paraphrasing some famous person here, but I do believe that the best way to learn is to teach. And for the sheer number of educators that exit through Oberlin's doors, I think it's a great thing that we can cut our teeth in teaching with support from our school and our classmates.

I am living testament to this; I'm in the middle of my third semester of teaching Learning to See: My Camera and Me (short version: it's a course in training the photographic eye and, regardless of the equipment you own, you can take and share meaningful and compelling photos). The class is a bit of a choose your own adventure: you have a set of projects you must complete by the end of the semester, but it's up to you in what order you choose to complete them. Because of this, every class is a bit of a surprise, a bit unexpected, and always a learning experience for all of us present.

I'm going to be a teacher one day. Heck, I'm already a teacher now, and I exercise it every day. Leading an ExCo is a more focused way to do so, though, and it twists my mind up in such good ways thinking about what we're doing, why we're doing it, and what impact of the things we learn today will have on the things we learn tomorrow.

I think that ExCos are amazing, and I think that the ability to experiment with course material and class structures with students at the college level is an amazing experience. This coming semester I will be co-teaching (fingers crossed at the ExCo committee, since they're currently at the deciding stage of the application process) a course in social media (#SoMeXco!!! It's going to be amazing!!!) with Barbara Sawhill and Ben Jones. We're going to flip the class, blog it in real time, offer our coursework to anyone online, and probably about a half-dozen other structures, projects, and assignments that could only happen in a course like this with instructors like this with educational content like this.


Seriousness done. Fun times can happen now. (Fun times plus serious times happen all the time at Oberlin. It's just that cool a place.)

Since at least a gazillion people now think we have a major in Super Smash Brothers, I'm here to offer you readers two things: a short list of Oberlin alumni currently working in the gaming industry and game design and a proposed set of courses from the upcoming 2012-13 school year course catalog that could be shaped into an independent major in SSB.

Between our awesomely awesome alums, we cover independent, self-created companies (WhileTrueFork, Eccentric Robot Studios, SMASHWORX Entertainment, The Game Agency, The Go Game, and Discovery Bay Games) and the big guys (Kabam, Naughty Dog, Gameloft, MTV's Social Games Group, Gazillion Entertainment, PopCap Games, and Nintendo).

Impressed much? I am. And that's just what a quick LinkedIn search did for me. I'm sure there are dozens more Obies developing and creating gametastic things out there in the world, not mention hundreds of Obies happily playing their creations.

Want to join their ranks? Mayhaps as a Super Smash Bros. independent major here at Oberlin College? Here's my take on what needs to be done if you want to major in smashing and such:

Physics: Jumping and punching successfully takes a lot of science. Consider taking elementary physics I and II, Mechanics and Relativity, Modern Physics, Computational Physics, Physics of Materials, and Applied Quantum Mechanics.

Comparative American Studies: Dynamics aren't just about physics, but relationships between characters in battle. Courses in Visible Bodies and the Politics of Sexuality, Transnational Identities: National Borders, and Global Desires, Narratives of Passing might contribute a bit of perspective.

Politics: Specifically, courses on wars and power. Why do we fight, and what comes of it?, courses in Political Theory and Political Action, and Explaining Social Power: Classical and Contemporary Theories might be relevant here.

Sociology: The study and reaction to human dynamics. Some possible courses: You're Not the Boss of You: The Understanding of Political Revolutions, Intro to Sociology: The Sociological Imagination, The Sociology of Sport, The Sociology of Popular Culture, and War, Weapons, and Arms Control might be a good starting point.

Psychology: Why do we do what we do? Why do we smash? Classes in Intro to Peace and Conflict Studies, Seminar in Social Conflict, and Social Psychology might be valuable.

Physical Education: Just for kicks (teehee see what I did there?) and giggles, how about: yoga, Strength Training, Running Conditioning, Cardio Kickboxing, Power Hour, and Core Training (and if relevant, basic and advanced self-defense for women).

There's definitely some overlap with the Peace and Conflict Studies concentration and the interdisciplinary Gender, Feminist, and Sexuality Studies courses as well.

Perhaps the senior capstone would be a live-action Super Smash? That could be amazing!

So, yes, I do believe that if you dream (or if UberFacts dreams it first) that you could possibly teach it. Or major in it. Or something along those lines. Oberlin's just awesome like that.

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