Category Archives: Academia

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):

History of collaborative note-taking at conferences

I hear that the International Conference for the Learning Sciences (ICLS) this year actually has a social media planning group and they’re interested in how I did collaborative notes for past conferences. Yay!

If only there was interest when I was actually doing it in years past, but maybe the time has finally come for critical mass?

One of the main issues with taking effective collaborative notes is getting critical mass of people doing it so that all the sessions are covered. For that there really needs to be exposure, but my tactics usually were to just tweet the urls of the google docs (or etherpad back in the day), and it’s pretty surprising how few academics are on twitter, even for the kinds of conferences I go to…

Another equally (if not more) important issue is when the conference doesn’t have good wifi, which is also surprisingly very often… For as long as I’ve had an Android phone, I’ve been able to get around this by tethering my phone and creating an ad-hoc wifi network for anyone to join. Sometimes, though, even cell reception is bad, like in the basement of a hotel…  This issue with access is even worse (for me) when the conference is outside the US, since I’m not likely to tether my phone with international data rates.

Besides taking collaborative notes, I would often also set up a backchannel (besides twitter, too), either through IRC or, like with GLS 2013, a private google doc with specific people I want to be more informal with (snarky, commenting on other things in our lives, planning dinners, etc.)… There’s definitely a research study waiting to happen about how conference goers manage their communication. 🙂

If anyone is interested, here’s some of the collaborative notes from various conferences I’ve been to in the past few years:

Digital Media and Learning

National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2011

American Educational Research Association

  • AERA 2011 gdoc which basically leads to the wiki that Stian created
  • the sad, sad AERA 2012 gdoc that isn’t populated at all since the conf was in Vancouver, making doing online notes pretty costly over cell networks, and because it’s AERA, the wifi sucked.

Computer Supported Collaborative Learning

Games Learning Society

  • Games Learning Society 2011
  • volunteered for GLS 2012, meaning I had no time to take notes!
  • at GLS 2013, I took notes with my Pepperdine students rather than with the conference at large, but I think this year I’ll make us all do open notes.

I’m teaching “Intro to Interactive Media -> Text-based and Adventure Games” this quarter!

And here’s a copy of the syllabus:

BIS236B Intro to Interactive Media -> Text-based and Adventure Games  (PDF)

Final syllabus for Intro to Game Studies

Ok. I added Zimmerman and Chaplin’s recent gamer manifesto, Koster’s rights of avatars, Murray’s joint attentional scene chapter (thanks Terry!), etc.

Here’s the final PDF (under Creative Commons license, so feel free to reuse and hack)!

BIS313.gamestudies.syllabus

I’m teaching Intro to Game Studies this quarter at UW Bothell!

and below is my first draft syllabus. I’m thinking I should expand the controversies and issues week to two or maybe even three… esp. given PAX proximity, being here in Seattle…

Continue reading I’m teaching Intro to Game Studies this quarter at UW Bothell!

HP Catalyst Academy grant: Crash Course on Gaming!

I’ve been selected as an HP Catalyst Academy fellow to develop a mini-course with Pepperdine University!

The mini-course is an online 4-week course for educators about STEMx related topics (the x is all the extra stuff around STEM: communication, coordination, collaboration, creativity,… mostly c words apparently).

My course is on gaming culture and practice and how gaming and playful attitudes encourage critical thinking, agency, and STEMx related literacies. The basic idea is that teachers need to play games in order to use them or structure their classrooms around gameplay effectively… well, dur. But this is a chance to play a bunch of games with peers, reflecting on practice, hanging out with online gaming communities, and creating Let’s Play videos targeted specifically for teachers!

Being developed here: Crash Course on Gaming

BoardGameGeeks Unite! – micropresentation at GLS 2013

After CCA and CGSA in lovely Victoria, BC, I went off to Madison, WI for Games Learning Society 9 and Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Yes, that’s 4 conferences in 3 weeks. I’m tired.

(And I could have easily strung in Games for Change, International Society for Technology in Education, and maybe even International Communication Association and/or Origins. And I could’ve gone to Feminists in Games in Vancouver before CCA/CGSA. That would’ve been 9 conferences in 5 weeks. I feel like such a loser. There’s always next year, I guess. June is a crazy month for conferences…)

Here’s my first pechakucha (20 slides, 20 seconds each on an autotimer) talk for it:

GLS was crazy awesome, as usual. They brought back Hall of Failures, rebranded the pre-conference educators symposium (as Playful Learning Summit), and kept the fun micropresentation and Well-Played sessions. It’s cool seeing the conference organizers play around with session formats to make for a better experience. Reminds me a lot of the similar push at DiGRA two years ago (and I assume again this year). There’s so much of a festival feel to it now that I’d almost suggest ditching regular paper presentations altogether. (I didn’t go to any regular sessions.)

One interesting thing is that a lot of learning scientists were there this year since CSCL was happening also in Madison right after GLS. A common comment I got from CSCL folks was that some of the rigor wasn’t in the research presented. Personally, I focus more on ideas, theory, innovations, so it didn’t bother me much. The main criticism I have of CSCL is that it’s *boring.* I don’t mean the research isn’t exciting; often it’s really great stuff. I mean that the traditional format of paper presentations where people speak in monotone or read their bullets just doesn’t do it for me anymore, so I’d take the excitement, call-to-action, rants-and-raves feel of GLS any day. If I’m interested in criticizing your research methods and findings, I’ll do it by reading your papers where I can closely look at those things. A presentation, imho, should convince me that it’d be worthwhile to read your papers.

hastags: #gls2013, #cscl2013

I started collaborative notes for GLS (with my awesome Pepperdine students who were there with me!) and CSCL:

Yes, all my current Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds for Learning students were there with me! They’re in Cadre 18 of Pepperdine University’s Ed.D. in Learning Technologies program. We play-tested the tabletop games that they’re all making for the course’s main assignment!