Friday, August 20, 2021

Games and Education

A couple weeks ago, I attended almost every session at the GENeration Analog tabletop games and education conference, sponsored by Analog Game Studies.  The first day focused on board games and the second day on role-playing games (the tabletop kind, not the video game kind).

So many good speakers and interesting topics, and I ended up doubling my articles/website reading list, and following more folks on Twitter.  I want to capture some of my thoughts about the conference before other shiny objects distract my attention more than they already have.

Here are some take-aways I want to remember:

  • Jorge Moya-Higueras presented some research on gamification versus playing games that indicated a lower engagement rate for gamification, possibly because of the extrinsic rewards of earning badges and points, versus the intrinsic reward of enjoyment that simply playing games produces.
  • I want to pick up a copy of Critical Play by Mary Flanagan.  Her talk on "Values and 'Enculturation' in Tabletop Game" was really intriguing. 
  • Steven Dashiell's talk on "Gamer Stores and Gilded Doors: Narrative analysis of minority gamers' experiences at analog game spaces" included a couple ideas I need to think more about.  In particular, he pointed out that understanding the rules is not the same thing as understanding the culture, and that immersion requires socialization.  It makes me think about how I "find my tribe" in role-playing and board games, because of the shared language I typically experience outside of the game, like Monty Python jokes and references to books like Lord of the Rings or TV shows like Firefly.  Dashiell talked about his experiences as a kid enjoying RPGs at his local game store, but not feeling part of the crowd because he did not understand that shared language.  This reminds me that I need to be cognizant in all spaces about how I help or hinder others from being welcome; signaling my own geek culture is okay, but do I also value other cultures present around me?  Also, just as Dashiell spent time on his own as a kid going back to watch and read what the others were talking about, it is up to me to do the same when I am in spaces where I am an outsider.  It also reminds me of the importance of spaces created specifically for marginalized populations, and makes me appreciate people who are willing to share those spaces with wider audiences so that me, as a white, straight, cis-gendered, mostly neuro-typical male can get a glimpse inside the thinking, emotions, and relationships of people who are different from me.  I am grateful for people like Tanya DePass, who hosts Into the Motherlands, an actual-play game, on her YouTube channel for opportunities like this.
  • The keynote presentation from B. Dave Walters on "Diversity and Inclusion" was outstanding!  I loved his quote "Storytelling is sacred.  It makes us human."  And I appreciated his advice to "tell the stories you want to see in the world."  These are definitely ideas I want to remember when I return to the classroom and tell the story of math, and when I write stories and adventures.
There were other talks that included information on specific games or research about using games in classrooms.  I especially enjoyed the presentations by Catherine Croft of Catlilli Games, Scott Nicholson on game design, and Rebecca Y. Bayeck on Historical African Board Games.  I definitely plan to attend GENeration Analog next year, hopefully in person!