Last night the College of Arts and Letters at Northern Arizona University coordinated a “Humanities in Action” event to demonstrate and share the many different ways students, staff and faculty in humanities disciplines create amazing projects. I participated in presenting the VonStrausheimer Mystery game.
As part of this *presentation* I answered questions, and held discussion with many participants, students and faculty who attended to present their own projects, or to understand the humanities better (or, let’s face it were required to be there for various reasons). What I found very enjoyable about this question session was the informality allowed space for students (especially grad students) to feel comfortable asking good questions about game design, and the inclusion of games to inspire learning. I had a few undergrads who were clearly game players interested in entering the field of game design – but most questions came from interested educators who were arguably wary of inclusion of games just for the sake of games. I fielded questions about empirical evidence for the inclusion of games, the variety of clues/puzzles and learning outcomes associated with those clues/puzzles, the larger contexts ARGs could be used, the difficulty in integrating ARGs in those larger contexts, the use of ARGs in classroom……such fantastic questions. Ultimately, I hope instructors learned, or consider the many ways students are willing to engage with learning, and the way real-world problems can be and are regularly addressed by humanitarians.
Why humanities you ask……because we care about the human condition!
This was by far the most common phrase, and the most important phrase circulating at the event yesterday. I hope many take this idea to heart. To solve real-world problems humanities majors should be involved, consulted. We may not be able to code a website (although some of us can and many of us can figure it out), we can ask the questions that need to be asked to ensure possible approaches, outcomes, ideas fit the needs assessed for solving the problem!
So this week, after preparing for a talk on mommy bloggers… more on that anther day…….I spoke to some people about the ARG Chris and I designed to accompany our symposium. I really want to publish and discuss this game in a multimodal arena, so the paper representation can show-off the digital aspects of the game. The problem is, both games result in creative making….. so I also need to incorporate images of the makes (can I call them makes because I really like it). Plus we documented development meetings in Tumblr as a space to show our creative making process. This means a whole different version of inclusion f technology to show the breadth of this project and the various integrations with technology as we learned to design learning. Finally the @symposium game will us a printed game quest *brochure*. So I’m currently struggling with the most effective way to showcase all these technology choices in line with our vision for student learning and engagement. To help this struggle, I wanted to list everything out so I’d know what needs to be incorporated. Now I have a starting point and I can brainstorm ways to write this paper and make…..
As we move forward with quest deployment, we continue to make minor modifications immediately before go-live. With the format of our ARG, this works. As we began the design process, early last summer (like June early) we began researching articles, websites, ideas, curriculum that rely on ARG design principles to assist us in creating our particular game. There are a few amazing powerpoints that discuss the steps design teams should engage with, or stumble through, as they design an ARG for deployment. With a lack of a full design team as envisioned by most of these principles, and with a budget of zero, we found that even stumbling through a combination of these steps was not the right approach for us. Now, these guides are simply that, guides, we fully understood that.
So my problem is, my students will begin their ARG design in the very near future (2 weeks). I’m planning to provide the same background documents we used, and I intend to outline our steps and the thought process. Will this outlining of the steps be useful to them? Will these steps be useful to others interested in ARG design that results in creative making? or, were these simply the steps we used to design our vonstrausheimer end product and new information/ideas will need to be considered as we move forward with other game designs for future iterations of the symposium?
As I begin considering game design for our jts@symposium game, I’m re-walking the steps that previously worked for us, but maybe that’s more reliant on group dynamics and knowing what Chris and Everett can accomplish instead of reusing neutral steps because they are an effective process for game design.
in case you’d like to see it, jtsnau.wix.com/vonstrausheimer
this week we’re dealing with tying up and finalizing all our ideas…..digitizing them….then determining an effective way to deploy the game between today and the Undergraduate Videogame Symposium that takes place on March 26th, 27th, and 28th. We’re not going live today, we’re not quite there yet, but we’re close!
So, today we’re considering logistics – what do we load in advance? how do we post a deployment schedule that students will actually read and revisit? how do we finish up all the last minute minor details quickly? how do we finish that last few quests now that we’ve modified and created the earlier ones? It’s interesting how many loose ends remain right before deployment. Before we had significant art work, and a site that could hold and embody that art work, and the links to quests, it was hard to actualize these last details. There are also very few ARG designs that create a game in this manner, so we really had no model to help us actualize these details. When Quest-to-Learn designs boss levels, the students create projects similar to our game site so the pedagogy and curriculum design includes significant information on support student engagement and questing, but very little on launching a game, understandably. Argosy includes similar details, but deployment was different since the questing should be completed over the course of orientation, instead of across weeks. So we’re muddling our way through engagement, advertising, and maintaining focus, while completing the game. My mom always said events are “hurry up and wait, then hurry up and wait.” She’s right, once again 🙂
So I have a conundrum today. for an opening quest in our JtS game we needed a lock box. as we have no funding at this time for game design, I went to Goodwill for the box, hoping to spend less money, but also realizing that this decision would influence the boxes available. but, I also wanted something with character. So goodwill had options (YAY thrift stores!), and I came home with an old slide projector box. TONS of character, easily inked to fit our steampunk symposium motif.
so, the conundrum…..the box included projector slide rectangles, and about 10 old (1960’s we think) slides.
we had not nailed down the puzzle for the lockbox, but we have an idea what will be inside for the subsequent quest. so now that I have the box do I let the physical object and it’s interesting contents dictate the quest, or do I modify the box to meet quest needs? when designing an ARG and actually interacting in a world that can be modified for my purposes, should I let those inanimate objects have a say? this is my conundrum – and either choice will result in similar findings to progress our story forward, but the overall clue for the end of the story will differ significantly. This affords a new way to tell the story, to possibly date the story, to potentially increase engagement with theory so our players will want to continue playing. Importantly, I don’t believe there is a *right* answer to this conundrum. It will now depend on how we want to tell the story, and what type of quest we want our players to solve. So the conundrum really is, now that I have the box, how do I want my players to learn?
on a side note: I’ve been playing around with creative making, so I’m archiving my making on a tumblr page. Once the game launches and people are playing I’ll upload the tumblr post here for your viewing pleasure!
I spoke with my husband today about the need for a mix of STEM type education and Humanities type education. While at a wonderful event put on by a writing program in my department, I spoke with undergrad and grad interns who designed websites to display English related grammar and writing help. While unlike many I’ve seen the problem remain, the same, how do you motivate students to use a pull system? How do you inform students about the existence of said pull system? And how do you determine what words students know, how to teach them vocab and writing concepts, and then how to encourage them to continue past that hurdle to gain information? I felt like there was a large gap in understanding how the internet argues and functions rhetorically. A FB friend then circulated an Oatmeal comic about Biology and science teaching you how to create an experiment and Humanities teaching when to conduct the experiment.
This all brought me back to my ARG design….i’m ARG obsessed lately!!
So we’ve designed the beginning and end goals of our game design, ending with students continuing the story by creatively making a product of their choosing, with the technology they feel comfortable with. We’ll then offer similar engagement at our event with creative making. So now i’m wondering, in a loop type thinking as above….. is the creative making something I’m tacking on to the ARG design, or did this approach to application of thinking always exist with ARG design just in different conceptualization of artifacts? I think ARGs require some level of creative making to advance. I think this is determined by designers, some ask for learning spaces with creative making, others don’t.
What I’m interested to see now, is can I tell the difference between a STEM student playing my game and designing and artifact, and a Humaniti3s student playing my game and designing an artifact? The same will be true at our event, can we tell the difference? Does the major matter, or the context of application? I will have to consider methodological approaches to this….. I’ll want to involve student voices as their stories to creating will be most informative, so how do I go about that?
although i’ve been discussing ARG design and eventual inclusion of ARG design in a videogames and literacies course, today I feel like a super secret game designer. My partner in design and I made serious progress on our overall game design, transition from game to symposium design, and final mission design – including side missions to bridge ARG design with creative making and makerspace movement principles. writing it out like that seems daunting and not quite as squee as it feels right now. I’m starting to see just how much literature and creative writing have to add to overall videogame design (*ahem videogame companies) – story matters as it adds elements not previously considered. I’m also realizing just how glad I am I stumbled upon Losh’s super amazing books (Virtualpolitik and others) to really consider not just interactivity in story, but the rhetorical argument of technology. I presented on the interaction of content learning, quests and game design – but now those categories are becoming more complex. Design is not just game trajectory, it’s also storyline and interactivity which is where the connection to quests and content learning becomes very obvious. But, it’s also the design of the technology, the underlying argument or accidental argument made by technology (Losh’s chapter 5 on PowerPoint arguing is fantastic for understanding this). It’s the design of the story to organically transition into or introduce quests through the technology used.
Now as I’m considering the complexity of assigning similar design to students i’m considering which aspects need to be simplified for effectiveness in the classroom. If they design quests, is that enough, if they design quests and technology but don’t have story, is that enough. Then what do they write up, what do they present? As I’m designing learning for a videogame symposium through game design, I’m also considering how to design an assignment to teach students to design learning environments themselves. What product do I want from them at the end? A paper because it’s a composition course, but what else demonstrates learning? What happens if I leave this concept too open?
So, I’d like to make an ARG to encourage ARG design………right………just let that awesomeness sink in for a minute.
I find ARG design to be challenging, and interesting. Designing for user interaction, user learning and user enjoyment from a voluntary level is different for a long-time professor. I enjoy my classes and the topics of my classes, but I also realize that they need to be practical to student’s lives and I understand students earn credits for completing these courses which help them graduate. Students have some choice in the content they choose to complete – but it also depends on schedule, availability, and timing. A student may choose to complete my course because of the time, and the need for a 300 level writing course. Or a student may choose to complete my course because it’s about videogames – then realize how complex and complicated literacies discussion are. Either way, they are rewarded for completion with a grade – so they put in the effort required to earn the grade desired. This is completely different than an ARG – which is voluntary. People who play ARGs are truly interested in the topic, in gamifying life, in gamifying approaches to complex problem solving (McGonigal and co.’s games for instance). So as I’m working through ARG design for voluntary participation for a symposium and realizing students should experience this too – I know I need to provide them notes, but what’s the best format for that.
Side note – i’ve been reading’s Losh’s Virtualpolitik which is amazing, but after reading the chapter on Powerpoint (which I never liked and like even less now) I’m questioning all my design approaches/decisions to teaching. what world view am I accidently arguing for based on my technology choices – how am I simplifying complex ideas too much because I use Prezi.
Which brings me to ARG design for ARG design assignments. I’ve seen several amazing powerpoint presentations just broad enough to provide high level understanding of the steps required to design an ARG for learning. But I think students dealing with complex ideas of literacies need a better approach to understand and learn about ARG design before they embark on their own (group work based) ARG design. So, should I design an ARG for the first few weeks of class to teach about ARG design to help students – in addition to the regular course content? What would this look like?
I found many helpful “How to design an ARG” type articles, powerpoints, websites, etc. But…….it’s not that easy. The problem we’re encountering is we know the ideas and missions to introduce players to the game – we’re still working on the exact technology but we’re keeping it simple – and we know how we want the game to end to transition to our event. How do we keep players involved in the middle? How do we make decisions for them on how many missions they’ll complete and how involved they’ll become in our game? Those are really hard questions. We can design too much so it seems overwhelming or we could design too little so people become bored. We know prizes, leader boards and other approaches will help with motivation, but even those only go so far. Since I’ll be turning this assignment around on my Videogames and Literacies students next semester, I’m trying to consider and create materials synthesizing sources I’ve been using to provide a more detailed idea of what the design for learning phase looks like or can look like, ideas for design templates, ideas for drafting missions/quests, considerations for timelines of events and deployment of the game, and ideas for drafting story. There are Libraries, Museums and Newspapers now using parts of these elements to ask the public to help archive, understand, and tag materials they have in storage – so this ARG approach to life is becoming slightly more mainstream, but still niche. I think that makes it more important than ever to consider how new approaches to learning and engagement could increase critical thinking. Let’s be overly idealistic – someone could play one of these variations of games and help reduce the effects of global warming, change education about Ebola, the world could be a very different, amazing place!
well….we’re at the brainstorming phase. with our previous JtS game we focused on moving people beyond ice breaker challenges, beyond scavenger hunts, but we weren’t quite at the interactive immersed learning. we were more focused on designing quests – that could be played, or not played – to help students understand how to attend a symposium. we’ll have new attendees this year, but we want to take our game design a step further making them aware of good learning before and during our symposium. so we realize and understand the connection between design, learning [goals/objectives/content] and quests. As a professor, I understand curriculum design, determining end learning goals and demonstration of those goals, then assignments to walk students through those goals, but i’m also very aware of the required nature of courses and the grades associated with completion as motivators for completion. Now I need to remember fun, i need to design fun – while I think my lesson plans are fun they’re still lesson plans i need to think fun outside the classroom. delivery method – the shell of the game – also factors into these decisions about design and designed learning. today, right now, this seems much more daunting than designing a brand new multimedia course for graduate students. i think once it settles more, and i play with our overall theme I’ll feel more comfortable with this new version of curriculum design.