• The Play Element of Culture

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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: Games and the Literature Classroom

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    I would like to discuss two major topics on games and the literary classroom: 1) using games to teach literature, and 2) understanding games as a form of literature.

    Questions raised by topic (1): how can games be used to teach skills for the traditional literary classroom, such as content knowledge, close reading, and grasp of literary theory/new historicism? Are there any games, video or otherwise, already available for the literature classroom? How effective are these games in training students in skills and content? Compared with traditional tests and essays, do games encourage surface or deep learning? Is it possible to replace some types of essay writing with a type of game, and what would this game look like?

    Issues in topic (2) How can we understand games as a form of literature? This question riffs off Mark Sample’s (@samplereality) recent MLA panel, “Close Playing,” featuring ThatCamp Games organizer Anastasia Salter (@anasalter). How do games as a form of literature both complement and diverge from literary texts? How would a game be incorporated into a syllabus as a literary text? What sort of different skills would one need to read games as a literary text?

     

  • Session proposal: students and gaming

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    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

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    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.

  • The Occupy Session: Critical Game Design

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    As the Occupy Movement reignites a long-simmering debate about inequality in the United States and connects up with global struggles for social justice, what role can games play in fostering this movement?  In many ways, the learning principles embodied by games promote the kind of agency, collaboration, and problem-solving skills that this movement requires.  Beyond just discussing examples of “games for change” (there is an “Occupy: The Game,” btw), I’d like to focus on the art of making critical/radical games, what Mary Flanagan has called game design for “critical play.”  Here are some questions we might discuss, though more are welcome:

    1. What are the elements of a critical game design theory and praxis?

    2. How does critical game design differ from traditional game design?

    3. What can critical game designers learn from the Occupy Movement, and vice-versa?

    4. What new opportunies do developing game platforms–mobile, social, and casual gaming–have to offer an emerging critical gaming culture?

    5. How can ARG techniques and technologies be utilized to mobilize and organize more effectively?

    6. How can educators use game-based learning to level-up Critical Pedagogy, producing what I would call a “Critical Gaming Pedagogy?”

    Let’s form a general assembly and occupy a session.  People’s mic optional.

     

  • Session Proposal: Demon’s Souls as a Framework for Learning

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    As a high school biology teacher, rarely did I see moments of higher engagement than when I had my students participate in games of my or others’ creation during class. There is something inherently useful about gaming in this context, not necessarily from the vantage point of being “fun” or “cool,” but moreso from a human drive to learn through storytelling (or, in this case, play). This is not a trend isolated to mankind alone, but we seem to be the best at illustrating it (consider the fact that wild animals like cats learn and practice their hunting skills through play with siblings, which is not dissimilar from learning social skills by “playing nice” with our siblings or through the oral traditions of epic stories like The Iliad, Bible, Quran, etc.). We learn best when given the opportunity to learn through context-rich play, which is an extremely important principle when trying to shape classroom pedagogy — especially when the instructor is able to merge learning objectives with gaming objectives in a way that masks the “not fun-ness” of being a typical, disengaged student in an uninteresting class.

    I point to the value of using hands-on experiments in a science classroom compared to direct instruction: yes, the same concepts can be taught through both pedagogical means, but the latter tends to be fairly understimulating in comparison to constructed, inquiry-based learning. If, as a 16-year old, I am expected to apply the skills learned in my biology class on a high-stakes test (creating an action plan to protect sea life from an oil spill, for example), it would behoove me to have had experience hypothesizing, forming an experimental procedure, collecting data, and coming to a conclusion about whether or not my ideas were valid solutions to the problem. Can this be done through direct instruction? To a certain extent, yes, but the ownership of material in that case primarily belongs to the instructor rather than the student: the student is a passive element because he or she cannot A) test the procedures being presented by the teacher or B) easily deviate from the procedures being presented by the teacher in the event that he or she sees an alternative solution to the problem. A lack of ownership only serves to distance the student from the real-world context and, more unfortunately, the skills he or she may have acquired through experiencing the learning on his or her own. For this reason, the situated nature of gaming can be an incredibly powerful tool for educators from all fields of study.

    As a launching point for this topic, I propose a discussion surrounding the game Demon’s Souls (PS3), which successfully and masterfully incorporates several of the 21st century skills we expect of our students.

    Demon\’s Souls Gameplay

    What makes this particular game so useful in discussing learning is the affordances it makes to the player despite its obscene difficulty. While the designers ensured that reaching the end would be no simple task (by brutally reprimanding you for your failure to properly complete an objective), they managed to include some very subtle, but important, features that keep the game balanced for the skilled and unskilled alike. The strongest relationship between Demon’s Souls and educational psychology comes from a combination of behavioral modification (through operant conditioning),  dynamic difficulty, and opportunities for social learning.

    This session could be used to spark a larger discussion about how games successfully teach their underlying elements so well that people are not only willing to play through, learn, and discuss them with one another, but pay for the right to do so. Questions and topics might include:

    • The specific elements of educational psychology behind the creation of a great game
    • How educators can capture these elements the same way Demon’s Souls has
    • How these elements make the difference between between game-based learning and gamification
    • How situated cognition (the idea of ‘knowledge as doing’) serves as a foundation for game-based learning
    • How gaming contexts replicate the 21st century skills we want our students to be able to perform
  • Session Proposal: Games vs Crowdsourcing

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    Just want to put a short rough idea out there for this one: where is the line between actual games and games designed to harness the efforts of many to actually accomplish something in the cultural heritage world?

    I certainly wouldn’t say that reCaptcha is a game – but it DOES serve a greater crowdsourced purpose. How fun does something have to be to qualify as a game? Is transcribing menus a game? Is rectifying maps a game? How much ‘fun decoration’ do you need to push it from work to play while still serving the same ultimate purpose? I can imagine a detective game in which rectifying maps would further goals in the game while actually still harnessing the efforts of the players.

    Is it worth the effort to make games of these types of crowdsourcing activities?

    I would say yes. ‘Cultural Heritage Crowdsourcing Games’ (to give it a name) both increase the pool of people who will become involved while also providing a new avenue for education and exposure to humanities/cultural heritage topics.

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