This week was the golden opportunity for gamers, gamification, and game developers. Both Games for Change Festival and Games in Education Summit took place in New York the the first week of August.
Games for Change addresses how “how games can impact education, healthcare, research, civics, and social issues. The first two days of the Festival showcases the best and brightest game creators and changemakers with panels and keynotes, demos, networking events, and an expo. On the third day of the Festival, VR for Change Summit explores the positive power of virtual technologies in storytelling, science, and social justice.” The fact that this conference is not just focused on education, broadens one’s understanding of the impact of games across fields and highlights game designers who have created innovative and impacting games. Listening to Jesse Schell from Schell Games and jennifer Javornik of Filament Games discuss what is on the horizon with gaming and virtual reality is inspiring.
Additional gems shared at #G4C17 include ArtsEdge Games presenting a Romeo & Juliet LARP (Live Action Role Play). Students participate in creating a scene from Shakespeare’s play with the aim to “embody characters and explore the choices of several characters and learn what drives each one.” In the Larp, students talk to one another and behave as they think their characters would (students are given role cards with a list of tasks they must achieve during the role play). All the details and directions are available on the ArtsEdge website.
Jessica Hammer, Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University and Shoshana Kessocks of Phoenix Outlaw Productions presented games they created about the Holocaust and WWII. Jessica Hammer with Moyra Turkington have a tabletop game in development called Rosenstrasse that require players to make difficult ethical decisions about standing up and defying the Third Reich. Shoshana Kessock’s WarBirds Anthology is a collection of LARPs based on women during World War II. Available through Unruly Designs, these games are valuable for grade 8 and up studying WWII and the Holocaust.
Tracking Ida is a unique “homebrewed” game similar to a BreakoutEdu. “Tracking Ida is an educational alternate reality game (ARG) inspired by the pioneering investigative journalism of Ida B. Wells in the 1890s. Players uncover Ida B. Wells’ crusade against lynching and use her strategies to investigate police and vigilante killings today. Along the way, they solve puzzles, decode messages through a phonograph, role-play as investigative journalists, interview members of their community, and harness social media to spread awareness. Players explore a trunk sent by Ida B. Wells. The trunk contains the salvaged evidence of Wells’ investigation into Memphis lynchings–what she managed to preserve after her newspaper office was burned down by a lynch mob in 1892. To keep these documents out of her persecutors’ hands, Wells secured them in locked compartments. Players solve puzzles to unlock each compartment in the trunk as they search for the map to her investigative tactics.” This history based game allows students to be explorers and detectives to uncover and interact with American History past. More information is available on the Tracking Ida website.
The learning did not just stop at #G4C17, at the end of the week the 11th Annual Games in Education Symposium (#GiE17) took place at University of Albany. This two day summit was for game developers and educators to learn from each other. Dr. Chris Haskell’s keynote presentation “To Boldly Go: Technology, Captain Kirk, and the Future of Education” took us on a trip into space as members of the Star Trek Crew to realize that “fiction is the playground of possibility” and the impact that science fiction, Star Trek especially, has had on our current technology. He encouraged participants to make their classrooms their own StarShip and take students on a mission to seek out new ideas, work together, work ethically, and reach beyond the stars.
#GiE17 had both presentations and hands on workshops on Makey Makey, Game Design, Raspberry Pi, Boxels, and Minecraft. Presentations from the amazing teacher Peggy Sheehy, shared how she turned her class into a game, Excalibur: Explore, Create, Analyze, Learn, Iterate, Break, Understand, Reflect. John Morelock and Joshua Garcia Sheridan both students at Virginia Tech shared how the Board Game Pandemic is used to teach teamwork in the Engineering School at VT.
The key lesson for teachers at both #G4C17 and #GiE17 was that gamification and gaming is not some fad. Gaming is not the future, it is now. Our students are engrossed in the gaming culture and it is changing the way they think and see learning, teamwork, and the world. Teachers need to meet students where they are at and use gaming as a tool for learning and collaboration. There infinite benefits to gaming. And if Jeopardy is your idea of gaming in the classroom, it’s time to renew your own participation in the current wold of gaming: table top games, video games, role playing games, digital games. Would you rather be an XG or N00b? If your not sure what I am talking about, look it up. Your mission begins here.