How are games educational? Why are they educational? How can they be used? What is the best game you ever saw used in a classroom? How was it used? What were the benefits? What were the reactions?
How can we contact more teachers? What do teachers want? What are teachers already doing?
Publishers, what do you want? What do you have? How have you promoted games in classrooms? What frustrates you?
Parents, how have you seen games used in the classroom and by your children? What are the benefits? What do you see that the rest of us do not?
Students, how can game use in the classroom be improved? What do you want? What works best?
What can you do to spread the word?
This school year, this group is initiating several larger, important projects. The largest, National Games Month, is much bigger than us and is detailed below.
First, we need to develop an annotated bibliography of games for teachers. This will be a catalog of games and curricula that help teachers plan and purchase for their classroom. It will be indexed by topic, age ranges (material, reading level, and so forth), and publisher. We need reviews. We need copies of games to test in classroom. PUBLISHERS, WE CAN ONLY PUBLISH REVIEWS OF GAMES WE HAVE SEEN AND TESTED IN CLASSROOMS. Many of you are familiar with a variety of games. If you can write a few paragraphs concerning the use of a quality game in the classroom, please do so and send it to us!
Second, we are considering a directory of those involved in this group. This includes anyone receiving this newsletter. What do you think? If you do not want your address published, it will not be. This won't happen for a number of months. GAMA would have to approve the substantial printing costs. Such a list could also be made available on the Internet, but again, give it time.
Third, we are developing materials for non-gaming teachers interested in beginning to use these games. If you have anything to contribute to this, please get in touch with us.
Mayfair Games and Avalon Hill Games both have a deal for teachers. The former will send their wonderful train games for classroom use FOR FREE. Simply request it using your school or department letterhead. Avalon Hill offers an across the board 40% discount for teachers. This is great! There are surely others. Let us know.
Lorece Altken of Pegasus Games in Madison, Wisconsin sent us the addresses for all of the middle and high schools in her community, and we thank her for this. If you know of interested persons or institutions, send us the address. Here it comes!
There are several ways we may be involved in this project. The focus is Origins which runs from July 13th to 16th. GAMA is examining ways to bring in teachers, perhaps at a very low price or even free. We may be in a position to offer seminars to our largest audience ever, introducing many teachers, classrooms, and students to the use of these powerful games. Your support can make the difference.
GAMA is also exploring the establishment of a scholarship fund to be awarded during the game convention. Will this be an annual event? We do not yet know.
GAMA is also planning a variety of other promotions and events. Watch for them in your area and in your areas of interest. Encourage everyone to participate. Most importantly, write to us now with what you think will make this all work best.
I led three seminars: Gaming & Young People, Gaming & Education, and Gaming & Prejudice. This is exactly the order I prefer and the one I requested. Each was a two hour discussion, though I often began talking with some people well before our official start, and we always found ourselves sliding precipitously close to the next event, though we gracefully avoided any conflicts.
The first attempts to define games simply but broadly, define young people developmentally, then examine them in their real world context. For those of you that attended, sounds pretty impressive, neh? This was a good exchange of questions and ideas. We spent much of the time exploring the issues surrounding game clubs (and game groups, families, school groups) with a broad age range. Occasionally public game clubs find themselves trapped between youthful interest, gamemaster freedom, and parental ire. There were a number of ideas, some of them contradictory as is inevitable such a pluralistic discussion. If there is interest, I can go into more depth with these at a later date here.
Gaming & Education is the main course for me personally. Two hours to talk about the delightful and powerful discoveries of teachers in their classrooms. It was good. Our teachers included a librarian, a coast guard trainer, several graduate students, and many others. Everyone is welcome. We are all teachers. Suffice to say, I happily spun tales (all of them true) of my own students over the years and their valuable encounters with a number of games.
The third seminar explored issues of bias and stereotyping both among players and within game settings. This was the smallest of the seminars, and for some reason it was scheduled in a smaller, more isolated chamber far from the center of the con. We had a great time. Issues of race and gender came up early, as did the depiction of sexuality in general in games. We discussed games that offer a balanced opportunity and those that accurately portray a society and its unspoken rules of conduct and status. Everyone was respectful, but all presented their own truly held ideas and opinions. In examining the complex issues of children, our world, classrooms, and games, these often sticky issues are going to rear their heads. If I can teach U.S. history to ten year olds, I can certainly (and inevitably) discuss with them the thorny topics of our times.
These seminars generated a wealth of new interest in our work. This newsletter is now received by almost 400 people, and many more read it through Internet postings.
I was able to visit the vast dealers' room, and it was a heady experience. The profusion of new games, art, and even forms of games was breathtaking at every turn. Many have immediate applications in classrooms. Others are valuable for their ability simply to bring people together and stretch their thinking. Some games are reviewed below, and if the many friendly publishers cooperate and send us more games, look forward to much more!
On Sunday I attended the GAMA Board Meeting. It was a serious affair. I presented our work thus far and our plans for the near future. The board was very pleased and immediately supportive. For many member, this was their first real chance to learn more about our efforts, to ask questions. It went well. The board is presently considering a permanent budget for our work, allowing us to get a better handle on our impressive growth and making possible much future work. You will hear more about this as we know learn more.
Lastly, I was able to spend some time in the child care area of the con. This secluded but certainly not quiet service is provided by the friendly and skilled staff of Klapper Day Care. They have a well-developed program, from registration to activities. I was impressed, and interest in their services has grown every year. The kids were having a wonderful time, some playing games, some doing art, a few napping. I think this is a great idea, especially with the growing number of families attending cons. If you are interested in knowing more, I can put you in touch with them.
It's only ten months until Origins....
Role-playing games encourage math skills. Rolling dice, totaling them, adding and modifying factors, subtracting them, multiplying and dividing them by something else are common occurrences in these games.
Most importantly, role-playing games are a social activity. Having a group of friends to rely on during the tough years of adolescence is invaluable, and role-playing games build friendships that can last a lifetime.
[So, what do you think? How can this be improved? What is not covered? How can we expand this to cover a much wider range of games and questions?]
Dr. Steven Fratt of Trinity College, Professor of History, uses a variety of wargames in his classes: "In upper level classes I require a semester-long research project and no tests. During the final exam time, we game!"
Dr. Fratt recommends two games focused on the Vietnam War: Frank Chadwick's Tet Offensive wargame from GDW (P.O. Box 1646, Bloomington, IL 61702-1646) and Vietnam Survival Tour, a board game from MC Mets (3352 Darlington Road, Holiday, FL 34691).
The speaker's task was to describe the design on the card. Each listener was to draw the design on a sheet of paper. After a few minutes the group compared the card with the listeners' designs. Then each group chose a new speaker. We passed a new card to the group, and they repeated the process.
This exercise could be done using a fragment of a role playing game. The speaker could describe a room or creature, and the listeners could try to draw it and compare their drawings.
My students seemed more relaxed if they had something in their hands, so early in the course I had a speech about an object. One student brought a bag of dice. I have heard dozens of oral reports using model planes, tanks, or ships, but these were history classes.
Games are a potential source of speeches in other categories. The "process speech" can be about how to play D&D, and the "controversial speech" can address the question, Are role playing games really dangerous?
Blacksburg Tactical Research Center, 1925 Airy Circle, Richmond, VA 23233
Distant Seas has players compete for cargo in any one of three time periods: sail, steam, and modern. The rules are clear, and the heavy-duty world map is accurate and easy to read. This Monopoly of the high seas allows students to learn the qualities that made for profit and failure in each era. I have a copy in my classroom, and while this is not the simplest game, my students were drawn to the eye-catching map, and they began playing on their own. They preferred the modern era; it's the simplest to get started, but they were intrigued by the meteorological rules for the sail-shipping game. This game has applications in studies history, economics, geography, and technology.
Distant Seas Publishing Company, 9557 Fern Hollow Way, Gaithersburg, MD 20879
Technopoly transports the familiar lanes of New Jersey to the bustling lands of Silicon Valley. Based on familiar rules and layout, this game offers much that is new. The playing track is mostly two-way and has several sub-paths. Players compete for contracts with computer manufacturers, network developers, and military suppliers. The opportunities for following directions, problem-solving, and social brinkmanship are many. Jim has detailed each technology on the cards, but no knowledge of computers or technology is necessary for play, any more than you need a degree in hotel management to play Monopoly. I have used this game with strong sixth grade math students. By unanimous acclaim, we took it on our class camping trip: "In case of rain, David!" If they can play Monopoly, they will enjoy Technopoly.
Jim McBurney -Technopoly, 890 South Wolfe Road, Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Unfortunately, my parents and teachers think that role-playing involves too much fantasy, and they are waiting for me to outgrow it. My parents strongly discourage it, mainly because they focus on on all the negative aspects of the materials, such as magical properties and evil-looking creatures (They don't realize we play the good guys.). I m not allowed to attend any conventions, and this discourages me because meeting other players is always interesting.
Dream Park is extremely simple, so much so that students can learn the basics in less than 5 minutes. Even advanced combat is simple, yet convincingly cinematic. Characters are fast to create (5 minutes, less if you know the rules already). Best of all, because the game is designed to mimic a simulation of reality (ie. the Dream Park gaming domes) you can easily mix and match genres and still maintain play balance.
I use Dream Park rules at school, mainly for the speed that kids can learn them. I've also created a set of FileMaker Pro databases that let the kids print up character sheets and Qwik-Start cards (an abbreviated character sheet), as well as equipment, skill, and spell cards (business card-sized, giving all essential information on one side and a picture on the other).
RuneQuest is not as simple, but a lot more realistic. Its main strengths are a good, fast, realistic combat system and a magical system that can simulate every system of belief on earth. Drawbacks are a longer learning curve and longer character creation times (30+ minutes).
I also use miniatures, mainly to help with the visualization. Most kids in the video generation have a hard time visualizing a character until they see a picture or figure. Hopefully, next year a few of them will actually dare to paint their own miniatures rather than relying on mine!
I am a part of a gaming company called TimJim Games. We, in association with Prism Games, manufacture primarily board and card games. We believe that some of our games would be a pleasant and useful addition to school curriculums. In particular, Fast Food Franchise, which is an economic game reminiscent of Monopoly and Acquire; Suzerain, a card game which incorporates elements of feudalistic society; and Age of Exploration, which allows players to plan and run expeditions in the 1400-1500's.
I am hoping to get some idea of which conventions and connections would be fruitful for us to explore and you seem to be a particularly good source.
Salutations! My name is Travis Bryant and I am a senior at Northern Kentucky University. For my English major and Honors minor, I will be writing a complete role playing game. At the end of the book will be a academic treatment of role playing games in society. This will (hopefully) include a study of the group interaction in RPG's, internal and external views of the RPG hobby, and role playing games as continuing oral tradition.
Return-Path:I didn't want to quote the whole article or spend hours deleting part of it, so I just started anew. I wanted to say thinks for a wonderful article. I'm saving it to share with other non-netted gamers and with parents who might otherwise object to their kids enjoying RPGs.
Date: Tue, 9 Aug 1994 19:23:55 -0700 To: firstname.lastname@example.org Cc: Subject: Your article on gaming and education
Around here, we run RPGs online, everybody has to write their moves, and be very specific about it. It seems to me that a similar setup on a computer, using a bbs software in local mode for classroom use only could easily facilitate the same kind of action. One student could be GM, the others players, each one gets a time online to do their move and read others. If you have different groups with different interests, they could participate in different games. It could be an interesting way of improving writing skills.
In our online games we run the age gamut from 10 to 44, and everybody has the opportunity to express their characters in writing. We've got two games going now, and one beginning, and another planned for September, and we're just a small board.
Return-Path: <email@example.com> Date: 25 Aug 94 14:06:29 EDT To: David MilliansDecision making.
Subject: Students as decision makers
As a teacher, I provide access to a medium by which some of our students get the chance to make decisions and live with the decisions they make. The medium? Why, simulation games, of course!
So often in education we fail to allow our students to make decisions and most teachers will agree on this one point: young people thirst for the chance to make decisions!
In fact, they crave it.
*Nothing is real until it is experienced*
Now understand me on this: I am not talking about what so many educators label "critical thinking skills". Keep it simple. Get students to make a decision. Choice A or Choice B. Live with it. Wear it for a while. Then move on to the next decision.
Sound familiar? It should. What I have just described to you is what many of us have come to know as simulation gaming, be it a roleplaying game or a boardgame. Gamers make hundreds of decisions within the course of a single game. Yet as educators, we cringe when our well educated students fail to make good decisions, both in and out of school,and all we seem able to do is shrug our shoulders and say, "what a shame". Why do we say this? Did we ever take the time to teach or reinforce the idea of a student making a decision, other than on a quiz or exam? Did we allow them to make bad decisions and give them the opportunity to live with them?
Think back to the last game you played. Did you at some point in the course of play make a bad decision? Of course you did! You probably had your share of good decisions as well. Yet regardless of your decision, the game progressed onward and you had to continue play.
So what's the point?
The point is that simulation gaming allows young people the opportunity to make decisions, good and bad, and to put all of these decisions into a format filled with goals and objectives. Sounds like pretty familiar stuff to me. What about you?
*The Play Is The Thing*
Can students learn from making decisions? Fashion it this way: Can a player develop a solid strategy for later successes in a game based upon earlier failures? I can only speak for myself that a good deal of my successful game strategies were derived from the ashes of my failures.
Can students learn from failure?
Can students learn from failure?
Perhaps we should look to sports for the answer. After all, it too incorporates a "game" format.
In baseball, if you hit the ball safely only 33% (1/3) of the time, you are a success. What about the times a player fails? Does he learn from previous experience? Does he remember chasing an outside slider when behind in the count? The next time up he doesn't chase the slider and gets the pitch he wants. The next thing you know the ball is bouncing off the centerfield wall and our batter is standing on second base!
The same is true in gaming.
Bad decisions may have been made in haste. Perhaps previous knowledge provides clues to future direction. Cause and effect are noted, weighed, and applied to the situation at hand. Previous poor choices give way to good ones as the game progresses.
There are no money back guarantees in life and simulation gaming reinforces this while at the same time providing an environment to experience the "feel" of success and failure.
So there you have it. Students need the opportunity to make decisions in a safe environment, one that provides the modeling for more important decisions they will make away from the table.
Jeff Kingston is a high school teacher in Atascadero, CA and teaches at West Mall Alternative School. He began historical simulation gaming in 1968 and has incorporated it into the school's curriculum.
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