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THATCamp Games 2013 - Case Western Reserve University
  • 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.

  • Have games will travel


    Many of you have likely seen the list of games out of my library that will be available for play. It’s a decent list, plenty of fantastic games. But, it is not comprehensive. I know there are plenty of favorites absent. If you are planning on bringing a game to play, either during the Friday and Saturday open time, or for the Sunday Open Play Session, please let me know and I’ll add it to the LIST. It would be helpful (i.e., save me time) if you could email a pdf of the rulebook as well fo inclusion in the Rulebook LIBRARY.

    The comments section of this post is also probably as good a place as any to solicit a group to play a particular game.


  • 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.

  • Let’s Talk About the Weather


    It’s funny because it’s true…

    Yep. I’m about to post a link to a forecast that almost has an outside chance of nearly being right. Spin the big weather wheel and you get… A Guess!

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • Session Proposal: What Needs to be in a Pedagogical Game?


    So, I have a game I’ve just finished called A Tragedy in Five Acts, which focuses on the formula of Shakespeare’s tragedies and recreating that through a play experience. I’d like to release a version that’s more specifically geared toward pedagogy, but one of the questions I’m running into is, “what would go into a pedagogical version? Is it even necessary?” I’d like to talk about the difference (if any) between a game intended for entertainment and a game intended for teaching, whether or not there’s anything useful in creating that difference, and what sorts of things that difference might entail.

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