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Amanda Visconti - THATCamp Games 2013

Amanda  Visconti


Hey there! I’m a digital humanist hybrid: a CMS geek, games researcher/designer, and DH/literature Ph.D. candidate with a master’s degree in information from the University of Michigan. I blog regularly at LiteratureGeek.com on my niches of the digital humanities (DH): my code-/design-as-scholarship digital dissertation, game studies, web dev/design/info vis, and literature (digital Ulysses, e-lit, textual scholarship, book graphesis).

In addition to teaching games to my undergraduate students as one of many rich forms of literary narrative, I build and research alternate reality games (ARGs) as a member of the University of Maryland iSchool ARGs Research Team, which studies ARGs in the service of design and education (read more about our research and game at ArcaneGalleryOfGadgetry.org). Our NSF-funded game, the Arcane Gallery of Gadgetry, is a “cabinet of curiosities” combining a rich and oftentimes mysteriously fragmented historical tapestry with what Rob MacDougall has called “playful historical thinking.” By incorporating counterfactuals and re-imagining the past, AGOG is designed to lead players into a newly enfranchised relationship with history, teach them STEM and information literacy skills, and help them discover the secret stories outside most history books. In addition to a number of publications on ARG design and deployment, our team has been known to surprise attendees at our conference presentations with stealth mini-ARGs to give them a true experience of what we’re discussing. I developed a Drupal player community site for the ARG we ran with middle-schoolers, and am happy to talk about creating similar game-support frameworks.

For my dissertation, I'm building tools and interfaces to make digital literary editions more participatory and the humanities more public. One element of this: editing games! Happy to talk about Ivanhoe, mashing up ARGs with the classroom reading experience, etc.

And... I just played Fallout 3 for the first time this year--I've never played because I've never been very able at FPSs before--and the wealth of possible story lines is amazing! Now I'm creating a teaching mod using the GECK toolkit. I'm into Euro-style games and can cart all 800+ pieces of Eclipse with me to the unconference if enough people are willing to play.

  • Collapsing the Venn Diagram: ARGs, LARPs, and Porting Values/Approaches between RPG Genres


    ARGs, LARPs, RPGs: all narrative-rich games with a lot of room for overlap in theory, but in practice often following specific, separate agendas and using different, non-overlapping micro-mechanics. I recently spent an hour discussing the differences between ARGs (alternate reality games) and LARPs (live-action role-playing) with someone who researches LARP playing as a hobby; at the end, he asked me a great question: what are features or tactics you’ve seen in ARGs that could carry over to LARPs? I’d like to look at this question from both points of view: ARGs > LARP and LARP > ARG.

    We should spend a short amount of time (5-8 minutes) defining ARGs/LARPs and giving specific game examples for attendees who aren’t familiar with one or both, but I’m not interested in debating different definitions of what is or isn’t LARP or ARG: what I really want to do is identify the cool tactics, narratives, learning opportunities, and gameplay mechanics from each genre that aren’t being used in the other, and whether this needs to be the case (is it a core part of what it means to LARP?) or whether we can imagine porting some of these features from game genre to genre. Ideally, we’d generate a public list of ideas that game designers could dip into when attempting to expand their work.

  • Break These Values: Game Your Discipline (A Talk and Make Session)


    At THATCamp CHNM 2012, Mills Kelly led a session on “Pedagogies of Disruption” that outlined ways of teaching humanities knowledge by disrupting values: turning what a field cares about on its head in order to teach it (see the linked GoogleDoc for some fantastic assignment ideas and example values). Let’s hold a session that puts a gamic twist on disrupting values to learn and teach: Read more

  • Session Request: Mod Videogames for Great Knowledge!


    Screengrab of poster from Fallout 3 videogame showing "Pip Boy" mascot and the words "prepare for the future"
    If another attendee or two has experience using mod tools to create a video game version/segment with a DH flavor (e.g. making an argument, use within the classroom), perhaps they could co-facilitate a talk session about existing mods to check out, values/lessons/arguments begging to be modded into specific games, and the technical considerations behind modding games DH-style (e.g. recommended tutorials or games with well-documented mod systems).

    I’ve started to work on a Fallout 3 mod with two aims: magnify and augment the game’s message about textual and archival memories, and create something encapsulated enough that it can be jumped into by players who haven’t played Fallout, FPSs, or don’t consider themselves gamers (e.g. likely some of the students in a humanities undergrad classroom). It would be interesting to hear from others about modding aspirations and challengesPicture of Fallout 3 Pip Boy, as this is my first experience.
    (If you’re specifically interested in Fallout 3 as a great game for modding, check out Trevor Owen’s Play the Past piece arguing for the game as the “World’s Best History/Archeology Sim” and substantiating the claim that “despite having no history in it, Fallout 3 is the world best history game”.