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Session Proposals - THATCamp Games 2013

Archive for the ‘Session Proposals’ Category

  • Is there a place for Mozilla’s OpenBadges in the physical classroom?


    A discussion. With the increasingly high profile of Mozilla’s OpenBadge project and the new arrival of the BadgeOS open source WordPress tool, the implementation of Open Badges is no longer as significant problem as it once was. If using and giving students OpenBadges is becoming relatively friction-less for educators and programs online, is there also a place for them in the traditional classroom?

    What requirements should be put upon giving badges as part of a traditional program?

    How can we (or should we) tie badges to the traditional academic requirements?

    How should badges be implemented as part of a greater academic online presence?

  • Using Analog Games for Education: a dialogue between designers and educators


    We are analog game designers, who have designed tabletop and live role playing games, as well as board games. We’re interested in helping educators design these games for their use in the classroom and in other educational venues. However, it would help us to better be able to understand more about the needs of educators and their students, and the parameters of design associated with educational settings. Come help us create some shared language and approaches to help both sides of the equation work together better.


    Emily Care Boss and Epidiah Ravachol are independent role playing game designers who have published tabletop and live role playing games. Epidiah published the Ennie Award winning game Dread with The Impossible Dream. His other games may be found at Dig 1000 Holes. Emily has appeared as Guest of Honor at Ropecon and Fastaval, and has written on role playing games and their workings in Playground Worlds, Immersive Gameplay and elsewhere. Her games can be found at Black & Green Games.

  • Procedures of Play for Classroom Management


    Games often employ clear rules, guides, player aids, and even firm technological/physical controls to define and manage player behavior.

    From the simple (time limits, turn-taking), to the more elaborate (ritualized phrases to trigger specific actions, assigning explicit roles with strict limitations on behavior), appropriately-designed play procedures support and facilitate the success of particular game’s style of play.

    Learning environments (physical or online) require some degree of guided management to consistently develop into functional, supportive, and productive spaces.

    What do the rules and procedures that shape, govern, and drive successful gaming environments have to teach the classroom in this regard?

    How can strong constraints empower players/learners to engage with content or activity that might otherwise leave them feeling directionless or confused?

    How can obviously-artificial structures for action and interaction simultaneously shift learners out of their comfort zone and yet leave them feeling safe enough to enter an unfamiliar, experimental learning space where they are allowed to take risks?

    What design guidelines are useful to prevent having rules and procedures for classroom management slide into condescension or authoritarianism?

  • Gaming the Survey Course


    In this session, I’d like to discuss how we might use mechanics and frameworks from pen and paper role-playing-games to bridge the content-skills divide in university and college survey courses.

    Survey courses are generally designed to be content-rich, but they are not often effective models for teaching students important skills like writing, constructing an argument, archival and library research, source interpretation, and historical contextualization.

    This issue is widely known in the humanities academy, but most humanities departments persist in using the survey model because, for all its faults, it is an effective way to cheaply teach large numbers of students and to provide the information foundation for more advanced study in a discipline.

    Role-playing-games, by their nature, ask participants to think in new and creative ways and to situate individual/group actions and thoughts in the context in which the game is based. They also provide a structure for how participants encounter, interpret, and utilize the game’s content.

    The humanities role-playing-games that I know of, such as the Reacting to the Past modules, have been designed for smaller, more advanced humanities courses, and focus on specific topics (ex: the Trial of Anne Hutchinson).

    Can a role-playing-game be designed to work in place of the traditional introductory survey course (that is, to deliver both the broad foundational content and teach humanities skills simultaneously)? Are you interested in taking on this challenge? Come discuss it in this session!

  • Cybership 370 BC : Designing a Tabletop Metagame


    Plato was the first documented author to use the Kybernetes as a metaphor for city-states and humans to make Just laws and decisions.  “Cyber” has become a Modern, mainstream media buzzword, and its Ancient origins may surprise and enlighten you.  “Cybership 370 BC” is currently under development as a Humanities game that teaches “Cyber” etymology and Platonic Philosophy.  The words Cybernetique, Cybernetics, and Cyberspace are each based on only one of three related roles of their namesake: the Ancient Greek Kybernetes.  “Cybership 370 BC” highlights these 3 roles of the Kybernetes; ship Navigator, Commander, and Steersman; along with the study of feedback among these roles and the ship’s crew.

    It is also a meta-game to teach other game designers about the origins of Cybernetics as a study of feedback in systems.  The design choices of Tabletop gameplay and an Ancient Greek naval Trireme ship as the game’s setting reinforce the lesson that concepts such as Cyber-, Cybernetics, and Technology are not dependent on tools, electronics, wires, or gears.  The contrast between the ancient roots and the relatively recent allusion of the game’s title to a futuristic setting, reinforces the irony of misappropriation of “Cyber” in linguistics.  The relationship between people, knowledge, and tools in Technology, Epistemology, and their sources in the Ancient Greek concepts techne and episteme, further shows the common misappropriation and contemporary connotations underlying “Technology” and “Information Technology”.

    The basic goal of the session is communicating the roles of the Kybernetes and feedback among their crew members; presenting the origins of Cybernetics to game scholars and creators.  As a Work-In-Process, potential game mechanics under consideration include dice, cards, board, roleplaying, and turns.

    Ross Bochnek is the first researcher/author to present “Cyber” so holistically, and his paper “The ‘True Pilot’ Of Cybernetics became a resource for American Society for Cybernetics (ASC) 2011 Annual Conference.  You can read it and more via his blog www.rehumanizing.us  Ross will be developing this game and accepting advice about it throughout the weekend.  The possibilities offered by presenting original research, both as in-development and playable games, have their own merits for study in many Education and Communications fields.

  • Games as Text in K12 Classrooms (with Higher Ed’s Influence)


    After attending the last THATCamp Games, I came to realize the great success that higher ed educators have had with the study of video games as text. I’m a high school history teacher, and I spend a great deal of time developing curriculum and helping teachers integrate technology and 21st century skills in their classrooms.

    When I speak to K12 educators about the uses of games in education, I often find that their expectations are for curriculum-specific games, i.e. that in order to use games in my classroom, I need a game that teaches how to solve quadratic equations.

    In K12, we’re perpetually torn apart by competing initiatives.

    Presently, the Common Core (nonfiction obsessed) and state tests are driving teachers in a search for curriculum-specific games. Both the Common Core and the state tests run contrary to widespread educator interest in the promotion of 21st century skills- founded upon authenticity, innovation, and collaboration.

    So, my point is that I’d like to collect a variety of specific games used educationally by attendees, and find out their “angle”- what questions about the games would/do attendees use to drive student thought? Like..

    Bioshock Infinite:

    • What is the purpose of the game’s violence?
    • What interpretations of the past does the game developer use to generate the game’s main characters?
    • What specific historical events, people, and ideas influenced the cultural landscape of Columbia?
    • How is metaphor used to communicate actual historical thought and intent?

    I feel that the benefits for the K12 classroom are twofold- students investigate the subtlety of the text to draw out real-world authenticity, and teachers promote deep thinking skills and evaluation among students.

    I’m building a site to collect and present this sort of thing, and am planning to have the site focus on “off the shelf” games, linking classroom activities to specific levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, 21st century skills, and the HEAT Framework. The site will draw game metadata from an API like the Games Radar as games are released.

    I’d love to hear your ideas!

  • Cards on Dice? A New Gaming System From CLE

    The Square Shooters Dice

    The Square Shooters Dice


    Square Shooters cards-on-dice could be the most overdue gaming invention of all time.  Dice pre-date written history.  Playing cards have been “in play” for more than 1,000 years. These patented dice produce every card face from a standard deck (including 2 jokers) on the 54 surfaces of nine special dice.  The dice are patented with the ability to achieve the goals of games like poker and rummy:  every 4-of-a-kind, rummy run, straight flush and royal flush.


    Heartland Consumer Products — a Cleveland-area company — has already published one game that features the dice.  But beyond the game design opportunities are endless.  We have the chance to re-write playing card history using dice.  Our belief is that it’s best to “open source” the design of games and let a thousand flowers bloom.


    Our session would be an introduction to this new platform, a review of our online game design forum, and an open discussion about game design possibilities.

  • Games that Teach Programming Literacy


    Learning to code is universally acknowledged as critical, and many have endorsed it in k-12 education.. There are several games out there which now have their explicit purpose to teach programming. Code Hero requires players to use coding constructs to overcome in-game challenges. Kodu uses simple graphics and simulations to teach kids how to think logically. Hakitzu uses the mobile platform to teach coding to younger audiences, but falls short of the abstraction and meaning present in DragonBox. I’m currently working on a crowd-sourced game which has at it’s core an understanding of induction and logical elements that are central to understanding programming concepts. I’m very interested in exploring the elements of procedures as an objective within a game itself; how is it done well and why are some games that do it successful?

    What about these games are worth highlighting, using or subverting? What’s the difference between using code in a game context to learn, and learning code in the context of creating a game?

    We can play several of the games listed above as well as games of participants choice and find out what makes a good game, what would make an excellent lesson utilizing them and how to integrate coding literacy as well as programming skills through games.

  • Making Interactive Texts in the Classroom


    Next fall, I’m teaching a course on Interactive Narrative for the first time. The course will involve both examining electronic literature and games (the boundaries between which are questionable and oft debated) and making games and interactive texts of various kinds. I’d love to talk with others who are using tools like these in the classroom.

    In particular, I’m looking at tools for text-based interactive storytelling like:

    There are lots of things I’m thinking about as I design this class that I’d love to discuss with others who use these platforms. How do we approach text-based tools with students whose image of digital media is often very visual? What can we do with essay-writing and reflective writing using some of these same tools? How can we expand the ways students link building in these texts with acts of creativity and scholarship drawing from across disciplines? What do fair and flexible rubrics for grading work on these platforms look like?

    I’ve worked with all these platforms and taught with some of them, particularly Inform 7 in a Game Concept and Design class that served as a prototype for this new course, so I’m happy to share resources–I’d also love to hear about other options people have used or hope to use in the future.

  • 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.

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