Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Playing Games with Agency: Join us Mon Nov 14 #GamesEg #cclasses

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Join us and play some digital games while my students play them and tweet their experiences. This is happening Monday Nov 14 at 10am Cairo time (8am GMT) but taking place over several days as students play more games up until Thursday morning.

These 3 games have one thing in common: they employ a lot of player agency; and they can be played in a short amount of time. At first, I will ask students to just focus on reflecting on how they feel while they’re playing the games, and for later, develop their own choose-your-own adventure or narrative games.

I will ask students to play each of these games as follows:

  1. Spent — this game is about empathizing with poverty; you make choices and life hits you back; I will ask students to play it at least twice and record not only what they achieve, but also how they feel before and after, and what they learned. The game has an “ask a friend of a loan/help” feature that makes them post to social media, so I will ask them to use Twitter for that – so people watching will see this unfold
  2. BBC Syrian Refugees — this game asks you to take on a role of a Syrian refugee and make decisions of how to escape and where to escape to and how. I will ask students to play this one twice, taking different decisions each time and again reporting on how it felt and what they learned. I will ask them to Tweet some of their reflections after each iteration of the game and something they learned
  3. Little Alchemy (thanks Simon @digisim for introducing me to this one). This is a science learning game that’s fun for adults and probably for kids of a certain age… it’s addictive and probably won’t be over very quickly… it allows you to put different elements together to create different things. There is no particular goal.. you just randomly put things on top of each other to create new materials… but then you start to get interested and decide to create something specific and think really hard about how to make it (e.g. I wanted to create volcanoes and in another iteration, plants).

I would really like these games to help students move away from thinking of learning games as memorization, as random-chance based mechanics, and to consider what motivates them to keep playing and what kind of things they learn (mostly not content, but skills and values in these cases; and yes, they may read this blogpost, that’s fine).

I will also ask students at HOME to play 3 more digital games. To choose any two of these and any other game they find on their own. The following games are options:

  1. Darfur is Dying – about people in Darfur (would be interesting to compare it to Syrian Refugees game)
  2. Liyla – this is about people in Palestine (I had it as an app on my phone – I think there’s a web-based version also)
  3. Depression Quest – warning, this game may put you down if you’re already feeling kind of depressed as it is about putting yourself in the shoes of someone who is very depressed and making decisions on their behalf that might make them more or less depressed. It is a very good game if you know someone who suffers from depression and want to help them.
  4. Voter Suppression Trial via New York Times – this one was funnier before Trump won, but still…
  5. Sleep-deprived mom game
  6. Game on responsible partying 
  7. Play any game from this list collated here by Keegan Longwheeler and John Stewart (the first one won’t make much sense to Egyptian students and many of them are US-focused, but I will leave it to students to decide which ones they’d like to play)
  8. Find your own serious or educational game – e.g. by searching for free ones on Games for Social Change (here or here)

As they play, I will ask students to tweet something about the game they’re playing: what they learned, how it made them feel. After they play the total of 6 games (remember the first 3 they play in class and the first two of those take about 5 minutes to play from start to finish), I will ask them to blog:

  • How they felt playing each game
  • What they learned playing each game
  • One suggestion for improving the game
  • A reflection comparing the 6 games with each other in whatever manner they like. This could be visual, video or any other form and it can be on any criteria they choose. I just want them to think of what they learn when they play several different games in a short period of time.

Starting Thursday, I want them to think about creating their own “choose your own adventure” type game for a cause they care about. I’ll work with them just before they start working… to help them think through various causes they may care about… I need to figure out how best to do that as well… Possible “causes” or “social purposes”:

  • Egyptian high schooler experience
  • AUC freshman experience
  • Students at AUC with disabilities (would entail interviewing people at the disabilities office)
  • Students with exam anxiety (would entail interviewing people from what was once called our mentoring unit)
  • How it feels to be an international student at AUC
  • First-year international faculty member at AUC
  • Career planning (interview Career office staff)
  • Choosing major at AUC
  • Volunteering to work with orphans (interview people at AUC extracurricular activities?)

If too many students are interested in the same game idea, they could work together to create different scenarios and put them all together. The prototyping is the most important step. That they think through it and map it out. Creating the games later can be done whatever way they find technically easiest (Google Form, Twine or something in between like Inklewriter).

2 Comments

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  2. Pingback: What is the future of teaching and learning? – Róisín's Ramblings

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