Ten steps to game design

A few years ago, Alex Moseley and I wrote a workshop for the European Conference on Games-Based Learning, which presented a ten-step model of game design and exemplified the process by gaming the workshop. Since then, we’ve ran versions of the workshop, either together or on our own, at a whole range of conferences and events, and every time we’re asked if we can share the resources. The only reason we’ve not done so until now is because we’ve been planning to put together a proper web site and resource guide.

However, reality has got in the way, and while we still plan to put something more comprehensive together in the long term, I am putting the workshop resources here to make them available now. Please, if you do run the workshop for yourself, let us know how it went.

The resources here are for a 90 minute presentation for up to 32 participants, but it is very easy to adapt for different size groups and times (see workshop notes).

Ten-steps-presentation (ppt)
Workshop guidance notes (docx)
Participant handout (docx)

Game cards (all docx):
Constraint cards
Context cards
Secret cards
Story cards

The resilient researcher

Is it just me, but in the last few years everything seems to have got really hard. It’s become particularly hard to get research funding, as the economic climate worsens and funds get squeezed, pots of money become more elusive and bidding more competitive. Already this year I’ve had three funding proposals rejected, and it seems sometimes that I’m in a constant cycle of writing and rejection.

Of course it’s not all bad news, every now and then we get a successful bid, and everything is good again. However, these instances are few and far between: our research office reckons that, on average, for every twelve bids submitted, one will be successful. Add to that the peer-review publication process, job and promotion applications, and that’s an awful lot of rejection. It seems to me that the most important skill a researcher needs these days is not creativity, critical thinking, or astounding insights. It is simply the resilience to manage the inevitable grind of submission and rejection, and to maintain confidence and a sense of humour during the process.

I have a number of techniques and strategies for dealing with this:

  1. Always have more than one project, idea, publication, etc. on the go at the any time. When I get a rejection, I take a break, stand back and do something else for a while.
  2. Try to learn something from every submission, particularly the failures, making sure that I always request feedback, and take it on board next time.
  3. Do not to give up on a good idea. I used to bury failed proposals, but now I use them as sources of inspiration and ideas, even if not as a whole, I can often bits reuse elements.
  4. Have a Plan B before Plan A goes wrong. So that it doesn’t seem like going right back to the beginning, I try to have an alternative funder, publication, etc. in mind when I submit, so that I can see failure as part of a process rather than an end point.
  5. Talk to other people to reassure myself that it really isn’t just me, it’s a hard process, and everyone has to deal with rejection. Reminding myself that it really is ‘just a job’ is helpful too.
  6. If the above all fail, a bottle of wine and a good cry usually hit the mark.

I’d be really interested to know if this is just me, and how others in the same situation manage to stay sane.

Ian Bogost on Fun

I recently saw this video of Ian Bogost (of Persuasive Games fame) talk at UX Week 2013 about fun. He argues that ‘fun’ isn’t something that can be added to a task (a.k.a. the chocolate-covered broccoli model) but that it is intrinsically related to the structures of an activity and is generated by the feeling of operating in a constrained system. This is exemplified in the following quote from the talk:

“[we believe that] we have to bring something to the table that makes intolerable things tolerable … but what if we arrive at fun not through expanding the circumstances that we’re in, in order to make them less wretched, but actually by embracing the wretchedness of the circumstances themselves.”

This brings to mind Papert’s notion of ‘hard fun‘ and the idea that things are not fun despite being hard, but because they are hard.

Goodbye gambaloa

This week marks the end of the Game Based Learning for Older Adults (gambaloa) partnership project, which has run over the last two years.

Personally, it’s been one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever been involved in, providing space for European partners to meet, get to know one another, learn about our different cultures, and build trust. There was also some sampling of national beverages involved.

The question is now, however, how do we take this forward? How do we ensure that this growing network of people interested in the use of games for learning with older adults continues to talk and grow? At the moment, we’re hoping that the blog will be the focus of activity, and that the briefing papers on different facets of our research will provide an accessible introduction for anyone interested in the area. Longer term, we’re looking at new projects, new funding, and perhaps creating some sort of more formal network. If you’re interested, please get in touch (either through the gambaloa blog or with me directly).

It’s about time

Yes, I’ve been painfully rubbish at maintaining this blog in recent months. Well that’s all going to change now.

We’ve recently launched a new Masters Programme in Research with blogging as a core element. As we’ve been talking about the benefits of blogging, it’s reminded me how much I used to get out of regular reflection, sharing ideas, forcing myself to write for a public forum, and simply putting all the interesting bits and pieces I come across into one place. I’ve also been shamed by the students who, despite being new to blogging, are already embracing it with their thoughtful, critical and insightful posts.

I’m back. Expect more soon.

More on badge design

A couple of references that I’ve come across in the last couple of days.

  • Carla Casilli, who is the project lead for Mozilla’s Web Literacies and Webmaker Badges, has a great blog, which focuses at length on badge system design.
  • Antin & Churchill’s (2011) paper on the psychological functions of badges in social media. They describe five psychological motivations for using badges: 1) setting goals; 2) providing an overview of the possibilities of the system; 3) encapsulation of reputation; 4) status symbols and personal affirmation; 5) group identity.
  • Nicola Whitton

    This blog contains my personal musings on games, learning, computers, engagement, fun, playfulness, technology, and other stuff that takes my fancy.

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