Tag Archives: pepperdine

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.



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):

#GameAWeek Failure! “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT”

Check out unfinished failure: On the Difficulty of Being an ANT: The Interactive Version!

Last week and this week, I’ve been sort of stuck in a moment of nonproductivity with regard to the #gameaweek challenge that I’m doing with Ana, Dennis, Melissa, and Greg. Ana is super inspiring and still going strong and even wrote about her experiences in the ProfHacker column for The Chronicle of Higher Ed!

My moment of stuckage can be primarily blamed on two things. First, I’m making a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game with Inklewriter based on Latour’s dialog found in his book Reassembling the Social. It’s an interlude between chapters in the book and features a professor having a conversation with a student, and it’s called “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT.”

Continue reading #GameAWeek Failure! “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT”

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!


Games, Simulations, and VWs for Learning syllabus (download)

Okay, this is the final version, for reals…

EDLT 728: Games Simulations VWs for Learning syllabus

Or as final as it can be before the course starts. Once it starts, it’ll be the Living Syllabus where we tweak it each week when new things appear or the realities of time hit us. 🙂

I threw it up under the Creative Commons share-alike, non-commercial license and posted it as a Word doc, so go ahead and (ab)use it to your heart’s content!


Draft 4 Games Simulations and VWs for Learning syllabus

Week 1, May 1-7: Why Games for Learning

Learning content vs. systems, projected identity, learning by/through design, theory of fun


Optional Readings:


  • Set up Guild Wars 2 account and join guild.
  • Create a Steam account.
  • Select and play a tabletop game with family or friends. Pay attention to social dynamics, game mechanics and balance, etc.


  • Browse The Hotness on Board Game Geek. Read reviews.
  • Introduce yourself, gaming history, and which tabletop game you played in the class forums.
  • Half the class writes reviews or synopses of readings and/or games. The other half responds.

Activities Related to Major Assignments:

  • Tabletop game design: Think of a tabletop game idea that addresses an area of interest for you and write a one-paragraph pitch.

Continue reading Draft 4 Games Simulations and VWs for Learning syllabus

Draft 3 of Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds for Learning syllabus

Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds for Learning

Week 1: Why Games for Learning

Learning content vs. systems, projected identity, learning by/through design, theory of fun


Optional Readings:


  • Set up Guild Wars 2 account and guild.
  • Create a Steam account.
  • Browse the Hot List on Board Game Geek. Read reviews.
  • Introduce yourself and gaming history in the forums.
  • Half the class writes reviews or synopses of readings and/or games. The other half responds.
  • Think of a tabletop game idea that addresses an area of interest for you and write a one-paragraph pitch.

Continue reading Draft 3 of Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds for Learning syllabus

Draft 2 of Games Simulations and Virtual Worlds for Learning course

Prob could use more on simulations and VWs…

Also, haven’t added everything, yet… After that’s done, I’ll have to cut a bunch of stuff since it seems like a lot to cover in 12 weeks. Much thanks to Alex Thayer… I grabbed a bunch of refs from his course that I was a guest lecturer in about 2 weeks ago. 🙂 Which reminds me; I still need to scour the web for other people’s syllabi and see if I can incorporate even more stuff that I may have missed.

Continue reading Draft 2 of Games Simulations and Virtual Worlds for Learning course

Draft outline for Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds online course

I’m teaching a course on games and learning during Pepperdine’s summer session. It’s an online course for masters students getting an ed tech degree who may or may not be completely new to the topic, so I’m throwing in as much as I can. 🙂

I’m pretty excited about it! Midway, the students and I will meet face to face at GLS and playtest their in-progress game designs.

Anyway, here’s the preliminary outline that I just threw together. It’s a lot to cover in 12 weeks.

  1. intro to game studies: definitions, magic circle, narratology v ludology, disciplines, art
  2. why games for learning: content v systems, computational thinking, ecology, projected ID, Theory of Fun
  3. game genres and mechanics, tabletop and digital: Board Game Geek, RPS, killscreen, Analog, Well Played
  4. survey of games, simulations, and VWs for learning: COTS v designed, GLS, MIT, Harvard, Indiana, ASU, UCLA, Irvine, UCSC, CGS
  5. game design processes: Aldrich, Schell, Kultima, Rogers
  6. user studies: engagement, flow, play testing
  7. play test during GLS
  8. mods, theorycrafting, memes: Elitist Jerks, Skyrim
  9. assessment: the big black box?
  10. studying gaming and gaming culture: ethnography, Coming of Age in Second Life, Leet Noobs
  11. gamification, badges, connected learning
  12. outstanding issues

I’ll be posting updates to the syllabus as I fill in details, assignments, readings, games to play, etc. to this blog, hopefully making the course design process as transparent as possible. It’s like a process painting but in course design form. Thoughts? Did I leave anything out?