Tag Archives: conferences

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!

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.

Games Learning Society brief recap

The Games Learning Society conference (June 13-15, 2012, Madison) was great. Last year after AERA and GLS, I was really concerned about in-game assessment and badgification. It seems I wasn’t the only one, as this year’s three keynotes (Colleen Macklin, Reed Stevens, and Sebastian Deterding) all made arguments for considering gameplay as occurring within a larger social space and that deeper level meaning can be derived in the local interactions of all the objects within that space, implicitly or explicitly stating that assessments need to extend beyond the game-player model and that gamification needs to recognize meaningful mechanics and relationships rather than just surface level features of games’ reward system.

Played a hella fun game of Sabine Harrer’s Kyoto. “We killed 75% of all the animals on the planet!” “Yeah, but it was the scary animals, so it’s okay.”

Moses Wolfenstein did an excellent Well Suffered session with Super Meat Boy.

A bunch of heavy hitters in games studies gave their positions on the magic circle (Eric Zimmerman, Jesper Juul, Thomas Malaby, Erica Halverson, Crystle Martin, David Simkins, and Kylie Peppler, moderated by Moses).

Scott Nicholson gave a great math summary of the problem of most gamification:

game = structure + goals + play

game – play = structure + goals = gamification

Also, I learned that I met Adam Ingram-Goble in 2005 when he visited a class taught by John Bransford at UW that I was a student in! Wow!

Finally, I should probably mention that the cover illustration I did for my new book was one of the pieces in the GLS art exhibit! 🙂

A few years ago, I used to blog summaries after each day, but more recently I’ve been satisfied with other people’s coverage and just participating in the twitter stream. But anyway, here’s some good resources:

Next year, I hear they’re going to have catering provide actual chocolate-covered broccoli! And each one will have a fluorescent dye in it that will help us assess how many we’ve eaten.

Games Learning Society 7 Rapid-fire Notes

Besides the notes from below, GLS was also about brats, beer, ice cream, short shorts, frat jocks with jean chaps, and the metagame. And tons of friends.
This year we sorely  missed Julian Dibbell and/or Lisa Nakamura, presenting to us something on griefing, trolls, gold farmers, subversion, etc. 🙁

Eric argues for deeper considerations of games as aesthetic forms and that they exist within situated contexts. The debate whether games are good is largely uninteresting because it too often focuses on the artifact and superficial gamification elements as instrumental. Rather, we need to start looking at meaningful experiences and beauty. We are in the ludic century.


HALL OF FAILURE: Curriculum Design is a Bitch
I Dig Brazil: a successful failure
Sanzenbacher, Angielczyk, Aronowsky, Joseph,Villanosa
Gamifying Participation: Felling the Talent Tree of Failure
A Failed Experiment? Teaching and Learning about Community in World of Warcraft
McKnight, Hayes
Let Me Know When She Stops Talking: Using Games for Learning without Colonizing Play
Steinkuehler, Pop.Cosmo
Halverson, Discussant

These failures are moments of powerful learning about dangerous assumptions when creating curriculum or interventions that include games. Two highlights:

  1. Sean Duncan’s appropriation of World of Warcraft’s Talent Tree to encourage class participation was a brilliant idea that failed in execution. He concluded that it just didn’t work, but Rich Halverson, the discussant, suggested that maybe it was because all of the talents he designed allowed players to opt-out of participating with the class. What if the talents were reworked such that they gave players the privilege to present or have the floor or otherwise participate more?
  2. Betty Hayes and John Carter McKnight’s experience with English grad students being introduced to World of Warcraft was hilarious, completely dispelling the myth that all students would want to play a game for class, would know how to play a game, and that it would encourage self-directed learning.
My tweets:
I dig brazil = example of curriculum design as fragile orchestration of content, medium, timing, yet best moments can be spontaneous #gls7
This keynote summarized the new NRC report. Constance noted that the report perhaps put more emphasis on simulations. Two take-aways:
  1. much of games and simulation research has focused on content learning, yet games could speak powerfully to all the 6 strands of science learning in the LSIE volume (pdf).
  2. there’s not yet enough evidence for using games/simulations for the 6 strands of learning, so there’s an opportunity for more research using this new framework.

It went well in the sense that we had a good conversation, though, I don’t think we got at the meat of the debate… or maybe we dodge the debate by basically agreeing that game communities are complex and highly particular. Lisa couldn’t make it physically and was our disembodied Skype voice. 🙂


All of the posters were great and I encourage you to check them out at your leisure:

I mostly paid attention to these two:
A Data-Driven Taxonomy of Undergraduate Student Video Game Enjoyment
Quick, Atkinson
Because I was about to give a presentation on modeling engagement the next day.

The Teron Gorefiend Simulator: A Perspective on Learning in Online Game Communities
Because Patrick provided a perfect example of a sociomaterial resource that WoW players used to be good players.


Keynote 3: An Ecologist’s Perspective on the Ecology of Learning Games

Basically arguing that games need to be considered as part of a larger ecology (of activity) with examples from MIT.


HALL OF FAILURE: Game & Assessment Design are Hard Too

The More We Know: Inside NBC News’ iCue, and Why It Didn’t Work
Klopfer, Haas
Simulating Failure: Why Simulations Don’t Always Work
Critical Gameplay Gone Critically Wrong
Modeling but Not Measuring Engagement in Computer Games
Chen, Cuddihy, Medina, Kolko
Hayes, Discussant

Another awesome Hall of Failure session. This is by far my favorite type of conference session  now. Brief take-aways: Carlton Reeve could use some way to make more transparent how game decisions have future impacts to consequences. Lindsay Grace is an amazing speaker and has created a bunch of games where he only gives himself 5 days to develop them. Both Jason Haas and I demonstrated an ability to use Google Image Search to find Fail Whales.

My tweets:

@Carlton I’d gladly collaborate with you! #gls7

Mostly talking about Quest2Learn. (Coincidentally, Aaron Hung’s new book The Work of Play just came out!)


FIRESIDE CHAT: Writing the Games-Based Dissertation
Wolfenstein, Chen, D’Angelo, Harper, Kelly,Chess

Surprisingly well attended! We decided to submit something to the conference proceedings. I guess navigating PhDs to completion is an universal challenge.


PRESENTATION: How Players Shape the Game
Scientific Play? How Players Remake World of Warcraft as a Game of Numbers.
Negotiating with the “Addictive” Characteristics of Online Games
Yut, Korea’s Monopoly: A deep relationship between game play and cultural practices
Lee, Halverson
DeVane, Discussant

Kristine Ask covers theorycrafting and how normalizing its practice is. Shawna Kelly tackles the controversial topic of addiction and how players who talk about addiction (regardless of how we define it) tend to be happier. Jules Lee introduces the audience to the Korean game Yut, looking at play in a similar study to Na’ilah Nasir’s look at African-American dominoes players.

My tweets (many more than in previous sessions because @the_real_rahjur was doing such a good job live-tweeting the ones we both went to):

players using theorycraft w/o understanding the numbers is kind of like academic work, actually – @kristineask#gls7
players, whether they care about theorycrafting, will encounter it and have their play normalized by it #gls7@kristineask

some guilds encourage pointing newbies to theorycrafting sites rather than just being “elitist jerks” #gls7@kristineask

some have described expertise development as basically a process of normalization, too #gls7

sobering case studies of gaming addiction from shawna kelly #gls7

gamers who manage their “addiction”–by talking about it, by setting goals–are happier #gls7 -shawna kelly

“gaming practice cannot be separated from gaming culture” #gls7Jules Lee on the Korean game Yut

surprisingly, during social play experts Yut players asked more questions than novice players #gls7 -Jules Lee

the type of question seems to matter a lot, eh? #gls7 Jules Lee

Jules Lee just cited Megan Bang! Dr. Bang is coming to U Washington next year. uhuh uhuh. /nod #gls7

also citing Na’ilah Nasir, who’s working with us at the LIFE Center. yup yup… 🙂 #gls7

expert gamers leverage resources-social ties to family, etc. (Lee & Halverson) *and* material tools (Ask) #gls7 (thx 4 supporting my diss!)

gaming practice *and* there4 expertise devlpmnt(!) takes place n specfc cultural contexts, compltly destroys cogntvst view o expertse #gls7


Three main points:

  1. In line with Eric, Eric, and, to a lesser extant, Constance, in saying that gaming ecologies need to be looked at, not just the game-player relationship. Learning environment matters. Setting matters. The how of implementation matters.
  2. Also along those lines, games are good at teaching systems thinking, procedural and logistical or computational thinking, not necessarily content knowledge.
  3. We have a digital media literacy divide that mirrors a general literacy divide, and it’s gotten worse since NCLB. Jim Gee names the biggest problem segregation within our school systems; not necessarily segregation by race but also by class, etc., where those with strong networks of support continue to outpace students who lack support.
My retweet:
rogueclone1138 Jennifer Killham
“this fireside chat has turned into a fire hazard chat” – @meems808 #gls7
I skipped this. Sorry. 🙁



My talks/chats at Games Learning Society 7

I’ll be in three sessions next week at Games Learning Society conference next week.

Two of them are fireside chats with others:

The third is a Hall of Fail presentation about a research project I was part of 7 years ago! When I first started graduate school, I was learning tons about games and learning, games studies, and games research. One of the best things the group I was with was trying to do was create a model of engagement in games. We came up with a great model, informed by many disciplines, but we got hung up on validating the model. So the presentation is basically about the methodological failure my group encountered while attempting to validate the model.

Full DRAFT paper here. Abstract below the break. Slides below:

Continue reading My talks/chats at Games Learning Society 7

Presenting at Keywords for Video Game Studies Colloquium run by the Critical Gaming Project!

A really, really short talk:

The Mangle of Gaming to Socially Create Meaningful Experiences

I’ll fill in the details later today tomorrow (which at the time of this edit is today). 🙂

My talk started a session on gamification during the Keywords for Video Game Studies year-end colloquium.

That turned out to be good, since I got a chance to start with a super quick definition of gamification before moving into what worries me about it. Here’s the bullet list of what I talked about (with more detail added here than what I could cover in 5 minutes):

  • Gamification is basically a way of providing incentives for people to engage in some sort of designed activity.
    • Most ways of gamifying something does so by giving people rewards, achievements, badges, etc. for particular events in that activity.
    • This provides a quantifiable way of rating progress with that activity.
  • Big question I have is: Are these rewards meaningful? How are they meaningful or not?
  • My general view of a play space (or activity space) — as in a space where meaning making occurs — is that it’s a mangle.
    • By using the word “mangle” I’m invoking Andrew Pickering’s Mangle of Practice and Constance Steinkuehler’s “Mangle of Play.”
    • ie. the actual activity occurs in an arena with multiple contentious motives from different parties or actors.
    • Their tension, work-arounds, pushes, pulls, and constant renegotiation of positions, roles, and responsibilities make the landscape of activity dynamic, sometimes unpredictable, emergent, and messy. Latour (actor-network theory) would probably call it a constant motion of destabilization and restabilization.
  • Case in point: playing World of Warcraft is a matter of socialization into a particular culture or community.
    • Becoming a good player means being able to navigate and participate in this contentious landscape — being able to assemble and arrange various resources, both social (ie other people) and material (ie add-ons, websites, etc.).
    • Could think of New Literacy Studies and/or Lave & Wenger’s “community of practice” stuff here pretty easily.
  • These game spaces (cultures) hold/build/replicate certain values, including values about legitimate ways of being.
    • By participating in these communities, people are building up social capital and cultural capital.
    • These forms of capital are emergent from the mangle.
    • Not always quantifiable… not predictable.
  • By quantifying achievements, game designers normalize (think of gear score, eg) how cultural capital (gaming capital) is accrued, possibly marginalizing other forms of play.

Follow me at @mcdanger


I went to the annual conference for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) for the first time last month and then to the annual conference for the American Educational Research Association (AERA) right afterwards. In fact, I flew directly from one conference (Orlando) to the other (New Orleans). The short story is that AERA is much bigger than NARST, that Orlando surprisingly kind of sucks for a conference due to horrible food choices and no public transportation or sidewalks, and that New Orleans during the French Quarter music festival is amazingly awesome.

Continue reading NARST and AERA

Conferences this year

I guess a bullet list is easiest. Conferences for this year:

Continue reading Conferences this year