• Going Old School? reading….


    How about a session in which we re-read and discuss some works on gaming and play?  We could even spice it up by performing a glass bead game of connections, followed by open discussion.

    Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (1938/1950) would be an obvious choice.  I’d suggest chapters 1 (Nature and significance of play as a cultural phenomenon), 6 (Playing and knowing), and 12 (The Play-element in contemporary civilization).  Salman Rushdie’s “The Language of the Pack,” in which he suggests that the grammar of cards and the grammar of literature stand at odds with one another, might also be worth a look.  The essay can be found in Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands (1991).  Other suggestions?

    Let’s decide on some texts ahead of time, so we can read them before we arrive.  That’ll provide some common terminology to bat around and play with over the weekend.

  • Session Proposal: Skyrim.edu?


    First of all, I most certainly do NOT have a Skyrim problem. I’m just level 23 right now. No, I’m not rationalizing my addiction by arguing for an educational use for Skyrim. No, I’m NOT being defensive.

    Seriously, I’m not the first educator to dream of wielding the development power of a Bethesda or an Activision to serve educational goals. Having already investigated, with high school students, the uses of Minecraft mods in the classroom, we’re ready to mod Skyrim. Skyrim’s SDK, or “Creation Kit” is due out this month, and I think we can expect something with at least the functionality of Bethesda’s previous Elder Scrolls Construction Set. As a teacher of Honors European History and AP Human Geography, I already have students sketching out scenarios and uses for the world of Skyrim.

    I think a session on this topic could tackle at least the following questions:

    1. What are the true educational benefits of games like Skyrim?
    2. Which of these benefits are best used while arguing for institutional/colleague/community acceptance, and possibly funding of mod projects?
    3. What possible technical issues need to be addressed?
    4. What educational objectives could be tackled with a modded Skyrim? (I, for one, am presently mulling over scenarios like “Life on the Roman Frontier,” and investigations into the agricultural and technological material culture of the early Middle Ages along the  lines of a recent PSU initiative.)
    5. Should mods be focused on maximum historical accuracy, or on criticism of a less-than-accurate modded world?

    Whatever the purpose of the session, couldn’t some of us just meet and complain/rejoice about how Skyrim has taken  over our lives (and is horrible for the economy)?

  • Session Proposal: Badges Done Right


    I’d like to propose a session, or at least a conversation, on the topic of badges and achievements in education. It seems to me that many of the “trend-settters” of gamification are using badges in a very unfortunate way: badges as simple extrinsic motivators that have very little value for creating intrinsic motivation. For example, take a look at the ready-made badges provided by one course-management company.

    From my point of view, none of those badges is indicative of the student achieving meaningful progress towards the course objectives. They aren’t tied to any real learning activities and at a glance tell me nothing about the student other than that s/he might have not missed a class or that she “worked hard.” However, the kind of small sample shown here is generally what I see whenever I look around at the badge and achievement systems which are being grafted onto pre-existing learning-management-systems by the major players in the education industry.

    Before we embrace badges in education, I’d like us to discuss ways we might be able to move past badges-as-21C-gold-stars and to consider how we might craft meaningful badge systems that are a true record of accomplishments towards the learning objectives for the particular course, curriculum, or program.

  • Working Session: Gen Ed ARG


    This topic might be best worked out in the ARG bootcamp, and I will be there for sure, but I’ll throw out my idea as a separate session as well, in case anyone else wants to, as the THATCamp site says, “magically show up to hear about what you’re doing and to give you their perspective and advice.”  I’d sure love that!

    I’ve semi-committed to developing a college-wide ARG for the fall 2012 semester based on the predictions that the world will end on December 21, 2012.  The kernel of my narrative is that your crazy Uncle Harry has been seduced by a Mayan millennial cult and has decided to will his entire fortune to this group, instead of you.  Your ultimate task is to show him that these end-of-the-world claims are bogus (and preserve your inheritance.)

    Critical thinking is a core skill in the college’s General Education Outcomes and I’d like design a project that demands that students tackle tasks from various perspectives relating to their general education requirements.  So using skills from history class, students would find out about previous millennial cults and their fates, psychological theories would help them understand why some people are attracted to cult leaders and predictions of world destruction, science skills would allow them to disprove the claims of killer solar flares or other astronomical events.  I envision a website, purporting to be the cult’s webpage, with a separate tab for the different types of evidence “proving” their claims, each relating to a different gen ed category.  That’s the basic outline, but the details, well, that’s what I’d love to work on.  What exactly would the students be asked to do or produce?  How would their efforts be evaluated?  I think the questions I have are along the same line as Roger’s proposal.  What kind of game tasks will foster higher-order skills like analysis and creativity and allow students to see how their gen ed classes have given them the ability to think critically?

  • Session proposal: Games != Video Games–humanities voices crying in the wilderness?


    It seems like a bunch of proposals are already talking about text-based games, which is making my heart glad.

    I want to propose a session specifically on the issue of people’s tendency to think and write about game-based learning only in terms of video games. This tendency comes to the fore very strongly at conferences like Games+Learning+Society, and seems to me to put the momentum towards adoption of meaningful play across culture in jeopardy. The danger I see is that, if my group’s findings thus far are correct, video games won’t be able to deliver on the real promise of game-based learning, because their rulesets aren’t (and perhaps can’t be) designged to foster higher-order skills like analysis and creativity. If we’re right that games teach their rulesets rather than their content, a lot of learning games are being designed poorly, and will give unsatisfactory results.

    This concern also of course takes in the issue of “fun,” and I’d like to start the session off with that burning question, which never seems to fail to produce debate: to what extent does any game, and any learning game in particular, need to be fun to accomplish its goals? The students in Operation LAPIS aren’t having a lot of fun when they’re composing Latin for their characters; on the other hand, they are engaged with a ruleset that immerses them in a text-based world that, as far as learning to do humanistic inquiry is concerned, is far richer than any 3D recreation of the ancient world could be.

    Should we insist that games doesn’t mean video games? Should we insist that low-tech, inexpensive text-based games may have the greater affordances? If so, how do we get people to listen, and what should we say if they do?

  • Proposal: MUDding


    I’ve always had an interest in text adventures, especially multiplayer ones called MUDs (as opposed to MOOs or MUSHs). I also have an interest in narrative. I’m working up to exploring dynamic, reader-influenced narrative in a game environment by developing my own MUD. Text adventures seem well suited since they let me focus on the mechanics of the narrative and game instead of having to spend too much time on graphics and clients. Ultimately, this will all tie back into my digital humanities interest in providing environments for exploring data.

    I’d be interested in meeting up with other folk who might have a similar interest.

    I’m in the process of building a MUD based on the Dead Souls mudlib and the novel I wrote for my masters. I’d love to have people drop by during the week of THATCampGames. I’ve been creating a party room with free drinks, food, and party favors just for that week. I am looking for alpha testers, so if you think you’d like to help try out new systems and have a hand in designing them, stick around! I’m also looking for anyone interested in creating content for a MUD, especially if you are also interested in trying out new ways of constructing narrative in games but don’t want to run your own server.

    Feel free to check out the website for the MUD: http://www.second-contract.com/. I’ll post on that website as well as on twitter (@2ndContract) when I open the game to new players, which will probably be around the 17th.

  • Session Proposal: Quest-based Evaluation Schemes

    I’m interested in the idea that the A-F grading scheme might not always be the best one — 🙂 — and that a game-like (gamified?) structure for student evaluation would be more effective in at least some cases.  Lee Sheldon and David Wiley have written about quest-based course structures, and I experimented with the idea two years ago, with mixed results.
    The session would include discussion of the possibilities, critiques of previous attempts, and possibly even brainstorming specific syllabi structures for future attempts.
  • A Modest Session Proposal


    Hey fellow Campers –

    First, let me say that I’m looking forward to my first THATCamp experience!

    I’m in the process of building a quest-y RPG for an Intro to Philosophy class. My institution has just signed on to a new learning management system; I was an early adopter, and am now the local admin (a long story with which I’ll likely bore some of you in MD… 🙂 ). Anyway, I’m designing the (thus far nameless) game within the strictures of a software platform intended for a much more traditional course structure, and I’m wondering whether this scenario (course game design within LMS) is common enough to generate a whole session. For me, the process has been continually challenging: some of the challenges have simply led to frustration, but others have ultimately produced some pretty epic ‘a-ha’ moments.

    The proposal: a session on educational game design within learning management system software.
    Tentative title: Course Game Design: LMS or DIY?

    I guess I’ll kick back and see what you all think! Off to grab a snack… (apologies to J. Swift.)

  • Before THATCamp Games…


    As the new year is upon us, it’s time to get ready for THATCamp Games! If you haven’t made your travel plans, we have some suggestions on our travel page. You can also use Twitter to find potential room or ride shares.

    But remember, this isn’t a traditional conference, and there’s no need to prepare a paper or presentation. Instead, use this blog to propose a session around ideas in technology, humanities and games that you’d like to share, discuss, debate, hack and build during the course of our weekend. There are great suggestions for proposing sessions on the THATCamp main site.

    Feel free to get started now! If you are a participant, you should have your account information in your email–check your spam folder or email us if you have any concerns. And don’t forget to fill out your profile, as we need your t-shirt size and any dietary restrictions as soon as possible!

  • Workshop Schedule


    On Friday, January 20th, we will offer a full day of workshops with three tracks running simultaneously from 9:00 to 5:15. Here’s a tentative schedule, with many thanks to all our volunteer instructors for making this possible!

    “N00b” Track

    Beginner-friendly workshops offering an introduction to both physical and digital game design tools and concepts, with no programming experience assumed

    • Session One: My First Board Game
    • Session Two: Wargames and Conflict Simulations
    • Session Three: Modding Civilization IV
    • Session Four: Contextual Inquiry
    • Session Five: Introduction to GameMaker

    Hack Track

    Introductions to digital game production tools that may assume some prior programming experience

    • Session One: Introduction to Unity
    • Session Two: Introduction to Inform 7
    • Session Three: Introduction to Kinect
    • Session Four: Flash Games with Flixel
    • Session Five: Building HTML5 Games

    Edu Track

    Sessions focused on games in the classroom, for all levels of experience

    • Session One: Writing and Games
    • Session Two: Teaching with Video Games
    • Session Three: Meaningful Puzzles
    • Session Four: Build your own ARG Course
    • Session Five: What’s your Game Plan?

    Scheduling of sessions subject to change based on workshop instructors’ travel plans–read more about all our workshops and instructors on our BootCamp page!

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