Tag Archives: gaming

Guiding Impact: Designing Impact Guides to use videogames for players, parents, and teachers

Impact Guide Header

As part of my work at the ASU’s Center for Games and Impact, I created the concept of Impact Guides. Impact Guides are a way to extend the experience of a game beyond what happens on the screen, and to reflect on key themes within the game and the connections to the larger world. I believe that games have the potential to transform how players see their actions, how teachers teach and engage students, and how families can share in experiences and talk about them.

I designed the Impact Guides to prompt players to think critically about their play—from the design and mechanics of the game to their own feelings to their everyday experiences—with a specific focus on the impact that these key moments can have.  Importantly, the Guides are invitations to not only reflect on personal experience Continue reading

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Projective embodiment in Videogames and Digital Spaces

Brothers_header_601x232This article argues that gaming is an embodied phenomenon which is distributed across multiple conceptual domains. Videogames are, as Gee notes, “’action-and-goal-directed preparations for, and simulations of, embodied experience’” (23)[1]. However, gaming is more than just what happens on screen. It is a highly mediated experience (the screen sits between that player and the game) in which the player straddles two worlds. They simultaneously exist in the ‘virtual’ world as their character on the screen as well as in the ‘real’ world as they press buttons and manipulate the interface of the game. Indeed, Juul argues that playing a game is a “dual structure” in which “the actions we perform have the duality of being real events and being assigned another meaning within the fictional world” (141)[2]. Thus, when I click the mouse, I perform a real world action (moving my finger to press the button) as well as a symbolic action in-game (moving a character or selecting an item). Whereas Gee was primarily interested in what happens between the player’s head (mind) and the screen, I intend to examine embodiment across this dual structure of physical/virtual experience—that is, not just in the game but in the game play.

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From gamified to game-inspired: Leading a workshop for games in higher education

JBH_teaching At this year’s Games + Learning + Society conference , I was lucky enough to lead a workshop on using games in higher ed settings. I had three main goals for the workshop. First, I hoped to highlight issues specific to higher ed around games, learning, and (especially) teaching. Second, I wanted to bring together different perspectives on using games, from critical analysis of games to gamifying the class experience itself. Lastly, I hoped to start a larger conversation and build from this one-off workshop towards a more formal field of study focused on higher ed practice. To meet all three of these goals, Continue reading

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Play learning, or why playing games is important for learning about games

As part of the Learning, Literacy and Technologies reading group’s work this semester, I’m documenting some thoughts, notes, design goals and rationale, and some brain-dumps and debriefings from meetings. This regular series will live on both my personal website (gamerhetor.com) as well as a specialty site dedicated to game-inspired teaching and learning (gameinspiredteaching.wordpress.com).

Several students in ASU’s new Learning, Literacies and Technologies program and I, along with great faculty guidance by Dr. Elisabeth Gee, have started a reading group focused on videogames. We’re planning on covering some broad overviews of games in general, a little bit of gaming (and games studies) history, some deeper analysis of specific games, and the connections between videogames and learning. A future post may focus on our readings more directly, though at this point we’ve remained somewhat informal in how we’ve structured readings.

I’ve suggested a arcade/play session as part of our regular meetings for reasons I explicate below. The short version is that playing games is a critical part of studying them; Continue reading

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Visual Analysis Toolkit (Short Version)

There is an earlier draft of this analysis as well that goes a little deeper into the theory, though it has changed since I originally wrote it. I’m also working on a longer, revised version that fleshes out my thinking based on all the feedback I’ve received. This version is what will appear in the GLS 9.0 proceedings. In short, there are many versions of this theory and the joy of digital media is that you can watch me draft and revise publicly. I love the future.

This paper provides a methodology for analyzing the visual elements of videogames, and in particular how those elements can help players understand the contexts of the game and prepare them to act within it. Visual elements help orient players to the mechanics of the game (what they do) and to the stories they enact (why they are doing it and how). There is a risk in isolating visual elements from other modes of meaning-making in games, as gameplay is about how these modes work together to make the meaning of the game possible. However, this analysis considers how the visual elements point towards these other modes, how the game cues players in how to interpret and act, and how to use the visual features to “do” the game. Building on a framework developed by Serafini (2010), this methodology for visual analysislooks across several interrelated features: the representational and orientational elements within the game screen; structures and conventions called upon; and ideological choices and frames used by the designers in creating the game and by players when interpreting and enacting that design. If, as Serafini suggests, we think of these as nested layers within a sphere, then the outermost level is the ideological frame, the middle is the structural and conventional frame, and the innermost is the representational elements or “noticings”; we look inward through ideologies, through conventions, at the “noticings,” which reflect back to us those other features. It is important to understand that the boundaries between layers is porous; conventions are certainly ideologically motivated; color is both a semiotic structure (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2002) as well as a noticeable element. These features blend into each other and isolating them is useful only in the most abstract deconstruction. In the everyday world players experience these things simultaneously and as compound meaning-potentials.

The work of meaning: Orientation and Preparation

Gameplay is about the mechanics of play, about  Continue reading

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On being cannon fodder

Cuz I was getting butchered. Geddit??

I played some multiplayer in Modern Warfare 3 the other day because, well, I am a sucker.

Now, I have a not-so-secret aversion to FPS multiplayer. I am absolutely terrible at it, which is a big part of why I dislike it so. I have never been much of a “twitch” gamer, and I love to absolutely jam on every button on the controller as hard as possible, especially in those tense, firefight moments. This is an “end user” problem, to be sure.

However, another reason I am bad at it (and why I don’t enjoy multiplayer) is that it’s often really freakin’ hard to get better at it when I’m thrown in with a bunch of experts and my average life-expectancy is in the sub 10-second mark. While this isn’t an insurmountable hurdle (“rookies” get better all the time by playing with experts – hell, the trailer for the game even points this dynamic out), I find it very difficult and incredibly frustrating.

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Bridging the gap, part 1: Formal and informal learning environments


I attended a great presentation the other day by Michael Levine from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center about gaming education reform.  The concept of “bridging” formal and informal learning environments came up several times during the discussion, and it’s been rattling around in my head ever since. I thought I’d knock out a few thoughts about the subject in an un-researched, seat-of-the-pants method (like the irresponsible academic I am). So, well, ramble ho.

Formal and informal learning environments

School seems to be the obvious example of a formal learning environment. Schools have classrooms with set expectations, learning outcomes, models for instruction, methods for assessment, a culturally propagated power structure, an institutional framework which perpetuates these structures and so on. Continue reading

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How to Look at Videogames: Three Perspectives

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What we need is a grammar of understanding, a way of describing how meaning making occurs in and around videogames. We’ve already made some progress across various disciplines and discourses, from design and art theory to cultural studies and educational applications. Often these approach games by examining what they mean. I care less about what videogames mean than how they mean it. I’ll leave meanings to critics; I care about the ways they mean, the perceptual features, the structures that support the creation of meaning. These are questions which inform both the making and playing of games. Indeed, I feel strongly that questions of meaning serve as a unifying space for both ends of videogames, design and play. Often it’s easy to treat these as wholly separate dimensions, where play is simply an emergent property of the design of the game, or where players interact with a “text” that comes pre-packaged and is simply decoded. I think this stems not from ignorance of the interdependent nature of design and play but in issues of access: critics from either dimension often lack effective ways to interact with and interrogate what the “other side” is doing, from the actual process of design and development to the multitudes of ways to play. Instead, it is far more productive to conceive of games as both designed and enacted.

This is why I feel how meaning happens (or doesn’t) is so important: it provides a more robust vocabulary across the practices of making games and enacting them. Continue reading

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Pimping ASU Humanities Interview with a certain videogame hack

I hate to use this stupid site only to pimp the stuff I do, but….well, I guess I don’t hate it that much.

Alright, with that cleared up, check out an interview I did as part of ASU’s Project Humanities. The guiding question is “Are we losing our humanity?” I was asked to talk about videogames and digital media specifically. Also starring my good friend and cool interweb scholar Alice Daer. Woot.

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Battlefield 3 and “realistic” war

So, unless you never watch TV (and people like that actually exist, right?), you’ve probably been bombarded by ads for Battlefield 3. Yes, I sort-of want to play it (even though am not a huge shooter fan). Yes, it looks very good. Indeed, the ads claim that it’s “the most realistic shooter” ever. Which made me wonder: what does it mean to play a “hyper-realistic” shooter set in a current and on-going conflict? Is it morally problematic to “play” at things that everyday Americans are living “for real”–and even dying “for real”? I can see at least 2 and 1/2 ways of breaking this down:  
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