Archive for the ‘Session Proposals’ Category

  • Session Proposal: Research Methods


    A number of great sessions have already been proposed, so the following is building on ideas from several other posts.  I would be very interested in a session discussing different approaches to game analytics.  What methods–both theoretical and pragmatic–do you use when studying games as cultural objects?  Are there techniques to share in our approach to games, from embracing the play element (Why So Serious) to visualizing, unpacking, breaking, or decoding games (as suggested in sessions proposed by AmandaZack, and others)?  How do we align (or not) techniques of “close playing” to software studies, and how do these different theoretical practices relate to — and change — more traditional domains of inquiry?  Can we see ways to revise theories of narrative based on the introduction of formal feedback loops,  adjust approaches to textual studies based on research in platform studies, or expand theories of cultural studies based on computational encoding practices (in short: how does studying games change broader theoretical frameworks)?

    In addition to more theoretical concerns, it would be great to hear others talk about pragmatic approaches — what tools they use to get at things like source code, best practices in capturing and annotating game play sessions, or even potential projects in large-scale data-mining of everything from speed runs to after-action reports.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone.

  • Session Proposal: Playing Doing History…Online…Without a Teacher

    Woman's Med Alumnae, 1906-1908

    Woman's Med Alumnae, 1906‑1908

    (During this session, notes were taken (link).  Thanks to Seth Denbo for initiating this.)

    There’s this woman. She became a doctor around 1900…not super common at the time. I can’t remember her name. Considering the time period, it was probably something like Eveline or Florence or Maud. This basic knowledge is our starting point. One end point brings us to the knowledge that she was Australian, or maybe British, or both, raised Jewish, converted to Christianity, was a Medical Missionary to Hawaii and probably Mexico, possibly a lesbian, and she died of a head injury after being run down by a car in Hollywood. She is a notable nobody of the past.

    For students figuring this out, the process is not only Doing History, but it is also Playing with History. This is the same satisfying play that thousands of historians and history professionals, and millions of genealogists do every day.

    By exploring a set of documents, students can gain experience and start scaffolding this process. When we do these activities face-to-face with students, they frequently respond with some version of “I feel like a detective!” Feeling like a detective means gathering and corroborating evidence, then coming up with your best guess at “the truth,” but knowing that you may never know for sure. This is historical thinking in practice…one kind of critical thinking in practice.

    Teaching students the process of putting together a historical vignette is tricky, but made easier by constraining the places to look for clues (e.g., give them 10 documents and photos). This constraining should make it a viable candidate for moving the process and learning into an online setting. There are even steps that people have developed (see numerous links below).

    But if we were to transfer this into an online setting:

    • How would you make it engaging?
    • How would you make it useful, with real learning outcomes?
    • How do you make sure it is non-trivial and not worthwhile to cheat?
    • How do you keep students interested when a game requires significant amounts of reading and text-skimming? (This is hard enough when you’re hovering and badgering in face-to-face settings.)
    • How do you let students experience the real-life research dead ends, then pull them back from that frustration before they bail?
    • And how do you go beyond multiple choice-based monitoring of student progress/understanding to something that monitors students’ synthesis of more nebulous concepts? In other words, students meet some higher-order learning outcomes without the mediation of a live human teacher.
    • (Bonus question: How do you do it without designing a one-off game scenario that costs over $50,000 and you can never get another grant to maintain, develop further, or add new scenarios/stories/people?)
    • Caveat: For the sake of argument, let’s focus on history process not history content

    I only recently learned of the concept of Epistemic Games, “games in which players see what it is like to live in the world of adults.” Is Doing History a good candidate for an epistemic games?  The process also shares characteristics with metapuzzles, as described in Friday’s “Narrative Puzzles / ARGs” BootCamp led by the Arcane Gallery of Gadgetry folks.

    As mentioned, some “standard” approaches for analyzing primary sources:

  • How/Why do you use Games?


    Here’s a riff off a few previous proposals, especially “Why So Serious,” and based on conversations I’ve had during the Boot Camps. I imagine this as a pure roundtable.

    • How are you using games and why?
    • What is it that games provide to your study, teaching, etc.. that you can’t get from other sources?

    I make games to help others with their research, so this session is a bit selfish for me: I’d like to use this anecdotal data to help me better serve the researchers I work with.

  • Session Proposal: Mobile and Locative Gaming


    I wanted to offer up a short proposal in the 11th hour on mobile and locative games. Building off of Rob MacDougall’s proposal for place-based games/ARGs, this session would explore some emerging games that use mobile device for location aware gaming. This could include discussions of games such as geocaching, locative social networks with gaming elements like Foursquare, or iPhone/iPad games like TurfWars. I’d also be interested in discussing pervasive games like Big Urban Game and PacManhattan. Similar to Rob’s session idea, I’d love to discuss issues of space and place, immersion, ethics of locative gaming (e.g. interactions with bystanders), and what I’ve come to call the “poverty of the screen” for locative games (i.e., the need for there to be meaningful interaction between the material space and the digital device in order to foster a rich gaming experience).


    Also, if anyone would be interested, I would love to place some THATCamp Games geocaches around campus. Perhaps we can find time during the Game Jam on Sunday.

  • The Play Element of Culture


    I’d like to propose a session discussing games as a form for cultural analysis. More specifically, I’d like to see a session discussing current academic theories in relation to games (philosophy of the game?). For example, what effect might the turn to the “non-human” have upon game studies? Which philosophers or theorists have been helpful for your understanding of games? What are the current trends for understanding games and where do you think the future of games studies is headed?

  • Session Proposal: Games and Consent


    Listening to the panel on narrative puzzles, I’m suddenly thinking of a whole genre of narratives about puzzles wherein protagonists discover that they are trapped in a puzzle that they did not intentionally engage or seek out (often with life or death consequences, as in the Saw films). Which in turn makes me think of another genre of fiction about games which players are compelled to play (Most Dangerous Game, most notoriously), or games whose rules are changed at the whim of one player (The Quick and the Dead).

    When games enter into larger public discourses, this trope sometimes figures very powerfully: the game which some players do not want to play but cannot escape, the puzzle which has been set by a sadist, the social system which power has turned into a game and then changed the rules.

    Games which are ‘fun’ or pleasurable by contrast seem to have as one of their central attributes the equal consent of all players (and an equal ability to withdraw from the game without consequence). This figures heavily in Huizinga’s definition of play, but isn’t limited to his view.

    Consent might be a way to think about games in relation to power? About what makes games ‘good’ and ‘bad’? And maybe about why games sometimes are an awkward fit for classrooms?

  • Session Proposal: Cultural Studies/Queering Video Games


    I am interested in bringing cultural studies — particularly gender and sexuality, race, and ideological studies — to bear on video games from platform to player to video game culture(s).  I just did a lightning talk at MLA (Modern Language Asssociation) as part of Mark Sample’s “Close Playing: Literary Methods and Video Games” panel (alongside folks like Anastasia Salter, one of our THATCamp Games organizers) where I introduced provocations like:

    • How do you do queer, feminist, cultural analysis of video games?  How do you do cultural critique beyond just representation or violence or narrative/ludology?
    • How might video games address sexism or racism or homophobia?
    • How do players and developers require more from games and gaming?
  • Leveraging Sandbox Games


    I am curious about other peoples experience using sandbox games in class.

    I have used Second Life and am preparing to use Minecraft with classes.

    What sort of “rules” do you need, how much freedom can players have?  How do you enforce rules and what happens if the game gets off track?

    Is this about collaboration, socialization, individual expression, emergence?


  • Session proposal: students and gaming


    Benjy Cannon and Jeffrey Gruen present two games that are in different stages of completion with two different focuses, educational and recreational.  The two students offer a unique perspective on how plausible gaming assignments are along with their benefits, drawbacks, and requirements. The presentation will focus on both the technical and creative process of making a game given varying degrees of experience, how the process teaches students, and what games have to offer that no other medium can give.  The two students will also talk about how games can be assigned, the educational merits of gaming, how teachers can help out students making games, and what types of deadlines are plausible.

  • Session proposal: prediction markets


    What are prediction markets? How can we use them for education or analysis?

    I’ve been running a futures market game for education and technology since 2008. It’s been a learning experience, valuable research tool, and networking/ crowdsourcing platform.  It’s been playful and chaotic.

    When I show this to different colleges and universities, an interestingly diverse crowd gets excited.  That swarm includes sports fans, business-minded folk, and gamers.

    We can use this one as an example, and also point to others, like the classic Iowa Electronic Markets.  We can also explore the history and uses of prediction markets, from the Pentagon’s ill-fated attempt to Google’s quiet one.

    Here’s a little article I wrote explaining the NITLE game. This other piece situates prediction markets in the broader futures context.

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