Tag Archives: theresa horstman

A statement on games and expert gaming

I wrote this with Theresa Horstman a while ago when we were launching AGILE (Advancing Games in Innovative Learning Environments) at UW. Sadly, we didn’t really do anything with AGILE, but I thought this statement should be salvaged.

First, some definitions:

  • Games are systems of rules/constraints that present players with goals that can best be accomplished by exploring and pushing at the limits of these rules/constraints.
    • IE. Games can be understood through systems thinking with a focus on the interrelatedness of objects rather than a focus on the objects themselves.
    • The exploration is interactional, associational, and emergent; it is not static nor inert.
    • Game experience is open to player interpretation and influenced by out-of-game context.
    • It’s self directed (and self-discovered) and problem based.
    • Exploring the associations in the system is our definition of “play.”
  • Encouraging players to push at these rules necessarily also encourages subversion and destabilization.
    • This decenters power, challenging top-down approaches to leveraging games (i.e., many gamification models).
    • Pushing at the bounds of a system is our definition of “expert play.”
  • There is little distinction between the make-believe of games and the projected identity or role taking people do in their everyday lives in settings where they imagine a future possibility. (cf. Gee, McGonigal, Sutton-Smith)
    • This realization allows us to merge pretend problems and pretend identities with authentic problems and identities and move onto the question of “so how does that affect how we design learning experiences/environments?”
  • Yes, everything is a game. More precisely, every domain/discourse can be thought of as a game world.
    • This includes both what Jim Gee calls the little g game and the big G Game (akin to Gee’s little d discourse and big D Discourse).
      • Little g: A particular domain/game has its set of rules or grammar about how objects in that domain interact with each other. Think of this as content.
      • Big G: Domains/Games also exist within a community of (literacy) practices that govern how to be within that domain. Think of this as setting, context, or ecology.
  • Participating in this broader view of games discourse is our definition of “gaming” or “gaming practice.”
    • Therefore, “expert gaming” is not just mastery of game content but also the ability to participate authentically and the possession of well-above average social and cultural capital in the broader discourse.
  • The practice within this broader discourse can be thought of as a mangle.
    • As with any culture or community of practice, what determines capital production changes over time and is in constant tension.
    • Different parties in the actor-network are constantly renegotiating what it means to “game” and the division of labor within the landscape of gaming.

Announcing AGILE

[Edit April 21, 2011:] We’ve changed the name to Advancing Gaming in Innovative Learning Ecologies 🙂 [/Edit]

Advancing Games as Innovative Learning Environments (AGILE) is a group that includes LIFE Center and UWISME scholars in the College of Education at the University of Washington, most notably Theresa Horstman and myself. 🙂

What does this mean? Well, not much right now actually. We needed to brand ourselves, which will help with attracting attention and monies.

Happy new year!

I’ve decided to post really quick reviews of each game I play.

The thing is, I’ve been replaying some older games and realizing how much of them I’ve forgotten, and then I have a tiny moment of panic about how ephemeral my experiences with these games are–a tiny existential crisis ensues. Do I play the games because life is nihilistic and I should just fill it with personally engaging experiences, or do I try to contribute something to the societal world–games culture and academic progress? And then I figure, well, it won’t take much time to write at least a one-line review of the things I’m playing.

Part of the hesitation, though, is also the fact that I play *a lot* of games. A LOT. It’s kind of frightening, actually, given that I’m trying to finish the dissertation and apply for jobs and do academic stuff at the same time. So, there’s a bit of shame or guilt involved, too.

But talking with Theresa, another student at the college of ed who also studies games and learning, has convinced me that knowledge about games is part of my academic identity. I’ve come to be known as “the games guy” in my department, and that label or position has definitely given me some cultural capital that I’ve been able to ply into various opportunities within academia, if only by giving me confidence in myself by seeing that others value my knowledge.

The positioning, though, is kind of strange since I don’t think I’ve done all that much to cultivate it. It seems like I can contribute to it and make it productive while also justifying all the game playing if only I shared my thoughts about these games, and thus, my new year’s resolution is to write about each game I play.

Or maybe I’m just trying to make an obsession have some sort of extrinsic value…