OK, so I’m throwing up my notes from the 2010 Games For Change Conference. In the interest of time, everything is going up raw, unedited, maybe with a little bold here and there for readability. In time, I’ll clean everything up, but for now it’s all rough.
Considerations at CCT–Pedagogy, domain, school, medium, and age
Designs for ordinary schools and teachers and reluctant learners
Working on 7th grade science and literacy games
Focused on educational need–what will help teachers in a classroom? In this case, popular misconceptions–the research will focus on can the game dispel a particular misconception?
Initial game designs for photosynthesis game permitted (accidentally) the player to succeed without ever learning abut photosynthesis
Next game idea focused on metaphors, moved away from reality, instead focused just on chemical change
All this is fodder for PFL, game produces a visualization and experience of a phenomenon that can be unpacked by a teacher
The role of the instructional designer is to take all these different interests and foci, see the affordances of the medium (in this case DS games) and decide how it can support current educational practices.
No one assesment does everything
Observation, cognition, and interpretation
Claims, evidence, tasks
Cognition is situated
Video games are designed experiences
Learning comes through immersion in idealogical worlds
Participation in social worlds
In games, players move from newbie with little understanding, to basic knowledge to systemic expertise to desire to mod to scenerio design, to community creation and leadership
Using Citizen Science game, Squire wanted people to … crap, do some stuff, learn and take action I think, about a lake, Lake Medota
Lake Mendota has an algae problem, could die
In the game you’re meant to save it, but you can transgress and destroy it worse
Game involves thinking about the whole watershed, not just the lake, building complex argumantes
Looking at expert/novice studeis…what can be infered from in game behavior?–lake experts playing games and kids palying
Finishing the game did not mean you were an expert
Novices learned from the system, experts did not–novices learned from observation/action/feedback, while experts did not move through those three stages
Did see significant thinking change with kids, the independently wrote letters to the editor and crafted a resolution for city legislatiure
Experts may claim game doesn’t asses well if experts don’t succeed at it–but that’s not how most assesments work
Theoretical problem solving isn’t the same as real problem solving
As students, we have no right to make a counter claim, if we’re assesed as unsatisfactory then that’s the law
Assessment Bill of Rights
My goals are reflected in assessment
I have the right to challenge any of your claims with counter-evidence
I have the right to argue what constitutes valid evidence for learning
I have the right to make claims and present my own evidence to bolster them
Not willing to compromise the successful “gaminess” of the game to cram in more scientifically valid info–playability/fun are fundamental to this experiment, and it is an experiment (may not teach well! but them’s the breaks)
He’s the “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” – guy
In 1968, talked with Seymore Papart and drew a sketch of kids working on laptops designing a versio of Spacewar.–40 years later, here we are
Big A.C.’s bangin quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
Most people basically use computers and the internet to admire their own reflections (like a monket with a shiny brass microscope”
Anthropologists have noted about 300 human universals–some of these universal cultural characteristics seem to be genetic
Make a technological amplifier for any of these universals and you’ll become a billionaire
Non universals: progress, writing and reading, deductive abstract math, democracy, slow deep thinking, model based science, etc.
We’re naturally inclined to remember and case based reasoning is universal, but other types of thinking are not universal
Schools seem to be designed to deal with non-universals–the things we’re not wired for
It may take a genius to invent a non-universal, but then almost anyone can learn them and think in that way once discovered
Science: the process of developing and testing increasingly accurate models
Looking at school we see a phenomenon like Guitar Hero, tech glommed on with no real learning.
Rocky’s Boots–amazing old Atari Game
Robot Odyssey–another amazing old Atari Game
Games today are generally the wrong pace and about the wrong ideas–too much about universals, not what education should be about (non-universals)
One person asking questions says that games based on feedback loops instead of branching structures may be better for learning
Microsoft Research/Author “You Are Not a Gadget”
The human body has input/output capabilities.
Haptic feedback, in HCI/UI research is about touch feedback and force feedback.
We tend to think that all digital tech is improving exponentially, but in fact some of the most important improvements are simply crawling ahead–haptic feedback
The Powerglove showed up in the 80s, died and then haptics didn’t return until the Wii, and now Natal coming out at Christmas
“The haptic modality of cognition is capable of independent problem solving” Piano improve involves the body independently colving cognitive problems–chord modulation etc. This has great potential for learning, obviously.
“Can you learn trigonometry by mapping your body into a triangle in real time?” “Can you learn anything about dinosaurs by becoming one” “Can you learn about chemistry by mapping yourself onto a molecule and bonding.”
This is fun. Also, we’re narcissicistic and when you are the subject it’s more interesting, and haptic intelligence is powerful means of learning.
As technology improves it improves mental acuity–our ability to recognize fidelity, and potentially computers could improve our capacity to think (what? just gonna roll with this right now)
The crucial duty of anyone in games and ed is to make simulations that have high fidelity to systems being modeled.
One of the cruicial chalenges will be accuractely mapping haptic structures to logic structures
Hypothesis: There is something fundamentally different about having knowledge structures mapped/ingrained into your physical body
The tounge can be an incredibly acurate and useful output device, and with noninvasive senseors it could be an invaluable maens of controlling computers
We’re at a difficult time now because standards for games so high, the ratio between commercial quality and leanring quality is larger that commercial film to learning film–games are very difficult to make well
There has to be parity between commercial and learning games, must happen, no solutions for this
Advocates avatar that is the content–less of the fantasy avatar in edu games
Katherine Isbister – NYU Poly
Games are customiable, provide rich data, and are popular with kids so should be good for learning
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly easy to make terrible games
So, G4L! is trying to develop useful theories for making good learning gmaes
Trying to get best practices from commercial developers – interviewed 41 professional game developers and reserach-practitioners mostly at professional events
Focus on design tactics
Donald Schon’s “The Reflective Practitioner”
Found recurrent recommendations, and now has a massive archive of these interviews
Key concepts include:
Fun – hate the term engaging, and think most learning games are crap
Polish – most learning games not polished enough
Mechanics aren’t ‘bolted on’ – learning games fail to integrate learning and mechanics
Inviting commercial developers to critique learning games
Katie Culp – CCT
Looking at building research into the front end of game design–designing based on who the audience is
Looking at building inquiry skills in middle school students
Too many games make assumptions about student/player thinking skills without considering where kids are developmentally
Kids at this stage have trouble recognizing what they don’t know/what they need to learn
In order to understand this, formative research–a type of research pioneered by Sesame Workshop is useful.
The methodology is very early in the design process use activities and content that’s central to the game concept and bring it to kids to play with
This does not create broad understanding, is not like a RCT, but does allow particular insights into specific audiences’ specific thinking
Researcher may already have an understanding based on the literature about kid misconceptions, but formative research brings forth the specific language and cognitive associations and ways of thinking.
Greg Chung UCLA/CRESST/CATS
How can meaningful information be extracted from a high volumen low quality data set? (I’m paraphrasing, may be off)
Developing math game focusing on fractions and addition of fractions
Worked with USC to develop game ideas and what gameplay info will show player understanding of fractions
Sorry…Zoned out here
Jan Plass NYU/G4LI
Looking at design patterns for good learning
Building Augmented Reality games for science learning, Adventure games for science learning, math games,
Looking for general solutions to commonly occuring problems in learning game design
–Strong narratives provide sufficient incentive to solve hard puzzles
–One challenge is we don’t know how to measure engagement well–behavioral, cognitive, social, and emotional
Individual engagement–self report, survey, interview, biomentirs, video observation, user logs
group engagement–video observation, classroom observation, user logs
One challenge is that studies on a certain scale it becomes impossible to always observe
Requires Theoretical model of Interactivity – some paper with plass, schwartz, and another guy
Using a lot of bio data to measure enegagment
Important: triangulation–each measurement only measures a certain kind of engagement in a certain context, and a theorietical framework is needed to tie it all together–but it’s still setting, task, genre, and platform specific
Ushahidi – Crisis Mapping
Interested in using games to improve crisis mapping
So far the mapping has been massive manual information. Trains tons of people to use the platform, received info from texts from haitians and then crowdsourced translations.
Interested in how services can be microtasked, turned into Human Intelligence Tasks manageable through Mechanical Turk or WoW.
Wants to develop altruism scores, re-vision labs and going from crowdsourcing to playsourcing.
Richard Lemarchand lead designer for Uncharted 2
Charles Dickens knew first hand how crappy 19th Century London was. He wove comedy and tragedy, chifhangers, but he didn’t sermonize or offer solutions. As Orwell said, “He managed to attack everybvody and antagonize nobody”
Max and the Magic Marker
Good game story telling is very challenging-all the challenges of normal narrative plus the unique structure of games
Challenge is to align the peaks and troughs of gameplay experience with narrative peaks and troughs
Dickens of games is probobly not a single person but a collaboration
Jessica Hammer – game designer/reseracher
People tend to lie about who they are. Really, people lie about everything, like all the time. “Social desirability bias” We want to look appealing to others.
As a designer, you must take SDB into acount. With games for change we want games to be processing deeply. With SDB, though, people are often doing what they think they should be doing, behaving how they think they should be behaving, and so they will be less likely to really think about what your trying to communicate. If your game is about telling people what they should be doing, it will not be received.
Give people legit choices, make them balance one social good against another, give them challenges about how much, when, etc.
Ntiedo Etuk – Dimension U – a portal to educational games
“Student -Centric Learning”
Trying to make learning a lifestyle
Games are good for learning. Kids are not
African Americans and Latinos actually play games more than white kids
Games designed so kids need academic skills in game, but can access resources in real time to help their problem solving.
Brian Reich – Managing Director some media company
Why is what we’re doing not working? –good question
Expectations for what people have for games is determined by everything out there–shoe commercials, music etc.
We don’t understand our audience well enough
We need to understand why people play other games? Why do they like them?
We need to work with people of various skills.
We need to stop typing what we’re hearing because it seems inconsequential.
Too many words on powerpoint slides.
Jane Pickard–Foundation 9
Designing for the total limbic games
We used to ask what does the player do, now we ask what does the player feel while doing it?
Games are good at stimulating reptilian and neo cortex, but less good at stimulating limbic system (love, emotion)
In most games, if there’s love, it’s like discovering a love story written for you
Dragon Age is complex enough that it feels legit
Designing for love/What to do on a first date:
Make player smile
Let the player express herself
Allow for vulnerability
Love is a battlefield and there’s a lot of room for conflict
Rob Dubbin – writer the Colbert Report
Aphorism = a constraint on reality
Game design is a constraint on reality
Any aphorism can suggest a game design.
Elegance can yield complexity if you poke it enough
Games 4 Change Korea
Running out of battery! Emergency Incomplete Post!
Direct Action games “organize real civic action using games”
Part of what she loves about games is that they’re a safe space to rehearse or transgress and thinking of them as ways to take real actions changes this. Definitely thinking that games should do this is problematic. Free Rice is the obvious example of a game having real world impact. Problem is that it’s not about rehearsing real activities, you’re just practicing sitting in your living room. This is the first example she can think of, even though she doesn’t think it’s a good one
Loves games, but fears that even the best intentioned social action games often end up being “ether activism” lots of sound and fury but signifying nothing. As an organizer working on traditional direct action like marches got bored with standard actions. These standard strategies often lost their efficacy. The standards protest actions can actually reinforce the status quo, and this is why he’s interested in alternative forms of organizing and protest. One common problem is that we lump together lots of disperate activities as direct action games that may in fact be very different actions.
Organize these activies on a grid: Motivated by in game outcomes <--> Motivated by Social or Civic Outcomes; In games rehearsals as actions <--> Real world immediate actions
Scouts (Boy and Girl) is like role playing a civic life, and you have leveling, game-like rewards
GTA San Andreas is the opposite of a Direct Action game (hopefully)
Critical Mass is an interesting example because it has a kind of magic circle, a “real world game” where your actions are in the real world, but the experience is largely symbolic “prefigurative politics”
Civic “Player Assets”
Material Assets (donating)
Political Voice (advocacy)
How could designers play with these affordances?
Tracy mentions Urgent Evoke, which is not clear how successful it really is
A Force More Powerful – also about rehearsing real world actions. My criticism of it has always been that it’s a top down model of organizing. Player is like an organizing general.
Rosario Habitat–using games to train people to be involved in urban planning process.
INTERRoBANG – service learning game. Real world actions that you document and earn points for
Stephen–One thing you have to keep in mind when discussing ethical games is “Who’s ethics and how are they applied?” “How do you make a fun game to play in which what players learn from playing is how to take democratic action?”
Oh Dear God–Microsoft tester proposing “Patriot Points” so you get points for doing “patriotic” acts.
Tracy responds that actions need context, so scouts works because there is a rich context, advancement is meaningful within a community.
Stephen–Democratic games are not just those that promote democracy, but are actually created through democratic processes.
Connie Yowell – MacArthur
Games are fundamental to the paridigmatic shift in education towards social, participatory learning. MacArthur is funding a variety of games and virtual world initiatives. To promote innovation MacArthur stepped away from metrics and accountability for a while and let grantees be more creative and unconstrained by 19th century evaluation standards. Thinking hard about public-private partnerships. One of her biggest fears is encountering a set of expectations that pull them back into 20th century paradigms. Games can be used to reinforce current standards just as well as expand our ideas and progress.
Kids have to be able to think in terms of systems. They need this more than discreet skills (well… I think they need balance. Discrete skills are valuable). MacArthur is Interested in getting game developers to open their platforms or make games with level editors to allow youth game creation. They’re less interested in individual games and more in trajectories of gameplay, how kids move to different games. Very interested in game companies partnering with learning scientists to develop new metrics.
Robert Torres – Gates Foundation
Games are good platforms for kids to develop expertise. Gates is focused on implementation of the common core and creation of formative assessments that actually tell us the degree to which kids make gains towards the common core. There is a belief that digital media tools can help us with this.
Interesting areas for possible funding:
Degrees to which learning environments create communities of practice.
Degree to which students are producing media that is endemic to the subject area in which they’re involved.
Learning standards that students own as users of wikipedia own their standards.
Tessie Topol – Time Warner
TW decided their philanthropy could have more impact if they focused on one issue that’s aligned with their business. Chose STEM ed. Launched 5 year $100 million initiative called Connect a Million Minds. They want to inspire kids to learn STEM to solve problems. Partnered with Coalition for Science after School and FIRST Robotics. Chose them based on their credibility in their domains, orgs with a footprint large enough to meet their needs, and had a need they could fulfill.
First: increase awareness of our philanthropic efforts
Second: some other stuff
Third: another thing.
Christine Adamczyk – US AID
Interested in using games as tools to improve international development focusing on youth
Agency has begin to use mobile tech, digital tech, but has not yet gone to games–including not just digital, but board and card games
In concept stage of developing a gaming intitative–not jsut developing new games and apps, but also adapting existing game sand apps to new countries and situations
Gov funding often focused on output results not outcome results
As was mentioned yesterday, making materials culturally relevant and appropriate is key.
USAID has seed funding, in country officers, large distribution network
US gove has drastically scaled back its development funding and there is now a major opportunity for private enterprise to fill this gap.
Next MacArthur digital learning competition will be announced late summer or early fall
OK, so for this panel we have two hipster/nerd white guys and a woman in army fatigues. Interesting.
There’s a gap between the legacy institution of schools and modern technology. Handheld devices will radically change schools. The Generation Mobile study is significant in terms of explaining how pervasive mobile device use is among kids. Kids today almost all have mobile devices and access the internet via them, and multitask on them to cram more media activity into less time.
Right now, schools ban mobile media (which is an unsustainable decision) and the solution is instead to encourage media multitasking and different educational tasks for different students.
Squire and his team worked in an alternative school with 12-18 students, but with that caveat, the experiment was very successful,they saw very pro-social behavior, the devices amplified learning.
Devices amplify subject interest, self, social network and learning.
With mobile devices students are multitasking in interesting ways and combining the affordances of different apps in creative ways.
Students talked about using Facebook to escape from school clicks. Kids use mobile device to take advantage of teachable moments and participate in the adult world in new ways (give directions to mom using gps when she’s lost).
Neighborhood game design project–integrated course in a design studio context
Started with place based inquiry, game design, and collaboratively building an ARG. Used the context of working with city planner, learned about the challenges of this field, and then went to game design studio–learning game design process, then applying it to their city. Kids decided to make a game about a bike path behind their school being paved. Interesting process was that while they disliked the change before starting the process, by the end they understand why the government did what they did.
Devices can leverage learnign not anywhere anytime, but rather specific places.
Arisgames.org–platofrm for developing iphone arg games.
Made a game about Lake Wingra, and tried to build in some transgression, but in fact none of the kids wanted to transgress (destroy the lake) only wanted to save it.
Kids in 5th grade made a game about a destroyed neightborhood and then drafted and got passed a city resolution
Interested in helping kids learn to be community organizers
“We have an entire society dedicated to putting people into pigeonholes” “You’re an artist, scientist, engineer, designer”
We establish dialectics between exploration and implementation, analytic and asesthetic, when in fact all people have these abilities within them.
Maybe in the future we’ll all be more in virtual reality.
Just called an iPad a book. We’re seeing the proliferatino of digital books, which eventually will all have cameras so that they can facial recognition.
Technology always ends up converging with magic. devices shouldn’t take over our lives. Future shouldn’t be about the machine, but about how we can connect.
People who ask the right questions get to the future first.
Shit yeah! talking about Diamond Age. In the primer, the book only works because there’s a person behind it–not AI. Kids love toys and games but will always respond best to mentors and humans.
Humans are wired in some way to diferentiate between human and not human but acts human–we have limited/no empathy towards artificial intelligence.
As long as you create a compelling charachter, media will converge around it.
All tech has an exponential phase, but eventaully levels off. Whatever is exponential now wil llelvel off and what’s interesting is the things just starting.
“In the future we will still play with plastic dinosaurs, but my hope is we’ll get to keep doing it all our lives.”
Army Brigadere General Lorree K. Sutton
I’m having a hard time. We’re getting some “next greatest generation” stuff here about the nobility of service in the military.
“Perhaps the ultimate wound is the one that makes you miss the war you got it in.” Sebastian Jung. “If that’s true, perhaps the ultimate war game is the one that compels us to return to the scene of the battle,” and acknowledge that wound and move towards healing. “Being together virtually is far more real than being together face to face.” Really?
This lady is hoo rah! all the way. And yet, believes that mental health for soldiers requires moving from “suck it up” to treatment and ommuninty involvement, and reaching out for help is an act of strength.
Sesame Workshop working with the military to help families grieving or adjusting to suffering.
“Theater of War” bringing Greek warrior ideals to life in a way to help soldiers.
Honestly, I have no idea what the hell is being talked about here. We’ve heard the phrase “down range” about a dozen times, which seems to indicate a place where armed conflict takes place. I understand that there are games trying to help soldiers deal with mental health issues, but I know that going in to the talk and I’ve heard virtually nothing of any substance about these.
Sutton has been following war games over the years (down on one knee speaking into the mic like Elvis on stage). Is scared by the latest generation of war games. Brainstorming with Alan Gerschenfeld about how to make war wounded characters from these games and bring them to a space where they can learn about psychological health. Say what?
I got nothing against individual soldiers, but let’s be clear here: These wars we are engaged in (which are not even official wars declared thourough Congress as is mandated in the Constitution!) are tragedies justified by lies. They are destroying millions of lives, they are economically damaging our country, they are perpetuating a culture of fear and justifying the loss of our civil liberties.