Somehow I’ve become a good alum

So, a couple of weeks ago, I hung out with 5 Reed College students, hosting a week-long “externship,” a new program Reed is trying this year. The basic idea was to let them job shadow me for a week before Paideia.


When I was originally approached about this back in October, I had just finished my postdoc position at UW, so I told Brooke, the career services person, that they’d basically just be hanging out with me at an internet cafe designing, reading about, and playing games. She still thought that sounded interesting, so I wrote something up and posted it:

I am currently working on three projects:

  1. Conducting a side-by-side review of a set of free game-making tools as a resource primarily for K16 educators who want to incorporate game design into their existing curricula but have no idea which tool is most appropriate for their classrooms.
  2. Qualitative analysis of forum postings on the table-top gaming website to examine the practices of the subculture involved in DIY board game creation.
  3. Playing a lot of games, thinking about them, and brainstorming ideas for future game design.

In general, I’m interested in the intersections of gaming culture (anthropologically), education and learning (esp. in informal settings), and digital culture. By January, I expect some or all of the projects to be different. 🙂

But the general day-to-day for me is hanging out in a cafe, reading and writing about games and gamers, exploring game design ideas, and/or playing a bunch of table-top and digital games. If that sounds awesome, if you’re really into games or digital media/culture and how it affects/improves people’s lives, this might be for you, too, and you’re welcome to join me.

I can also talk a lot about what graduate school is like (having just gotten a doctorate in 2010), help with advising, etc. esp. with regards to education programs and games related research.

I tied for popularity with an opportunity to work with AIDS researchers at the NIH!

Getting five applications meant I actually had to plan something. I networked with other Reedies in Seattle who are into games to line up some fun activities and then pretty much winged it with a very flexible schedule.

The students hung out with me on Monday at Ballard Coffee Works where we met up with Erik Speckman, went to Pho Big Bowl, went to Card Kingdom (easily the best table-top games store in Seattle, maybe the whole NW, maybe the whole west coast), and playtested the new DnD Next rules back at my place.

On Tuesday, they spent the whole day with the awesome Katherine Walker at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment. That evening, a bunch of friends came over, including Brian Halbert, another Reedie, and we played a massive 14-person game of Name in the Hat (our house rules are better than bgg’s listing, imho) because Aaron Hertzmann was in town.

On Wednesday, we visited Microsoft Games User Research, hosted by Deborah Hendersen and Lauren White (and then went to Din Tai Fung). Katherine came over in the evening and they all played Lords of Waterdeep while I read grant proposals.


Thursday and Friday were spent on a gamejam! The kids checked out a few of the game making tools from my over two-dozen item list, tried some of them for a couple of hours, brainstormed game ideas, etc. and started making a game by 2pm on Thursday. Stayed up late working, worked until Friday at 7pm. Got through about 1.5 levels of their planned 5-level platformer that takes place in the belly of a space whale.


All in all, it was pretty easy to manage. Reedies tend to be pretty self-directed, and this was the case here. They quickly figured out who was best at what and divided up roles and were generally on task without much prompting. I sort of just hung out in the room while they worked, doing my own work and chiming in when I thought appropriate.


Anyway, here’s the list of suggested readings I gave them before the week. During the week, they also found Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design (Rogers) and The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (Schell) really useful.

new games journalism:

game design:

games studies:

digital media and learning:

current projects:

One thought on “Somehow I’ve become a good alum”

Leave a Reply