Category Archives: Academia

Slides from my talk the Societal Benefits of Gaming at the Pacific Science Center

Due to a death in the family, we moved the talk from Dec 20 to Dec 27 (last night). I think it was well attended, but I really have no idea. I was told it had the most pre-sale tickets of all the lectures, but maybe right after xmas was tough to get a huuuge crowd. I think there were about 30 people.

But, whoa, those people! We had an excellent QA session after the presentation. Some very smart people in the audience. Anyway, here’re the slides I used for the event:

Two awesome things with the Pacific Science Center!

Pacific Science Center is hosting a month-long theme around play, featuring numerous events around play and learning including the current Sherlock Holmes exhibit! I’m involved with two things:

First, students from one of the courses I’m teaching this quarter at UW Bothell will be showcasing their games about mystery, exploration, and play at the Pacific Science Center TODAY!

Game Design Lab

Second, PacSci hosts a lecture series Science in the City, and I’m giving one about the benefits of gaming on Dec 20!

Societal Benefits of Gaming lecture

 

 

ANNOUNCING 1st issue of Esoteric Gaming!

I am extremely pleased to announce the first collection of stories for Esoteric Gaming, a new website/book project that features accounts of diverse and niche player practice.

This is not an academic journal and doesn’t necessarily include deep thoughts, conclusions, or research. Instead, it’s a bevy of detail–a space for us to share extreme, nuanced, amazing, arcane, and totally rad things that players and communities do to play the perfect game and to make life meaningful.

I started this project (initially a coffee table art book idea) to give games scholars a venue to be creative and to not stress about deadlines or worry about our CV. This is for us to celebrate why we love games and the people who play them.

Please take a moment to read about the first issue, learn more about the mission, and submit your own stories!

Thanks for any interest and HUGE thanks to the first round of authors: Matt Bouchard, Andy Keenan, Johansen Quijano, Bjorn Shrijen, Osvaldo Jimenez, and Shannon Mortimore-Smith!

Keynoting at SHACS FutureTech 2016!

I’m giving my first keynote talk at the Sam Houston Association of Computer Scientists FutureTech conference at Sam Houston State University in a couple of weeks! Here’s the abstract:

Transportation Games and Intentional Constraints

Games are about deliberately imposing obstacles on a task to make the task fun, challenging, engaging, rewarding. Yet this hasn’t been especially true with games about transportation. Instead, most transportation games, where players are building transportation infrastructure or managing the operations of a fleet of vehicles, attempt to simulate real-world logistics problems and often force players to manage them while still working under some sort of budget or using a limited resource. These simulations occupy enough of players’ cognition to satisfy their desire for challenge and reward. Simulations, by necessity, however, are only semi-real; they are incomplete systems, and finding solutions to their problems can sometimes blind us to other issues that aren’t included in the systems they portray. How can we be intentional about the constraints we design into games such that they are more inclusive? This keynote will cover the above (i.e., introduce the audience to games about transportation, examine systems in transportation games through a science and technology studies lens, and make an argument about inclusive design practices) while also describing the work Mark has been doing with the Gameful Design Lab at Pepperdine University and others. The audience might also be asked to play a game. 😉

Late update: New NASAGA podcast!

This is late reporting, but Melissa Peterson and I started to do a NASAGA podcast. In the first one we talk about identity: in games, NASAGA’s, our personal ones, etc. It’s necessarily pretty short, and there’s a TON of stuff out there on identity in and with games that we didn’t touch upon…

Anyway, here it is:

Leet Noobs color images

One thing I was disappointed about was that I had to get rid of a bunch of color images from Leet Noobs when I rewrote it as a more general audience book.

ui

I have no idea why it took so long for me to think of this, but I’ve collected the images from my original dissertation and put them all in one PDF. Here you go: Leet Noobs images!

The book has the cover illustration, though, so maybe it’s all a wash.

NASAGA 2015!!!

Last week I was at North American Simulations and Gaming Association (NASAGA) 2015, in Seattle this year.

NASAGA2015 logo

After loving it last year (see this write-up), I volunteered as soon as I got back to Seattle from LA over the summer and basically got put in charge of the conference website by the conference co-chairs, John Chen (no relation) and Jeannette Davidson from Geoteaming.

Volunteering ballooned into a bigger job than I thought it would, but that’s fine. I still had a ton of fun and met so many awesome people. In addition to the website, I also designed a geolocation game that we played Thursday evening using GPS devices and featuring a puzzle inspired by the light rail that everyone had to take to get downtown. Wee!

Most of the work was done in partnership with Melissa Peterson, who I got to know a lot better this year than last year. She and I were two of the people in the group I was with that was trying the #gameaweek challenge last year, but this past week I really enjoyed working with her… She’s awesome.

As it happens, I also was invited (first by Melissa… so maybe she was buttering me up) and accepted nomination and then a vote into the board! So now I’m a board member for NASAGA! Other board members include Samantha Knight, Melissa Peterson, Christy Cavanaugh, Jeannette Davidson, Jen McCann, Linda Slack, Dani Abrams, Chuck Needlman, and Chris Saeger. I can’t be excited more to be working with them. 🙂

One thing I’d like to work on is stronger ties with other associations (ABSEL, ISAGA, JASAG, SAGSAG, etc. Basically everything associated with the journal Simulation & Gaming). I also wouldn’t mind if NASAGA did a bit more to bridge the gap between research and practice… and so I’m volunteering to help out with NASAGA 16 in Bloomington, Indiana Oct 26-29 with Christy Cavanaugh chairing. At one point she invited me to co-chair but hadn’t realized I was also being invited to the board… I have been advised that serving on both is really, really ill-advised. Tho she’s doing it, so who knows?

On the last day, I did a rapid-fire game jam after a quick intro to 12 free game-making tools from the big list I did in August. Here’s the slides from that:

Jam w Free Digital Game Making Apps!

Jam with Free Digital Game Making Apps!

What has Mark and the new Gameful Design Lab been up to? Read this draft mission statement excerpt!

Empathy and Agency and Radical Games

Gaming is not a valueless activity. Deep, meaningful relationships develop through gaming, and the cultural life one leads defines their existence as human. To devalue someone’s life is to dehumanize them.

Empathy: Players build meaningful relationships with other players.

Like any other activity with a community around it, gaming is a social and cultural phenomenon. People can bond and form lasting relationships over any affinity. Furthermore, gaming is often about mentorship, hanging out with friends, learning together, and can be about dealing with difference and learning to play off each others’ strengths.

The Pepperdine Gameful Design Lab wants to encourage this community building, to encourage empathy and friendships among all of gaming’s aficionados and hobbyists. By taking gaming seriously but with a playful attitude and tackling what it means to be a gamer collectively means we can live happier more fulfilling lives. We can develop an inclusive community about being good to each other in the shared pursuit of the well-played game.

Agency: Players build meaningful relationships with games.

Games are made up of interconnected systems (rules, mechanics, structures). Players explore and learn how these systems are interrelated through their play, and, in doing so, they become part of the system. A game doesn’t exist except in the enactment.

Players bring with them some sort of imagined future, an ideal state or outcome or maybe even just the hope for some improvement to the current state. Through their activity and “living the system,” players attempt to exercise agency and steer the game’s narrative, all the while themselves being constrained and controlled by the game.

The Gameful Design Lab also wants to encourage resistance towards the inherent control in a game’s rules and structure, to make the narrative emerge from this struggle and transgression. In playing games and designing games, players gain a gaming literacy. They start to understand systems through experience.

Our lives are made up of interrelated systems, of course. From navigating health care to applying to college, from dealing with bullies (online or otherwise) to being a community activist, success often depends on being savvy to our lived systems and understanding them enough to make meaningful decisions. Understanding them well enough to critique them, to resist, and be radical in the face of stupid systems.

Radical Games

If gaming literacy is about deconstructing systems and building meaningful relationships, and our mission is about increasing this literacy, it stands to reason that we need especially to help those who are continually screwed by our life’s systems.

To this end, we propose two main strands of action: 1) develop radical games that encourage transgressive play and empathy building (and moral and ethical reasoning), and 2) host workshops and game jams for those most in need that will encourage the creation of deeply personal radical games.

 

Meaningful Play 2014: “Games and Education. WTF?”

Safe for school version:

HUGE NEWS: NEW JOB, NEW CITY

Yes, that’s right.

I started a one-year appointment as the Director for the brand-new Gameful Design Lab at Pepperdine this week, funded by a Waves of Innovation grant!

I’m in Los Angeles, where the locals inconsistently pronounce street names correctly in Spanish and horribly in Americanese.

I couldn’t find moon cake for Monday’s Moon Festival but apologized profusely to the full (super)moon.

The Gameful Design Lab’s main mission is to help people gain personal agency through gaming practice and game design. Games are systems to explore, experiences to empathize with. Exploring and creating systems is one way people can start to see the everyday systems they inhabit. This recognition is the first step towards rebellion, not settling for status quo, and gaining social mobility.

We’ll be working with faculty to make their courses more engaging through gaming, designing minigames for empathy and moral/ethical reasoning, and holding a ton of events and workshops/gamejams for Pepperdine as well as the larger LA area with an emphasis to target underserved populations.

Here’s a video of the pitch my main collaborator Victoria Stay and I did back in January to get the funding (skip to minute 35):