• On Like Donkey Kong: Discussing Games at THATCamp Jersey Shore 2011


    Or, A few brief notes on “Games games games!”, a session which took place on Monday, April 4, 2011, a bit after lunch.

    It was a lively discussion, touching on how we experience games, how we analyze games, and how we might teach with games. Thanks to Stockton’s own Lisa Rosner, we even got some insight into how academic institutions are creating games to explain smallpox and vaccination in nineteenth-century Edinburgh!

    Experiencing Games
    Good humanists that we are, we came up with a wide range of things that games are/were/could be about: making choices; simulation; narratives; the experience of playing a character; an immersion in a particular physical space; or the pure pleasure of gathering tchotchkes (the “Pokémon” aspects of location-based services like GoWalla were mentioned). We largely agreed that any given game (especially the fun ones) would likely include parts of many of the above.

    Designing & Analyzing Games
    The conversation ranged a bit widely here, and so I’m sorry to say my notes are a bit more scattered; here are a few of the bon mots (paraphrased!) that flew fast and furious as we chewed over how best to analyze gaming experiences and use that analysis to craft new games:

    “What’s the logic of the historical documents? How can you represent that in the game?”
    “What’s the difference between failure and winning? What’s the failure mode?”
    “Process matters.”
    “A player eventually will focus on figuring out, and mastering the algorithm: so the algorithm has to be the thing you’re trying to get across.”

    Teaching Games
    Some ideas on teaching with games or incorporating game-like incentives into classroom activities included primary source or location-based scavenger hunts, team competition, and using geodesic dome planetariums to project a sense of space.

    Where now?
    The session ended with a discussion of how we might like to organize what we know about what’s being done: in a world with Google and social media, the consensus seemed to be that the “age of clearinghouses,” like the Serious Games Initiative was largely over. That said, a number of useful sites/people were mentioned, most of which were new to me:

    Ian Bogost / Persuasive Games

    Play the Past

    NEH “Humanities Gaming Institute,” Center for Digital Humanities, University of South Carolina, June 7-25, 2010

    “Games, Serious Play, and Digital Pedagogy,” THATCamp New England, June 10, 2010

    Thanks again to all who participated!

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