Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pecha Kucha, Resources for Getting Started

The new assignment in INTE 6710 "Creative Designs," is Pecha Kucha. I never heard of it until I took this course. It's essentially 20 slides and 20 seconds of speaking per slide. No fancy animations, moving text, or retro transitions. I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to pull this off without being boring in the process, thus, boring the audience. However I know images and inspiration is a good place to start. It would be nice if I had the time to create 20 beautiful slides, be that photography or graphic design, it's not realistic. In the typical work place there would be creative design and writing departments who could pour hours into this sort of content. Fortunately at this time in digital history there are massive libraries of photos and graphics that are available for use given the correct attribution and license such as creative commons. I don't often look for content like this and I do prefer to make my own images but thanks to some resources I've found on Canva I've found some promising leads and inspiration.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Story Without Words

A photo exercise in telling a story with only 5 photos. What's the story?

(c) Kirk Lunsford 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Graphic Design is WAY More Complex Than Just CARP

This week in INTE 6710 "Creative Designs," our class dove into understanding CARP, or contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity. There are many other deeply embedded meanings in simple graphics that evoke responses in the viewer, even if subconscious or subliminal. There's color, gestalt, symmetry, asymmetry, texture, scale, etc. All these things we pretty much take for granted in the modern era where we are bombarded with imagery, mostly well done thanks to capitalism. Embedded in the psyche of each person living in the modern world is the "taste" or ability to discern what looks good or what looks bad. Just like listening to music, there are rules to be followed and we all know it when we hear a good tune versus a bad one. We may not be able to describe why the music, or the image or design is out tune, but we know a bad design when we see one.

In order to describe visual design to make what works and what does not clear, people living in the modern era should develop some sense of vocabulary and knowledge of these graphic design terms. In fact, anyone who chooses to post original visual works, pictures, videos, drawings, logos, etc. is a media producer. And media producers (anyone) in the modern era has more power than ever to let their voice be heard by what is seen, heard, and distributed across vast networks around the world. This inspires me and amazes me everyday, and is a strong focus in my work.

Last year, about this time, I created a Google + page for Designing To Learn, a brand I came up with while in graduate school, to focus on digital and design literacy. I still use this Google + page with my students both online and face to face. There are tons of valuable resources out there to help us understand design and what makes us "tick" and what "sticks." Today I would like to share that resource as well as a few others that may help us better understand some design terms and theories to help us make an info-graphic in INTE 6710.

Check out the Google + page for Designing to Learn

Three sources to begin to understand design terms and theory:

50 Design Terms Explained Simply For Non-Designers

Simplicity, Symmetry and More: Gestalt Theory And The Design Principles It Gave Birth To

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Designing With CARP in Mind: Analysis of an Example Info-graphic

INTE 6710 Journal Entry 3

Figure 1
For this journal entry, I wanted to look at an example of a successful info-graphic, somewhat related to the subject matter I chose to explore for an info-graphic of my own. I discovered an info-graphic on Pinterest to create awareness and "call to action" World Backup Day 2012. The Pinterest link can be found here and the website link for the original showing of the info-graphic found here. I applied the CARP principles, or contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity. I "marked up" the info-graphic to indicate where we can see CARP. I then broke the info-graphic out into segments to call attention to how each principle was applied.

Fig 1: At the top of the info-graphic we can see alignment and proximity work together to create a text title unit for the info-graphic. This is the largest text on the graphic. Interestingly, in the top corner a logo breaks the alignment and expands off the page. This creates interest and the arrow pointing to "UP" draws the eye in there. This is an example of "breaking the rules" to call attention to something. Indeed just the application of CARP is not enough. Every now and then the rules can be broken to create something dynamic.

Figure 2

Fig 2: Contrast, repetition, and alignment work together to create an array of graphics to demonstrate the differences between frequency of back-ups as people choose to do this daily, weekly, or monthly. The use of these principles in this way quickly communicates the concept: people don't back up enough.

Figure 3

Fig 3: This image shows three different groupings of images and text where principles are applied. We can see contrast and repetition working well to show the scale of the different terms we use to describe memory. Alignment and repetition are used again with the bar graph to show the passage of time and amount of data created per each year. Alignment is very important here to create a fair representation per each bar. Below the bar graph, a collection of graphics showing envelopes, documents, movies, etc. create a proximity grouping to show a unit meaning all types of data.

Figure 4

Fig4: Repetition of the arrows and the piggy bank graphic, as well as the use of scale, are used to demonstrate the difference in amount of money it would take to back up data in 2005 compared to 2011. Contrast and color was used to draw attention to "FOOL" and create emphasis there in efforts to "call to action." That it would be foolish to not backup your data.

The complete info-graphic for viewing without interruption.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Keep Calm and "Sticky" Like a Boss

INTE 6710 Journal Entry 2

After the "SUCCES" exercise this week, inspired by The "SUCCES" checklist, by Chip & Dan Heath, or "Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story,  I was able to narrow down the catch phrase for the infographic to be "Keep calm and save on (the right way!)," or "Save like a boss avoid data loss."

The first phrase, "Keep calm..." seems somewhat trending in social media. Interestingly, the term originated from British propaganda during the beginning of the second world war (hence the crown) often seen. The original phrase was "Keep calm and carry on." The wikipedia entry and original poster can be seen here: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. To get some idea of how this propaganda phrase has exploded in social media, just check out this Pinterest search on the phrase.

The second phrase, "Save like a boss avoid data loss," is catchy, leet, and rhythmic. There are some "sticky" components embedded and "like a boss..." is trendy. This phrase can be seen on social media as caption for thousands of memes. To get an idea, here's what came up on Pinterest for "Like a boss." For this expression, "Like a boss," we turn to Urban Dictionary to help figure out the origin and meaning. For everyone's viewing pleasure, I've included the "Like a Boss" SNL skit as seen on YouTube. It's the clean version because the uncensored is really NSFW!

With the ties to social media and culture, as well as humor appropriate for college-aged or adult students I think the "Like a boss" phrase has some potential given the audience. It adds a humor element to an already possibly stressful environment, the computer lab. Similarly, "Keep calm..." also acts to subdue, or remind students to chill out and get it done right. I'm excited to explore both ideas some more before moving into more detail.

"Made To Stick, Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die." Heath, Chip; Heath Dan. Random House 2007-2008.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

INTE 6710 "Creative Designs" Ideation Journal Entry 1

So I need to make an info-graphic for a graduate class assignment. I'm also an instructor of CAD and design and I'm shocked at the poor work and saving habits of most students in the labs or classrooms. I'm sure I'm not the only instructor who has had students drop due to "losing data" or computer files. To help remedy this, why not make an info-graphic to post in the labs and classrooms to remind students about the best ways to save and back up their data?

After reading week one reading assignments, I was really engaged in the process and analysis of ways to make ideas "stick." The "SUCCES" checklist, by Chip & Dan Heath, or "Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story was a great way to help me think through some "one liners" or catch phrases to introduce the info-graphic to my audience. I used the checklist to create an ideation exercise for myself to present ten different catch phrases and info-graphic ideas. I think there are a couple that are "sticky." What do you think? How do they rate in terms of "SUCCES"?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Learning Reflections of Games and Learning Part 3

For the final learning reflection in Games & Learning course INTE 5320 with Associate Professor Remi Holden I have selected a few things to highlight based on key participation this semester. Works featured include blog posts, annotations via, and affinity space participation and presentation.
I chose to highlight the Hearthstone play journal blog entry for many reasons, but primarily to share what I learned about crafting a game and the value of affinity spaces to learn how to play a game well, or competitively. I learned that this game is relatively easy to play, however at a certain point the player inevitably hits a brick wall and must turn to affinity spaces to come up with deck crafting strategies. Or, risk being so frustrated the player quits. I made it over the “curve” and turned to affinity spaces to learn how to play the game competitively. The affinity spaces I participated in were both nurturing and essential to understanding game mechanics and strategies better. “Expert knowledge is pooled”, game decks are curated by professional players (Gee 2008). Newbies have opportunities to try these decks out and critique their play experience. This is the most critical example from Gee and Hayes that was experienced in the affinity spaces associated with Hearthstone. I discovered that I have never played a game that required reliance on the affinity space and much as Hearthstone.

Annotation via this semester was one of the greatest challenges and greatest rewards. The best benefit to using was the ability to directly express inquiry and discussion to the highlighted text in the document freely. This was more engaging than perhaps a Canvas discussion, but the “open” quality made it somewhat less mentally freeing because of self doubt or wanting to look “smart.” Overall, the peer interactions and inquiry changed the way I looked at discovering critical concepts in course literature. Additionally, I discovered a few ways to be more “loose” with annotation rather than Canvas discussion because of the nature of the medium. However this took some getting used to, the experience ultimately changed the way I imagined theory, literature, and peer interaction as it comes together.

Reflecting upon the affinity space project for Unity Community, I experienced many things through participation. Through observation, I was able to notice how members engaged the space, and who was contributing the most, and how they were contributing. When I contributed to the space, I was able to see what members actually responded to best. I also noticed personal growth in myself. I learned some interesting things about game design, focus, time management. These are all things I can relate to as student and professional worker interested in games and gaming cultures.

As I experienced personal growth by participation in the affinity space, it became clear to me the value of learning in an informal setting such as an affinity space. Perhaps the most valuable characteristic of nurturing affinity spaces I experienced was a connection to John Sealy Brown and personal trajectories by committed involvement in an affinity space or informal setting. I shared this connection with the space, although I don’t think it was very relatable to them as their focus was on games. I hope a few members did watch the video I linked and appreciated some connection to their personal learning.

GEE, J. P. & HAYES E, Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Unity Community Affinity Space Project Presentation

The affinity space project featuring Unity Community as part of INTE 5320 Games & Learning, UC Denver. Please provide comments here in the blog and for review.

Please respond to at least one question from each of the following question sets aligned to the criteria of our affinity space project.

A. Observing the affinity space:
  • What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
  • What does it mean to be an insider? How do you know? And how would you describe this space to an outsider?
  • What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?

B. Contributing to the affinity space:
  • How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
  • How did other members of the affinity space respond?
  • How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time? And why?
  • What insight about games (and games and learning) did your peer learn through her/his contributions?

C. Reflecting upon affinity space participation:
  • What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
  • What does your peer perceive to be the limitations of this space?
  • How did your peer learn about games and learning?
  • How was learning social, collaborative, and/or contested?
  • How would you describe your peer’s experience learning in another setting (i.e. not Canvas, not a “classroom”) as complementary to our other course activities?

D. Connecting affinity space participation to literature and theory:
  • What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
  • What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
  • What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Who Are Some Key Members of Unity Community?

The Structure of Unity Community

Unity community is an expansive affinity space for members interested in all things Unity. There are approximately 32 threads ranging in topics from “Getting Started” to “Commercial: Job Offering.” The affinity space is so large, I have only focused on a few topics like “Game Design” and “Works in Progress.” I just sort of dived right in to see what sort of things people are posting and talking about without exploring the overall structure. After living in the space for some time, I’m starting to look around and notice some systems in place to better analyze who’s contributing, who’s visiting the space, and how members are measured.

At the top of the forums menu there is a button to click “members” which takes the user to a new page that displays members based on number of messages. These members are listed from the most posts to the least. A user can also click on”most likes,” “most points,” or “staff members.” All of these categories seem useful except “points” is not currently being fully utilized as everyone has 10 points. Although”points” seems like it would be a way to “gamify” an affinity space dedicated to gamers and developers, perhaps it is not being used because members think it might be cliché or they can see through what some might deem as “bullshit” (Bogost 2011). Most posts, and most likes seems to be the best way to currently analyze who is contributing to the affinity space. I’d like to know more about them.

The Three Most Notable Members in Unity Community

Based on the most current number of posts, I have discovered three “Notable Members” in Unity Community: Eric5h5, Dreamora, and Hippocoder. Hippocoder also has the most “likes” so I have ignored the “like” category for now to focus on these three active members based on the quantity of messages, assuming there may be some overlap with the number of “likes.” 

When I click on Eric5h5’s profile, I can see he has listed a website and links to some of his add-ons for Unity. It also shows “moderator” in his profile which would explain a large quantity of posts. He seems to be a programmer, although there is not much personal info listed on either his Unity profile or web page. The web page seems to feature his add-ons, which can be purchased, most dominantly. His news thread features bug fixes and mini-patches to his software. Perhaps his addons are frequently used which would necessitate having this bug or patch info readily available? Overall the website is clean but somewhat cheesy with stars and neon glow (kind of like Star Wars) but things like this are somewhat typical for those of the programmer variety.

Dreamora’s profile stands out from most others in the space because he included a picture of himself (I’m assuming) rather than a graphic or avatar. Avatar’s are common in gaming spaces so using a picture can be a bold move. What does it mean when someone includes a picture of themselves? Does this make them seem more professional in this space? In most other websites including an actual portrait of oneself is usually seen as professional, so I will assume that much may be true. When I click on Dreamora’s link to his website, I am greeted with some thoughtful words:
“I strongly believe that it is on us, the current generation, the set the paths to empower our kids and the following generations to achieve greater things than we ever could think of. As a ‘technology geek’ and a software developer, I strive to do so through technology, especially through ground breaking and highly empowering technologies that build upon augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and the open, easy to access technology of the web.”
Dreamora seems to think of himself as an educator by these words, and I can see he has a “learning” button on his website to link to the official Unity tutorials and he curates a “” page dedicated to “Unity Game Engine News, Informations & Learning Material.” This is essentially the same as the “Networked Learning Space” project in INTE 5665 for those UC Denver students familiar with that assignment. Dreamora is an “Interactive Media Engineer,” that has situated himself as an instructor or educator in Unity Community.

Hippocoder is also a moderator for Unity Community. His website SimianSquared is a British developer. The website does not feature much other than a large graphic and links to a couple of games created by SimianSquared. It’s hard to tell by this how Hippocoder is situated in Unity Community, but assuming he created these games, or a portion of them, he’s probably pretty talented. I needed to dig deeper so I check out his most recent posts by clicking on the link to this in his profile. I can see several posts in the “DOOM, are you excited?” thread so I went there to check out what he was saying. Hippocoder seems to recall the good old days of DOOM and says:
“Give me the retro classic turbo charged, or I may as well just buy a different game TBH. I won't be buying this one.”
Hippocoder in this case has positioned himself as a critic. And if he’s played the original DOOM when it came out, that would potentially put him in his late twenties to thirties. This possibly positions himself as a gaming veteran who’s seen it and done it all at least once, maybe 4-5 times in the case of sequels. I’ve also seen just as many posts where Hippocoder positions himself in technical inquiry. Needless to say it seems he is well rounded and versed enough to be a valued member of Unity Community.

Being a valued member
Given the above profiles and assumptions made by provided info, there are several ways to go about being a productive and essential member to Unity Community. However, it’s critical to be seen as credible and useful. It can be seen in postings from each member that they are savy enough to contribute to technical conversations. Each member also seems to be a veteran gamer offering critique on current video game industry products and happenings. They also seem to provide mostly nurturing commentary when it comes to advice. Although the occasional heated discussion, like that of the latest DOOM product, does reveal some mild flaming but not necessarily at other members but figures in the industry or developers instead. I look forward to learning more about how these community members are situated in Unity Community as the affinity space project comes to a close.

Bogost, Ian, “Gamification is Bullshit,” (2011)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Being a Hero of The Storm

Play Journal Entry #5
As part of the Games and Learning course and study with University of Colorado Denver Information and Learning Technologies Master’s program, students will participate in both shared and individual play sessions. These play sessions are part of “learning by doing” and reflection necessary to understand what it means to be a learner through playing games. The play journals are a synthesis of scholarship and reflection on play per the chosen game.

How would you describe the social context of Heroes of the Storm, and how did this inform what it meant to play?

Game: Heroes of the Storm
Platform: PC (battlenet download)
Genre/type: RTS, action hero. Free to play microtransaction.
Players: Multi-player online or with AI players
Game familiarity: I have watched media about this game for a few years. I have only played it infrequently for 6 months. I still consider myself a “newb.”

I have not played this game with other players, only AI players as teammates and opponents. I would like to explore multiplayer matches with humans and a means for voice communication at some point. I don’t really feel comfortable doing this however until I explore more of the game and learn the shortcut keys and various nuances. I would also like to watch some YouTube video tutorials and read some articles about strategies and other game mechanics. The game does a pretty good job at guiding the player through a match, however there is a lot going on simultaneously so it’s relatively hard to follow all things.

The game universe is centered around Blizzard entertainment products. If you are a player new to Blizzard you may wonder how this odd combination of heroes and villains came together. I think Blizzard addresses this by providing a trailer for each hero or villain. For veteran Blizzard fans the game serves as a fantasy mashup with humorous elements. To play this game you should be familiar with the class types or roles, which are rather typical for Blizzard. Players may also need to have a basic understanding of the objectives of each battleground. Some knowledge of the maps helps as well. The website ultimately suggests to play the tutorials in game first before seeking too much information via the Heroes of the Storm website. Like any RTS, especially one developed by Blizzard who has a history of successful RTS games like Warcraft 1-3, players expect a solid tutorial experience which I believe Heroes of the Storm delivers.

What - if anything - did you learn during this particular play of Heroes of the Storm, and what lessons (more generally) does the game teach?

During this play test, I played with AI set to “adept” setting. I played as E.T.C in the Dragon Shire. I like to play E.T.C. “Rock God” because he is rated high in the survivability category. Otherwise I probably would have died more. The respawn timer can be long at times so it’s annoying to wait for resurrection. In the Dragon Shire players have to hold the two dragon shrines (north and south sides of map) then a player has to activate the dragon in the center of the map. This is hard with AI players because I cannot tell the AI to stay at one shrine or another to defend while I take the middle, or devise any sort of strategy. Instead I have to predict what my AI teammates will do then fill in the gaps. I did not get to activate the first dragon in the match. The opposing team did and I defended it fair enough. I did however win the other two dragons and I won the match on the third dragon spawn. I thought for sure I was going to lose after I lost the first dragon because I could not communicate with the AI. However I didn’t give up, perseverance lead to victory.

So what did I learn?
  • To understand strategies to win map objectives
  • Reminded of short cut keys by in game tutorials
  • Predictive play based on AI
  • Basic talent building as leveling
  • Basic ability rotation based on cooldowns and various types of skirmishes

Critique Heroes of the Storm: What established constraints, or "game mechanics" (such as specific rules systems), inhibited alternative forms of learning or creative expression? Yet why do these constraints matter?

Heroes of the Storm has many constraints based on the battleground and hero talents and abilities. These are important because it helps pace gameplay and balance team progression through a map. Understanding how these mechanics work are critical to successful advancement. I did not read up on any talents for E.T.C. but I picked what felt right to me at the time. When a hero levels up during the match, a player can choose talents to gain abilities. This happens quickly and frequently in the match and in the middle of action. It is hard to read about these talents and continue with the action simultaneously. It would be strategic to read up on talent specifications in combination with other heroes as teammates. I also forgot the short cut keys since last I played so I kept forgetting to mount up with “Z” and hearth back to my base with “B.” The in game tutorial kept on reminding me to mount up. This was mostly helpful and mildly annoying. I also don’t feel like I had set ability rotation down, I just used my abilities whenever they were not on cooldown. I’m sure with more practice and time to understand these abilities I could be more effective.

From our second or third cycle of course readings: What one reading - and specific idea - do you find most relevant to playing, and perhaps learning with/from, Heroes of the Storm? And why?

The primary reason why I wanted to play Heroes of the Storm was to compare my experiences in a modern, action packed, arcade-like RTS versus what I can recall from RoN and Warcraft II and III in comparison to Gee “Situated Language and Learning” (Gee 2004). Gee describes his experiences in RoN and Warcraft III and ultimately admits his failings, yet describes how incredible RTS games are at capturing learning scenarios. He describes game play in RTS games like moving through a “supervised fish tank” and how information is always given “just in time” (Gee 2004). I experienced this while playing Heroes of the Storm in a ways that were very appealing for learning. Such as, the game reminding me to mount up by using the shortcut key “Z.” The button would flash and “Uther,” the tutorial narrator, would also emote this with voice. The use of auditory and visual feedback in combination with play at the right time, allows learning to be reinforced in ways not necessarily possible in typical learning scenarios. Gee also discusses game experiences in contrast to typical schooling scenarios. Such as players being able to self assess in very formative ways on time and task, versus in school, you may have to turn in your homework before any assessment is given (Gee 2004). I would recommend this game to anyone who wants to experience the ultimate action packed in-game tutorial.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Learning Reflections of Games & Learning Part 2

Understanding of games and learning

During cycles 4-5 in the Games & Learning course at UC Denver, the way in which I think about games, gaming cultures, and affinity spaces have been transformed. Most of the research conducted during this phase has been on gender issues surrounding gaming culture. Topics about gender in game cultures are interesting to me for several reasons. Firstly, I am a white male who is privileged to be positioned in gaming culture as the dominant “norm.” However I do not identify with dominant white heteronormative culture. None the less, just by being present in some gaming communities, one could assume that I would or could perpetuate sexist or biased notions by being privileged as such. Because of this, it is very important that I do understand these issues. And as an educator, especially in settings where I may be implementing game based learning scenarios, it’s critical to exemplify fairness and equality and understand gender issues that may come to light during game play and gaming community experiences.

Secondly, I teach courses in a program where females make up approximately 95% of the student body. I don’t think this will be the case throughout my career but it certainly matters to me in how I am perceived as being a male instructor to a female dominant class. And how does the influence of the male instructor and perhaps one male student in a classroom of 16 change the dynamic? If I were to implement some GBL in these classrooms, would gender issues arise based on gameplay and subjects in the games? Based on minimal research I would suspect “yes” as it’s fairly easy to assume most games are created by males who are mostly ignorant to gender issues. Thus, likely to perpetuate tropes against women. And would the culture in the classroom assume some things based on the prevalent male culture in gaming media and communities? Like men assuming they would be better prepared to play games than women because of the association with gaming and dominant male culture. Or perhaps some students would be involved in affinity spaces or modding communities. It’s possible they may face some discrimination or biases based on gender identity. It’s especially important to understand these scenarios as they are likely to come to light at some point in time during game based learning situations.

My latest research, as well as cycle 4 readings have helped me explore gender in more detail as can be seen in two blog posts and ongoing annotated discussions via open course texts.

Will Video Games Become "Gender Neutral"?

The Sims 2 and Gender, Not so "Nurturing"

Peer Networking to improve learning

Through both peer play sessions, and social networking, mostly via Twitter and blogging, my understanding of games and learning has been enhanced this term. Although during the phase in the course in which this reflection concerns, I have done less networking via Twitter than before. Instead the focus in networking has been on the affinity space, Unity Community, and supporting sites and blogs. However I have not abandoned Twitter, I still used it to network in different ways with less educational focused individuals, and rather, gamers and game developers. Using the hash tag #gamedev and #unity3d has helped me acquire some followers and helped me introduce myself to indie game developers. Some people have asked me to check out their game and give them some feed back, etc. I’ve also met some friendly bots who have helped broadcast my messages.
I have also reached out to Curtiss Murphy, a moderator for Unity Community (otherwise known as Gigiwoo) “Game Design” forum, via Twitter, Unity Community forums, and his website blog. I have also reached out to some other members of Unity Community. Although so far the discussions have appeared somewhat one sided (no one has directly responded to me) I have learned about community members via their resources and profile pages. I have learnt how Curtiss Murphy in particular is situated in Unity Community as a veteran game designer. He has numerous resources on his website for members interested in learning more about game design. Such as his game design zen podcast and associated blog discussion. Several of Curtiss’s podcasts have helped me learn about game design and in general life issues around the games business. The podcasts also shows how Curtiss is situated as a mentor and game design veteran for Unity Community. This networking, although one sided and observatory, is a big part of understanding game communities and affinity spaces.
There are three blog posts associated with ongoing developments with the affinity space project for the course:

My Affinity With Unity 3D

Situated Learning As a Member of Unity Community

Is Unity Community a Nurturing Affinity Space?

What can I do to improve engagement in the affinity space project?

Becoming a participatory member of Unity Community has been interesting. There are many forums covering many topics with many threads. The threads seem to mostly be about an individual problem or topic rather than general concerns. Because of this, it seems like engagement by users is limited to 1-2 comments per thread, then they move on. Some comments are never addressed as users tend to skip over some postings to focus on another. Not because a particular post was off topic or “trolling” necessarily, but because there are other, more comments to address maybe more interesting. I have commented in detail on several threads but I have not received any direct responses. I am not sure if this is because of lack of interest about what I am saying? Or if the forum thread is “dead?” Maybe my profile does not indicate enough “status” or credibility for someone to take note? My next approach to improve engagement may be to say less in a post but post more times to several different people. I may also try to create an asset or idea about a game or game object and allow members to critique this. By taking the next step and producing artifacts for the community to consume I do believe I can become a more “included” community member.

What are my curiosities about games and learning moving forward?

As I move neck deep into the affinity space project, I'm really curious to learn more about Unity Community members and what drives them to participate. What do they learn about games and game creation by engagement in the space? There are a few filters in the interface for Unity Community to search for profiles based on number of postings, likes, etc. I would like to take a more in depth look at these users with the most amount of posts and see how they are situated in the space. Are they currently employed as a game developer? Are they a hobbyist? Do they work for Unity as a moderator or community enthusiast? How did they become so involved with Unity Community? By being extremely active members I’m sure there will be some evidence to demonstrate what these members are learning about games and games creation. I’m interested to find out if there are some particular things that are explored more in depth, as it concerns games and learning, by creating games or games assets than what could be experienced through playing a game only. Ultimately, I would like this inquisitive focus to allow me to explore more completely the affinity space project and round out the experience to be presented towards the end of this month.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Sims 2 and Gender, Not so "Nurturing"

The continued scholarship and research, as part of the Games and Learning course at UC Denver, has lead me to explore adult learning, simulations, and gender and identity as it concerns gaming. For the most part, videogames and gaming cultures have been the focus. While I searched for articles related to these topics I discovered “Gender and Identity in Game-Modifying Communities” by Hanna Wirman in the Simulation & Gaming journal as part of Sage journals published in 2014. In this article Hanna describes her research based on email interviews with THE SIMS 2 players in Finland. She also described how the media received THE SIMS 2. Finally, Hanna discussed the marginalization of THE SIMS 2 players (Wirman 2014, 71). Hanna wrote her Phd. dissertation on “Playing The Sims 2” so you can bet this article is an incredible resource on the subject. I was interested to see how Hanna presented her research findings compared to what was “nurturing” in “Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game Based Learning” by Gee.

Compelled to learn about THE SIMS and gender

Reading about THE SIMS 2 and gender is interesting because I’m oddly situated as a white male gamer whose profession is teaching and practicing interior design, a profession dominated by women. Before that I made games for a living, a profession dominated by men (especially when I was making games), and I don’t consider myself in any way shape or form a typical white hetero normal male. I have two students this semester that have talked about playing THE SIMS before seeking a degree program for interior design. For them it was the first step into some basic design and digital literacies including modding. One of the students is male, the other is female which is also interesting. Although I’ve been a gamer and part of gaming culture all of my life, I have not looked deeply into peeling away the layers of the onion to discover what many would suggest a culture dominated, and in some ways exclusive to, white male heterosexuals. The analysis Hanna provided in this article makes it much easier see these layers and subversive dimensions as THE SIMS 2 players and modders.

THE SIMS 2 in a male dominated gaming culture

Although THE SIMS 2 was a very successful game, journalist did not seem to know exactly how to handle it’s popularity. It’s a game deemed by popular culture to be dominated by the feminine domain and likened to “dollhouse” play. This poses a problem for media outlets dominated by male culture as the product is seemingly deemed “too feminine” for proper coverage (Wirman 2014, 74). Males admittedly playing, or wanting to play, THE SIMS 2 suffer emasculation at the hands of peers and society because of established gender roles associated with heteronormativity. Hanna described how one of her respondents reacts to her question:

HW: Why do you think they [male school mates] haven’t played [THE SIMS
games] themselves?
Player 5: I assume they just haven’t bothered to try, exactly because it is considered
a “girls” game, it would make them look somehow “sissy” in their friends’ eyes (Wirman 2014, 75).
Hanna went on to describe how playing THE SIMS does not earn the player much credibility or “capital” as a gamer. Because the game is devalued as such by being “too feminine” and not something seemingly more masculine like a first person shooter (Wirman 2014, 76).

“Skinning” as modding discredited

THE SIMS 2 supports and encourages modding and there are several types of modding communities. I first read about this in “Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game Based Learning” by Gee. As Gee refers to affinity spaces about The Sims as shining examples of nurturing affinity spaces. What I did not learn by Gee and Hayes work was how modding, in particular by skinning, in THE SIMS 2 was considered within gaming communities to be a lesser form of modding. Hanna described this as “not fitting into the hacking paradigm.” Why? Hanna seems to suggest because skinning typically only addresses visual and aesthetic appearances, often deemed a more feminine form of modding. Where as coding or otherwise dramatically changing the way a game is played by hacking is considered more masculine in nature and typified by white male culture. Thus, devaluing skinning in THE SIMS modding communities. Is it women are more inclined to enjoy skinning and be less interested in coding because skinning may be thought of as feminine domain? Is it possible girls are not as reinforced in schooling as boys in math and engineering so that they would be more inclined to coding? There may be some truth there, but ultimately, Hanna suggests modding such as skinning (in THE SIMS 2) involves “taste,” in particular taste for fashion and home decoration which lends this form of modding to be discredited due to apparent feminine traits. (Wirman 2014, 83).

Marginalization of The Sims players

Hanna described the way in which the rest of the world received THE SIMS 2 similarly to the Finnish reception. THE SIMS players are marginalized both locally to Finland and globally. Most players that play THE SIMS do so exclusively which works to alienate them in more general gaming cultures (Wirman 2014, 87). Overall the description of THE SIMS 2 Hanna provided was a nice contrast to the more optimistic nurturing view Gee offers. To learn more about Hanna and to see her dissertation on THE SIMS 2, check out Hanna’s website.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Is Unity Community a Nurturing Affinity Space?

BingoBob Profile

"I don't know what I don't know. Thanks for being patient with this newb." -BingoBob

A newb’s question

After spending some time getting acquainted with Unity Community, particularly the members of the “Game Design” forum, I started to dig into some analysis of this affinity space. Is it nurturing in a similar sense that Gee refers to in “Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game Based Learning?” In seeking the answer to this question I wanted to see how a newb, BingoBob, was treated when he posed a common and important question: “What do I do with my great game Idea?” Often times this is the question that irks someone enough to wonder if they should make games. Unity, being an engine very popular for learning how to make games or game assets by use of it’s software and learning tools means it’s a good place for newbs to get started. BingoBob’s question overall was received well, however a part of his statement opened him up to some mild flaming, and certainly, some sarcasm. BoredMormon says: “Just throw it away. It’s a rubbish idea anyway.” His sentiments captured a recurring theme in the thread that no one wants to pay for ideas, they want to pay for a playable experience. In other words, a working prototype of a game. Ideas are a dime a dozen.

Hard work is expected

Making games takes specialized skills, knowledge, and experience to do it well. But BingoBob said: “I've messed around with Blender and Unity and researched what assets I would need to execute this plan but I just lack the skill and experience. And I really don't want to do all that work.” This statement, although honest, just insulted a community of creators in the Unity Community. You are expected to be working at something. Usually something niche and specialized being programming, art, design, or all of the above. BingoBob seems to struggle with this. Even Gigiwoo, a moderator, jumps in with a few choice words but ultimately reminds him “Like anything worth doing, it takes years of try, improve, and repeat. The answers to your questions are here.” Gigiwoo uses his design zen podcast to help reinforce his stance on the statement and with the provided link. Ultimately this is nurturing and establishes Gigiwoo as a community member who knows.

How did I respond to the question?

I added my own advice to BingoBob in the thread establishing myself as a gamer and educator and relating to his struggle:

Bingo Bob,
I'm with you in some ways. I often think of ideas for new games or experiences out of my own interest. Sometimes I get so excited about an idea and I start exploring ways in which I can create this experience. What I usually find out, is that I never have all of the skills needed to produce what I envision. This can be discouraging of course, but what it lead me to was finding others who are good at things that I am not. And through the process of connecting with others, I've also found that I enjoy talking about games, playing games with others, and experimenting / playing other people’s games concepts or mods and critiquing that experience more than I enjoy making assets for games. You may find some similar things about yourself once you dive into a community, such as you've done here in Unity Community. So have you thought about being more exploratory in nature rather than executive? Surround yourself with people who enjoy making games, share and critique your experiences. Dive into Unity and a find a specialized niche you would like to explore. Make a mod and share it with others. Seek out local game companies and see if they are looking for testers. Essentially, get involved first, see what you find out about yourself and games. What will your trajectory be?
Have you checked out a local Unity group you may meetup with in person?
User Groups
I'm an educator, here's where I'm coming from with my advice to you:
John Seely Brown on Motivating Learners (Big Thinkers Series)

Joining participatory cultures

I have not seen a response to my posting however I think it’s sound advice and I hope to inspire others by the John Seely Brown video that was linked. In my experiences as an educator and student I always think back to those times where a teacher was able to take a look at me and see my struggles and get into my head to motivate me. Perhaps BingoBob is capable of producing games inspired by his ideas but he’s struggling to make the commitment? The responses in the thread proves there are many people in the community who want to offer advice and help freely. It’s definitely a nurturing affinity space, we are trying to get BingoBob to join us in our commitment to learning how to effectively create games. Many times taking that leap to join others is the hardest part.

Gee, James Paul; Hayes, Elisabeth; “Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning.” (2008)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Situated Learning As a Member of Unity Community

Unity Community, an affinity space for all things Unity and game development is a robust online space with many forums. The study of this space, as part of the University of Colorado Games and Learning Course, is just one of many things cooking in the fire of learning ecology. We have our own interest-driven research, participation in course readings through shared annotation via, we have our play sessions, and play journals or other blog posts. As a participant of the chosen affinity space, I am shaped by these various means of simultaneous learning and production. I am not participating in the affinity space as a typical person looking for self-improvement through production of games or game assets, rather my participation so far is more of observation and research. The depth of topics and technology involved in this space is incredibly vast. Therefore, I have chosen to focus on “Game Design,” “Teaching,” and “Works in Progress” forums.

Identity and influence

My initial participation was with the Game Design forum. I posted a comment in the “Clicker Games” thread. But there has not been too much activity there. However, by looking more closely at the thread, and the “Game Design” forum, I discovered Gigiwoo as the moderator. When I looked at his profile, I was able to find out more about him on his web page I was surprised to find a number of resources for game design including “Game Design Zen” podcasts and YouTube videos. There is also a comments section on his web page for each podcast where more discussion can be seen. This is a reminder of the multilayered depth many affinity spaces involve. There’s the forum itself in the affinity space, an avatar and user that interacts with the affinity space, then the person behind this persona and their own website or resources and discussion there. It’s important to understand how others are situated in the affinity space when interacting. Some members may be more inclined to game production, others to theory, others are just starting out looking for direction, and many other possible scenarios. It’s also crucial to pick out certain members as key participants to understand why they are situated this way in the space, and what they offer to the community. In the case of Gigiwoo, he acts as a mentor for design theory and discussion as a video game industry veteran with a lot of experience. And as moderator, he has the ability to spread his influence and direct discussions.

I wanted to see what Gigiwoo is all about. So I started listening to his podcasts because the topics genuinely peaked my interest. I initially had my guard up about this because some focus of the affinity space itself is removed by being a participant on another website or affinity space, although related to Unity Community. However I thought listening to these podcasts were critical to understand how the moderator of the “Design” forum is situated. Where is he coming from? What does he do? What topics concern him? How does this influence Unity Community? Some of the podcast topics are directly related to games development, some are related to life issues around games and quality of work, and other topics are more abstract theory about games. Of course, topics directly related to games are interesting, however I found topics more about life, focus, and quality of work to be most applicable to me as a person situated in the affinity space.

What I learned about myself and how I am situated

As a learner, a non-traditional adult student, with a full time job, a part time job, and a student in a graduate course. As a gamer, artist, designer and participant in an affinity space ̶ it’s a lot to juggle! The podcast “20: How Do You Do it? Three Tips For Getting Things Done,” really made me think about my habits and how I “do it.” I never really assessed myself in these ways. Moving through life assuming more and more responsibilities and interests, on top of profound levels of communication, phone calls, texts, instant messages, forums, social media,, emails, etc. there are many ways to get distracted. Thinking about “quality of work - all work is not the same,” and “focus” was a wonderful reminder about how I should spend my time. Perhaps these are good things for Unity enthusiasts and developers and people getting started in games to consider? It definitely speaks to me and participants in the thread dedicated to Game Design Zen podcasts in the Unity “Game Design” forums.

Understanding identity

The point is, in an affinity space like Unity Community, it’s easy to interact with someone in a forum, but there is so much more to discover by learning how key members are situated, and reflecting on yourself as a member of the space. What do I have to offer to this community? What will others expect from me based on the information I provide with how I am situated? Being aware of these things can help myself and others be conscious of the identity crafted by interaction in the space. By picking out topics and discussions concerning specific things where I can offer my expertise will help shape this identity. I hope to create some sense of this before the affinity space project is completed. I’m looking forward to learning more about how my own identity will take shape and how others have created an identity in Unity Community.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

What’s it Like Being a Game Dev Tycoon?

Play Journal Entry #4

As part of the Games and Learning course and study with University of Colorado Denver Information and Learning Technologies Master’s program, students will participate in both shared and individual play sessions. These play sessions are part of “learning by doing” and reflection necessary to understand what it means to be a learner through playing games. The play journals are a synthesis of scholarship and reflection on play per the chosen game.

How would you describe the social context of Game Dev Tycoon, and how did this inform what it meant to play?

Game: Game Dev Tycoon
Platform: PC (Steam download)
Genre/type: Sim, strategy, indie, casual
Players: Single player
Game familiarity: None! Until I browsed for games on Steam, a computer platform for game purchases, play, and social interaction. A few past co-worker and game developers “own” the game according to Steam social network so I decided to give it a try. Good reviews on Steam also helped me make a decision to purchase along with the $4.99 price. Although many of the reviews were sarcastic critiques on games and game development, it still seemed enjoyable. I would expect nothing less from the Steam community.

If you are a person interested in this product you are probably a game developer, aspiring game developer, or a person interested in gaming business development, or learning. The game is text based with limited interface and choices which determine various outcomes. I decided to start a company with a cheesy, but catchy name, called “Ultrasoft.” The cleverness of this seemed to work well with the writing in the game.

What - if anything - did you learn during this particular play of Game Dev Tycoon, and what lessons (more generally) does the game teach?

I was really interested in trying this game out of interest in adult learning and to experience a simulation about business development. The subject of the game, game development, is also of interest to myself and the affinity space which I am participating in for the affinity space project, “Unity Community.” I have worked on games before as an artist, so I have some familiarity with the game subject matter, however I only have a myopic view from those experiences. The game uses a historical context with references only a shave off of “reality.” Such as, literally showing pictures of consoles or platforms that look just like a Nintendo or Playstation, but instead, they would be named something like “Playsystem.” Of course, I have some familiarity with this history being a child of the 80’s and 90’s, as can be seen in an introductory blog post for this course about how I am situated as a video game player. As I marched through the development choices each time I created a new game to develop, I referred to what I knew about successful games in history. This is interesting, because had I not grown up during that time, how would I be so familiar with possible combinations that would be successful for the market? The game allows you to “generate game report,” after you complete a game and to give the player a better idea of what combos work or what attributes are not as advantageous for the particular genre. I played the game until I earned just over a million dollars and moved out of my garage and into an office. I hired two employees and trained them then released a few games. Invites to “G3” started coming in along with potential publisher deals. At this point the game started to get a little overwhelming, but it painted a pretty realistic picture of what it might be like to see what things come into play as a developer. The game does a really good job at simulating game development from a general perspective in a historical context.

Critique Game Dev Tycoon: What established constraints, or "game mechanics" (such as specific rules systems), inhibited alternative forms of learning or creative expression? Yet why do these constraints matter?

Although the game does very well at text based simulation, I wish the game had a little bit more personalization involved. It would be neat to personalize the office space. Perhaps game posters about the games that you made, or notes on a white board. Maybe the ability to walk around in third person to walk over to other employees? What if you could create a dialogue with an employee, fan, or other interested party with a more expressive character? These things all have the potential to add a layer of depth to the game that would allow users to be more invested in the story of their game company. However, because the game lacks some of the typical personalization and character development qualities, it allows for quick play. You can quickly generate games, engines, and research without having to deal with fluffy dialogue. I found this to be relatable to articles about Muzzy Lane reasearch and non-traditional learners. Or adult learners with limited amounts of time. Students like these are interested in accessibility and available time to spend in a game. It’s very easy to access, create a scenario or two, and reflect on the results of that experiment. I found this could be applied to other types of employment or business scenarios that could be helpful for adult learners. Educational games for professions that involve human resources, project management, or scientific research could benefit from running simulations in a similar fashion. It helps players reflect on cause and effect relationships and resource management. These things are of utmost importance for many professions but seldom do students have opportunities to experiment or take risks in the “real world.”

My Achievements for Game Dev Tycoon

From our second or third cycle of course readings: What one reading - and specific idea - do you find most relevant to playing, and perhaps learning with/from, Game Dev Tycoon? And why?

How does this game relate to the course readings thus far? I’m really struggling with this answer as most of the readings refer to “children” or “young people,” when clearly a simulation such as this captures a more adult perspective. It’s not networked play other than through Steam. Steam does share achievements with people in my friends list or people who look me up. But the achievements have not brought up any social interactions about the game. I have not referred to any affinity spaces about this game either. It really does not directly relate to any core readings thus far but perhaps cycle 5 and 6 readings will? I think the most relevant connection would be to adult learning scenarios and Muzzy Lane research that was a topic of discussion earlier this year. I’m really excited to have played this game and I hope to apply what I learned to the games and learning course and to games I may develop for adult learning scenarios.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Will Video Games Become "Gender Neutral"?

Wikipedia "Women and Video Games"

In cycle 4 of INTE 5320 at University of Colorado Denver Games & Learning course, we started to look at gender and sexism in gaming culture. Although the focus of my research in addition to the course materials, has been on adult learning up to this point, I have chosen to dig deeper into the issues surrounding females in gaming. As opposed to critiquing a single article or document, I found a Wikipedia entry for “Women and Video Games” to be very informative and rather comprehensive. The entry has cited several sources of interest, some of which I am already familiar with, such as the ESA statistical information and works by Ian Bogost. I think it’s important to assess the statistical information in addition to contemporary issues as to avoid generalizations that may not be fair or accurate. Through this research I’m interested to see if I can connect the dots between gender and videogames and how this relates to learning with video games and contemporary issues.

A cultural shift

As with most video games, a player typically assumes a virtual identity in order to enact scenarios to progress through the game. These roles are typically of male gender, and when they are not, perhaps the female character is over sexualized. Claims of this are evident in games like Tomb Raider. However more recent games (and other types of games) have offered more variety of characters to choose from such as online role playing games like World of Warcraft. The Wikipedia entry also uses a historical context for video games as a product or medium marketed to boys and how this has changed over time. Perhaps the result of this has created a lingering effect on the culture of video games as being “boy” oriented. When we look at the statistics from several different studies from the 1980’s to present day, we can see a cultural shift in video games from predominately male, to practically, evenly split interest between genders. However, some within gaming culture are resistant to this change. Regardless, the statistics show women are just as interested in being involved with video games and gaming culture as men. Therefore, video game developers are making games for both sexes and should consider the concerns, needs, and wants of both male and female players to make the most viable product. Assuming it’s the intent of the developers to make the highest possible monetary return on the product.

What does this mean for developers?

In order to create products that appeal equally to both men and women, developers should consider the cultural and psychological characteristics, among many other properties, present in games that may appeal or deter consumers. For starters, game developers may employ more females as part of their development team. Or provide equal play testing scenarios for both men and women in order to assess a game’s appeal to both sexes. There’s also a need to allow opportunities to discuss cultural and psychological implications of a game in the development cycle. Yet these opportunities are rarely afforded as development companies aren’t typically interested in such academic or civic pursuits. However, questions arise whether the game itself should be modified or assessed in such a way. As games are considered by many a form of art, like film, can portray extremely sexist depictions. Or historical depictions which may be inclined to feature cultural aspects that may be offensive, but none the less, were part of the story of the culture from that era in human history. Additionally, the assessment of a game is subject to the culture of males or females that may be a product of society as whole rather than the game itself. It’s easy to blame developers and gaming culture for sexist portrayals of women, however these portrayals may be the result of systemic sexism in society as a whole and gender roles and identities crafted and perpetuated by consumer culture, religions, governments, educational institutions, sports, etc. It’s important that we not blame the medium or developers necessarily, but look at the bigger picture in society in order to recognize why these things are present and revealed in games through criticism of the medium.

What does this mean for games and learning?

As educators and instructional designers, we should be looking for ways to create enriched educational experiences for our students. Often times, this means a game or game-like experience. It’s important to understand that there are many games out there, or game like features, that whether intentional or not, can be sexist (among many other negative things). Something as simple as the available emoticons in a text based interface, being limited to male figures, can be problematic for female identities. A recent Always commercial on YouTube drew my attention to this.

Yes, even an icon in an interface can create a negative feeling and perhaps inhibit learning if it is perceived as sexist. It’s important as educators that we take the time to screen the games that we would like our students to play for things like this. That’s why “gender neutral” games often times offer the best possible learning scenario without biases. However there is always the chance a stereotype or bias can creep into any consumer product, it’s important to identify this and open the topic up for discussion in an educational and inclusive setting. I’m sure we cannot expect the consumer product industry to uphold the same standards educators would uphold. Perhaps it’s more important to teach students how to critique cultural artifacts, such as a video game, rather than to passively engage with it? Will video games become gender neutral? Probably not. Would students who learn about sexism, biases, stereotypes, racism, as perpetuated by popular culture be less likely to create offensive artifacts? I have a feeling the answer is “yes.”

References: Wikipedia "Women and Video Games"

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Learning Reflections of Games & Learning Part 1

Understanding of games and learning

My understanding of games and game-based learning (GBL) this semester has been transformed by the myriad of ways in which I have been engaged in course work in INTE 5320 at University of Colorado Denver. Participation in this course so far has only taken shape over 6 weeks. It’s really been a blur, and I feel as though I am being assimilated into a culture of both playful and academic cohorts without really being totally cognizant. It just sort of happens in Remi’s courses by implementation of profound ecological pedagogy. Which finally comes crashing into a sense of awareness when reflecting upon the course.

Through the course readings I have learnt what it means to be a player of games and why games and learning are important for the development of 21st century skills and knowledge. As a class, we’ve dissected portions of seminal games and learning works such as:

“Situated Language and Learning: A critique of traditional schooling. James Paul Gee (Ch 1, Ch5) (2004).

“Toward an Ecology of Gaming." The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Salen, Katie. (Ch1) (2008)

“Games, gods and grades” Fred Goodman (2007)

“Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning” James Paul Gee & Elisabeth Hayes. (2011)

“Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” Henry Jenkins with Katie Clinton Ravi Purushotma Alice J. Robison Margaret Weigel. (2006)

“In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives." Stevens, Reed, Tom Satwicz, and Laurie McCarthy. (2008).

'Gamification Is Bullshit' Ian Bogost (2011).

“Reality is Alright: A review of Jane McGonigal's book Reality is Broken.” Ian Bogost (2011).

“Gamestar Mechanic: Reflections on the Design & Research of a Game About Game Design.” Ivan Alex Games (2008).

“A User-Centered Theoretical Framework for Meaningful Gamification.” Scott Nicholson (2012).

“Gaming Fluencies: Pathways into Participatory Culture in a Community Design Studio.”

Kylie A. Peppler, Yasmin B. Kafal. (2010).

The shear amount of reading and comprehension of the listed sources in a six week time span is an incredible undertaking. I can say that it would be hard to commit to this, among the many other tasks, of a graduate student without some sort of facilitation, motivation, or driving factor. Which is exactly what was implemented this semester in the course by the use of is an add-on to Google Chrome that allows users to sign into an account to annotate a live document. Students in the course were not simply engaged with the texts on their own. The negotiation of meaning of the readings was created by the class as a whole, and a few other influential outsiders.

The course texts and are “open,” meaning anyone interested can join the conversation or choose to be a part of the discourse. What this means is anyone can highlight an area of text, write something about it, and tag the comment with the course label “ilt5320” and the comments with the quoted text would populate the discussion list for the reading selection in the course. This drives the discussion forward in a way I’ve never experienced before and in a way that was motivating to engage with a text. It’s easy to get turned off to a text if the meaning is beyond the ability of oneself to grasp. Or if the text is frustrating to engage with because the material is out of date or just hard to believe. The ability to express what one is learning, or not, by use of, with negotiated meaning through dialogue, promotes deep level understanding of critical concepts. Perhaps otherwise, this level of understanding would not have been achieved by use of LMS discussion or solitary engagement with texts.

By studying the mentioned works of Gee, we learned how schools and games are different. And how games can often times promote learning of 21st century skills, many times not afforded in typical schooling. The ability to make choices, take risks, experiment, and receive feedback on time and task are all possible play experiences in games. Playing and learning become one in the same. We learned that games can provide opportunities for deep learning by facilitating play by game design, modding, and robust nurturing communities. Often times transcending the game itself and inspiring affinity spaces which have the potential to inspire learning and growth. Salen’s concept of “gaming ecology” reminds us how learning with games extends beyond playing the game itself. Games are systems which people participate as players, developers, designers, and learners. From “Confronting Challenges of Participatory Cultures,” we learned about “young learners” as media creators and members of participatory cultures. Yet there may still be issues with equity and accessibility that are concerning. “In Game, In Room, In World,” captured the “multiplicity” of settings and how games and learning is situated by social context.

Ian Bogost shattered our notion of games as being “benign” learning tools with “Gamification Is Bullshit.” We learned how game mechanics or parts of games can be extracted to exploit players. And there is a difference between a game and “gamification.” Yet, when gamification is applied with a user-centered focus, when the user is put first instead of the organization, we learned that gamification can be beneficial for learners (Nicholson 2012). We also learned about games design and how learning is situated for players as game designers with the “Gamestar Mechanic.” Through game design and play, skills transfer to promote learning of 21st century skills and contribute to Discourse, and language about new literacies (Gee 2004). “Gaming Fluencies,” sought to make the distinction about game design as a new approach to pedagogy, or “Constructionism,” through the use of a game tool Scratch. Gaming literacy and the production of games involves some level of multi-faceted media competencies. With Scratch, “fluency” is explored by making fluid transitions to different forms of media for games.

This is just a brief summarization of what was learned through study of the course readings. A great more, deep, and evocative discussions happened within I encourage readers to explore the linked texts and with the “ilt5320” tag to see how learning was shaped in this manner. See course readings.

Exploding Kittens (shared play session)

Playing games to learn about GBL

Learning by playing games with shared play sessions promoted learning by doing. A sense of cognition developed while games were played to understand game mechanics or different ways in which games are understood. We discussed as a class social context, game mechanics, and what players could learn by participating in the games. Some of the play session discussions were held in Canvas, while others, blog posts were generated. Both types of reflective play session practices resulted in better understanding of the games we studied. The practice also contributes to a more holistic approach to GBL, rather than simply theorizing or reading about games, we played them too. You can learn more about some of my experiences in the play journal entries I created thus far.

A Life of Play, A Personal Introduction to Games Based Learning

Crafting Accessibility and Affinity Spaces, What I Learned by Playing Hearthstone

Preconceptions about games

One of the preconceptions I had about games and learning was the primary focus of GBL was about games for children. Although a significant amount of course texts have revealed a focus on “young people” my own research and scholarship has lead me to find that most adults are video game players. Thus, adults may greatly benefit from GBL. Yet, research and information about adult game based learning is not as readily available or talked about. I’ve found a similar K-12 focus in Twitter chats as well, such as #games4ed or #GBL. It seems “Minecraft” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue (or fingertips) but seldom do we talk about what games are used for adult learning. This “hole” in the discussion about GBL lead me to seek out more information about GBL and adults. I found three great resources for research about how adults are navigating games and learning:

“Game-Based Learning and Nontraditional Students – A Report By The Muzzy Lane Team.” January 19, 2016.

“2015 Essential Facts About The Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software Association. (2015)

“Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games.” New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014).

Level up learning profiles

According to the ESA I learned that the average game player is 35 years old. Only 26% of game players are under 18. The “level up learning” survey indicated that 82% of the teachers surveyed play games and 74% use games for instruction in K-8 classrooms. The Muzzy Lane report indicated mobile needs for adult learners (nontraditional students) to access at the right time and place along with five potential directions for GBL. Although, I barely scratched the surface of this research, we can see how adults are very much situated to be participants in game-based learning. In the coming years it will be interesting to see how instructional modules and curriculums will be implemented for adults based on some of these findings should academia choose to heed the call indicated in these reports. You can read more in depth critiques incorporating the research in some of my blog posts:

What Does Game-Based Learning Mean for Many Adult Learners?

Who Are Modern Learners and Why is Mobile GBL Important?

Teachers Need To Level Up Too

Learning networks with peers and "others"

As mentioned previously, there is a great deal of discussion about meaning of course texts through the use of Students in the course have also been engaged in social media platforms as well as Canvas (LMS) discussions. Conversations have the possibility to transfer from place to place, however the use of Twitter and seems to be the primary means of course discussion. Occasionally, people outside of those enrolled in the course, have also participated in discussions about course topics. Such as those on the course blog, or the developers, or those others engaged in Twitter chats. My personal choice of engagement is usually by use of Twitter as it’s very easy to connect professionals, teachers, academics, authors, developers, etc. to the course topic at hand. The ability to reach out in a simple and rather informal way by use of Twitter, especially during Twitter chats about #GBL or the course tag #ilt5320, usually yields positive results.

Why are games so useful as learning tools?

Games are useful as learning devices because they have the ability to provide learning experiences that promote skills and knowledge that otherwise may not be achieved through typical education. What Gee refers to as big “G” games or “Games+,” games that offer opportunities to mod, design, or become members of participatory cultures usually lend themselves to the exploration and demonstration of 21st skills and knowledge. (Gee 2004) Games offer mechanics that serve players by providing feedback and assessment while performing certain tasks. They allow players to make choices and take risks that may not have any real consequences, i.e. a failing grade for the course. They shape identities and create roles for players to enact. Social learning is common, accepted, and typical for gaming environments. All of these things are rarely typical for people to experience while attending a lecture, or doing homework, or sitting in a classroom quietly writing. Not to suggest that all learning should be done in a game or about games, but implementation of the right kinds of gaming experiences combined with other curricular activities create opportunities for growth and learning that may not otherwise be achieved.

What am I curious to learn about gbl?

As I continue to move forward through the semester in the games & learning course, I’m looking forward to learn how, and under what circumstances, instructors for higher ed courses integrated game-based learning. From the Muzzy Lane study, I learned that non-traditional students pursue online classes and make education fit in time chunks that work for them. They may have a career, family, and other life circumstances that prevent them from being engaged for long periods of time during typical daytime hours. Mobile is also important for these types of learners. I also learned that most gamers are adults averaging 35 years old according to the 2015 survey by ESA. Assuming most adults play games, and have access to online courses via computers or mobile devices, there are some clear opportunities to implement game-based curriculums for adults. I wish to continue looking for ways in which some programs have made this possible, which will be the focus of my continued scholarship in GBL.

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“Toward an Ecology of Gaming." The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Salen, Katie. (Ch1) (2008)
“Games, gods and grades” Fred Goodman (2007)
“Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning” James Paul Gee & Elisabeth Hayes. (2011)
“Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.” Henry Jenkins with Katie Clinton Ravi Purushotma Alice J. Robison Margaret Weigel. (2006)
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'Gamification Is Bullshit' Ian Bogost (2011).
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“A User-Centered Theoretical Framework for Meaningful Gamification.” Scott Nicholson (2012).
“Gaming Fluencies: Pathways into Participatory Culture in a Community Design Studio.” Kylie A. Peppler, Yasmin B. Kafal. (2010).
“Game-Based Learning and Nontraditional Students – A Report By The Muzzy Lane Team.” January 19, 2016.
“2015 Essential Facts About The Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software Association. (2015)
“Level up learning: A national survey on teaching with digital games.” New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Takeuchi, L. M., & Vaala, S. (2014).