I ran a game of Cybergeneration (R. Talsorian Games) during October and November. The kids loved it! They played characters their own age, living in an only half-familiar Atlanta of 2027. Confused and excited by the issues and crises of this near future, they explored with relish. Most of the characters dwelt in an arcology, but three were homeless children whose knowledge of the outside world turned out to be the difference between success and failure for the entire group.
I highly recommend Games Magazine as a source for ideas and puzzles, recreational and educational, for any age. Contact them at 575 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116.
I also want to be sure to mention The Adult Gamer, a magazine focusing on topics of interest to those that have been gaming for some time. It has about twenty pages and covers a range of topics - magic items, sea travel, cold spells - typical of fantasy gaming magazines, but it is also avowedly interested in exploring topics considered, perhaps, more sensitive. For example, the editor currently has an ongoing series concerning the issues of gender, character and player, in RPGs. None of these ideas are presented as titillating. As I hope I have made clear, I think adults need to be comfortable with any topic to be addressed in a classroom. By promoting mature discussion, The Adult Gamer is a valuable voice in gaming.
Some updates on discounts and offers for teachers. Chaosium offers a 20% discount on any purchase of five or more books. Mix and match as you see fit.
Raven Star Game Design - publisher of Raven Star, a space frontier RPG - offers its game at 50% off for classroom use when requested on school or department letter head.
I would like to thank Seth, Chris, Kelly, and Martin for their help in assembling and mailing this newsletter. Now we can get back to the game!
The program as of now would have students playing in an ongoing game for the entire term. Each student would keep a log or diary of events, interests, issues, and ideas. There would be writing projects, art work, geography, genealogies, and so forth.
As this course is developed and taught, you will hear more.
If you are aware of an game with educational applications that now languishes, unknown to your colleagues, the time has come for you to write a review of that game to benefit us all. Tell briefly the type of game, its possible uses, and your experience with it. Be sure to include the publisher's name and address.
On a final note, several of us have commented recently on the lack of games with non-Western, non-White settings. Even wargames cover mostly only those areas impacted by the West. Over the years there have been a few products covering East Asia, notably Bushido from FGU, GURPS China and Japan from Steve Jackson Games, ICE's Oriental Companion, and Chaosium's Land of Ninja. We know of no available games covering South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Latin America. The recent spate of games and supplements covering the cultures of the Middle East or their fantasy equivalents has been encouraging, but we need much more to fill out the opportunities for students and teachers.
Once Upon A Time is a wonderful storytelling card game! Each players has a hand consisting of a number of story elements: Places (for example, castle), Characters (beggar), Events (battle), Aspects (anger), and so forth. Each player also has a Happily Ever After Card with the words to end the story. One example might be "... so they found their way home in the end." The player with the longest beard goes first, and lacking that, the oldest player. Play resembles that classic part game where each person takes a limited time telling a portion of the story which the next player must take up and continue. This card game version allows players to commandeer the tale and sets some basic guidelines for resolving disputes over the story or the telling. A player attempts to play all of her cards' story elements, then conclude with her own Happily Ever After Card. Since any error means drawing an additional card, play tends to be fast-paced and focused. Play typically circulates among at least a couple of players before anyone is even close to playing an entire hand.
My students love this game. It is an especially popular choice for the girls. They've reached the stage where they can anticipate their story elements and work to set up a plot line or character they plan to introduce later. No more than one new element can be introduced in a single sentence, so we have had more that a few extended arguments about compound sentences and run-ons. As they've become more facile, they labor to craft more intricate, sophisticated tales. Katie, the oldest kid in the class was even excluded briefly from games because she always got to go first, and as a strong storyteller, she tended, as a result, to win. Your students will enjoy this game, and it can be used in a variety of writing and language curricula.
Atlas Games, P.O. Box 406, Northfield, MN 55057
FUDGE: Freeform Universal Do-It-Yourself Gaming Experience is a generic system of role playing rules, covering everything from fantasy to pulp to superhero to science fiction. It does a solid job covering the basic needs of anyone running a game. Naturally it does not go into the same depth as does a RPG focused specifically on a particular genre or setting. For those of you needing a basic, clear set of rules to form the basis for a range of games, FUDGE provides a system on which you can rely. All of the fundamental elements are covered, so you can spend your time designing and running your own particular stories. At the same time, it remains flexible, and you can customize those elements that fit your interests and needs.
Wild Mule Games, P.O. Box 838, Randolph, MA 02368-0838
Iron Dragon is the latest of Mayfair's train games. The earlier games have had a variety of historical settings and provide a wealth of opportunities for teaching geography, nineteenth century US westward expansion, the development of European transportation, and so forth. Iron Dragon adds a fantasy element to the series. Rails are laid across a continent people by humans, dwarves, elves, orcs, and dragons. Different opportunities exist, depending on your resources and workers. This particular game encourages logical thinking, strategy, problem-solving skills, and a host of positive general learning. The other train games provide in addition a number of specific educational opportunities. Mayfair wishes to support teachers and will send materials free to classrooms requesting such games using school or department letter head.
Mayfair Games, P.O. Box 48539, Niles, IL 60714
Medieval France is a historical supplement for the Middle Ages. As the author states, how can you examine medieval Europe without a strong understanding of France, the center of so much of what we think of as medieval. It is an impressive tome, covering the history and culture of this region from the Merovingians up to the dawn of the Renaissance. The book then provides a a geographical survey of every part of this area, uncovering details normally unavailable to those of us not fluent in French. A number of local and city maps are also provided. The author strives to provide a complete and balanced picture of the peoples and places under consideration, so many groups often overlooked - women, Jews in the cities, Arabs in the south - receive their due. This is an impressive piece of work and will provide a wealth of information for any group studying medieval topics.
White Rose Publishing, P.O. Box 933, Amherst, MA 01004-0933
Maid of Orleans and Leonardo PLUS both utilize a basic, clear set of wargame rules. The former allows players to explore some of the strategic issues of the Hundred Years War. The latter is set against the wars of late medieval Italy but posits that the inventions and ideas of Leonardo da Vinci became more than curiosities: "Modern Warfare in the Middle Ages." It has a number of sketches and notes from the master's work and an extensive bibliography. It even has ideas and designs for making you own models for the game.
Students are, of course, fascinated by this sort of historical speculation, and such games lead to many opportunities for discussion and writing as students sort out the historical possibilities. The model building and accompanying research and scientific testing can get as elaborate as time and the teacher allow. The intersection of ideas and society in determining the form of new technologies can also be explored.
World Games Network, P.O. Box 16834, Pittsburgh, PA 15244
Magic: The Gathering is that wildly popular card game. In it, players take the roles of dueling wizards, attempting to overcome one another's magical forces and defenses. It is easy to learn the few basic rules and begin playing, but like any well-crafted game, it allows for seemingly endless permutations. The fact that it also has a collectible facet makes it immediately popular with many young people already enjoying the resurgence of sports cards. Magic encourages the full range of higher level thinking skills through a delightful media. Students push themselves and explore the many possibilities of the game. Elsewhere in this issue, Sue Mohn of Wizards of the Coast discusses her company's educational project for the game in 1995.
Many of my male students arrived already familiar with Magic, so when I got some decks for the classroom, I only let novices play with them at first. This allowed those girls and boys to learn the game at their own pace in their own way. Many played "friendly" games with each other at first, laying out all of their cards, or at least their hands, so that everyone could see the options. They helped each other figure out cards and possible moves. Later, they naturally grew more competitive.
To the horror of the collectors in my class and among my friends, I used a colored markers and, holding the deck together, inked the edges of each deck. Each deck got a distinctive color. This is exactly what I do with flash cards to make it easy to keep a complete set of cards together. A set of flash cards missing the 8 x 12 and the 3 x 3 is losing its value. In the same fashion, I had made sure each deck of Magic would work, and I didn't want them getting mixed and ineffective. This coloring also removed any temptation on the part of my student-collectors to appropriate a deck. Magic is great fun, very popular, and a solid educational game. Enjoy!
Wizards of the Coast, P.O. Box 707, Renton, WA 98057-0707
Below is a quick sketch of the sort of program I've got in mind -- It's still in the planning stages.
The idea is to teach both students and teachers something they can use with this game -- there are already teachers out there using Magic in many of these ways, I'd like to see us be directly involved in that venture. I'd like to start this project next semester (January?) at a pilot level -- perhaps 5 or 10 schools -- it will take us a while to prepare the teaching tools and materials that teachers will need to teach to these types of objectives and I'd like to see what the response is on a small level before I try anything large. If this goes well, we could create a packet that teachers could request specifically to teach the above skills at various age categories (K-3; 4-6; 7-8; 9-10; 11-12; undergraduate). This project will work closely with Richard Garfield to develop a strong curriculum.
Teaching An RPG in schools:
I'm looking to engage at least twenty teachers from various age groups (1st - 12th grades) and various subject areas (history, economics, reading, math, etc.) in as much of the nation as is feasibly possible -- the more teachers I can get to work with us in January, the better the final product will look by mid-March when I want to have something ready for teachers to hit their budget requests with. As for measurement, that's part of what I'm working on -- my pilot study teachers will help me with this -- and by the beginning of January, I'd like to have four or five actual lesson plans done to be tested over the course of January and February.
Susan Mohn, Education and Training, Wizards of the Coast
Role Play is not knew to language classes, although RPGs are. Role playing has several beneficial language learning characteristics which Gillian Porter Ladousse has effectively described in her useful introduction to the topic, Role Play. Many of these characteristics are also present in tabletop RPGs. It should be noted that role play and RPG activities are not limited to language practice as language learning is also taking place during the games. For RPGs to be effective in this way, they should be part of what Ladousse calls that "category of language learning techniques sometimes referred to as low input - high output . . . . the teacher-centered presentation phase of the lesson is very short." Role-Playing activities offer opportunities for real use of the language. Although they are more often used in many English for Special Purposes courses, they can be used with general classes too at any level.
There can be two ways of looking at language work in RPGs and similar role plays: either the students manage with the language they already know or they practice with structures and functions that have been presented in an earlier part of the course or lesson. Either way, the students can only benefit from the experience. William H. Bryant used adventure/survival discussion games similar to RPGs in his French Conversation classes and found them to be very effective.
Paul Cardwell, CAR-PGA president, noted in his article "Role-Playing Games and the Gifted Students," that there are several language and non-language based learning skills developed directly when students become involved with RPGs. According to Cardwell, these include but are not limited to Following Directions, Vocabulary, Research, Independent/Self-Directed Study, Planning, Choice/Decision Making, Mental Exercise, Evaluation, Cooperation/Interaction, Creativity/Imagination, Leadership, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Predicting Consequences, Figural/Spatial Reasoning, Taking Other Points of View, Asking Questions, Ethics, Prioritizing, Interrelated Learning, and Continuity of Learning. Swink and Buchanan found that there is also some evidence to suggest that role-playing methods facilitate attitude change, increase self-concept, and produce behavioral change.
Along with developing language skills and other related skills as noted above, because RPGs are language-centered communication games, they have a definite positive effect on student socialization skills which are central to RPGs where much of the game is based upon gaining information from the GM and then interacting with one another to come up with a common interpretation so that the group of players can accomplish their goals. One of the players in one of the hobby groups that I run in Taipei noted that she wasn't so interested in whether the characters made it through the game in one piece or not as the fun she had just socializing with the other players during the game.
For students who create their own adventures, instead of relying upon published source material, the act of doing so helps then become better thinkers and writers. This is because a scenario requires internal logic, a balance that is the very condition of collective involvement. Sociologist Daniel Dayan characterized the standards for good RPG campaigns thus: "The fictional background or universe must be relatively convincing and may call for some amount of historical validity, but it is defined less in terms of historical realism than by the consistency of its imagined features." Similarly, many claim that the game offers an outlet for those with adventure fantasies of their own and teaches them about problem-solving, leadership, and survival.
Whether students are playing in scenarios created by their classmates or using pre-generated modules, RPGs have a strong curiosity appeal which Patricia Mugglestone called the one "primary motive relevant to every teaching-learning situation, whatever the status of the target language, whatever type of course is being followed, whatever the learner's nationality, age, and level of language proficiency, whether he is a volunteer or conscript learner." According to Mugglestone, "projects appeal to the curiosity motive if their content is interesting to the learner and if the learner is allowed to develop the project in his own way." This certainly describes the typical RPG activity.
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.
Date: Thu, 27 Oct 1994 19:03:35 -0400 Sender: UnholyCrow@aol.comIn addition to the benefits cited in your GAMA statements, I would consider the following as well. Gaming teaches imagination. With books declining in popularity and TV ascending, people are losing the ability to form imaginative pictures. Since the action in games is strictly described, it forces participants to imagine in order to understand. Naturally, imagining to understand is a useful skill for almost any intellectual task. Gaming is intellectually active, in a time when most entertainments are intellectually passive. There is give and take in an RPG; what you get out of it depends on how much thought and attention you invest. TV is passive; you just sit and receive. Finally, gaming CAN provide a testing ground for ethics. At its best, role playing games are not just about winning money or solving intellectual puzzles or slaying ever more exotic monsters; its about ethical choices, the hard decisions that underlie all literature. At their best, games get people thinking about Right and Wrong.
-Greg Stolze, Game Designer
Return-Path:I have a comment about the GAMA statement on p. 2. After stating the benefits and the drawbacks, GO BACK TO SOMETHING POSITIVE TO CLOSE THE STATEMENT. Don't end on a negative note. Maybe something about "Despite the possibility of drawbacks, . . ." --in a new section, not just the end of the "drawbacks" section.
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 94 17:25:19 EST
Another benefit of role-playing games is that they build not only math skills but logic and modeling skills. The whole process of converting the game world and events to representative numbers and semantic descriptions (tables, character stats, etc.) is a process of creating a model; modifying the rules, which most good RPGs recommend, is a process of refining the model so as to make it more elegant.
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 1994 19:28:14 -0400 Sender: JollyGood@aol.comHey Dave,
For the past three years I've been interested in publishing RPG products geared for the classroom - primarily history and current affairs. If you could put the word out in your channels that SHADIS is interested in such work I would appreciate it.
We are currently working on a line of alternative-history books in which the players portray time-travellers from the future sent back to put history back on course. Thisof course requires them to research the facts to find solutions and then to put them in place.
Jolly R. Blackburn
I seem to be at a disadvantage here at Rolla, MO. I don't really care for the school system here, and I don't really fit in. I guess the best way to put it is that I'm not a "cowboy", "prep", or gangster wanna-be. The school system here is very strict and somewhat unwilling to change. Most people (teachers, etc.) think I'm just a kid from the city who "doesn't know the difference between a cow and a horse". This puts be in a bad position for trying to get games used in schools.
On the other hand, I have the support from my mother, who is highly respected by many for her leadership of the Center of Psychiatric Services. She is currently the only psychiatrist working there and has put much effort into making what was a chaotic, demeaning playhouse into and orderly psychiatric unit.
One of my teachers, Mrs. Jones, expressed interest in using gaming in her classroom. She said she had done something similar to that referred to in the previous "Speech! Speech!" article. I'm currently working things out with her to get some form of gaming used in classroom activities.
I'd also like to answer a few of the questions posted in the newsletter.
I would like to point out that along with encouraging reading, math, and social skills, role-playing also encourages ACTING and speech skills. Of course, the degree that this is measured to depends on the game and how it is played. The Whitewolf "World of Darkness" series seems to require more acting skills than your standard AD&D campaign (or, ratherly, the 'hack and slash' type).
813 Bray Ave.
Rolla, MO 65401
I have done a live action game with the 10-11 age range as part of a topic on space. I developed a whole day experience where the children became Star Fleet cadets on a training ship. They each had a job (medical officer, biologist, specialist in alien culture), and they had problem-solving tasks linked to this job, which filled up their time between event and writing their personal logs. They also each had character backgrounds, motivations, and in many cases secrets, for example, being an alien, space sickness, their own personal agendas. The fun was finding out who was really what!
During the day they had to maintain role, carry out their tasks, and respond to events such as visits from other Star Fleet officials, away teams to be chosen and subsequently reporting back, and of course, exciting things like searching for a bomb or skirmishes with Romulan ships. Some of the creative writing they did as a result was superb. It reads like they were really there because they were really there.
I am very interested in the use of role playing and simulation games as an educational tool. I have been of the opinion for several years that one of the great untapped potentials of rpgs in placing them in an educational context. I am even of the opinion that they could be of use for upper high school and lower college years!
I have a particular interest in the use of role playing games as a medium for understanding (in a hermeneutic sense) changes in social consciousness. I am currently designing a game to that effect, having made some tentative moves in Rolemaster Companion VI.
A.J. Lev Anderson
I saw your posting the other day on GAMA's games and education group, and am interested in subscribing to youir newsletter. I am an eighth grade U.S. history teacher and a long, long, time gamer (board games since 1972 or therebouts, role playing since the late 1970s and, in the last couple of years, historical miniatures). I have been actively searching for ways to use my gaming materials in class, both to educate and to motivate. For example, in one of my class exercises, I have my students outfit their own expedition to the New World from a "catalogue" that I have put together using equipment lists culled from AD&D, Ars Magica, GURPS and Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. My students also have played a Civil War game I based loosely on GDW's A House Divided.
In recent years, I also have joined a group called the Tuesday Night Games Club, which meets at teh School of Education at the University of Michigan under the supervision of Fred Goodman, a North American Simulation and Games Association (NASAGA) Hall of Famer. Goodman, along with Layman Allen (Wiff N Proof Games) has been teaching teachers to develop educational games at Ann Arbor since 1969.
John Lloyd Retzer
Gaming & Education is a publication sponsored by the Game Manufacturer's Association and is dedicated to furthering communication regarding the use of games of all types in educational settings. It is distributed free to anyone interested in any facet of this pursuit. Everyone is encouraged to participate in this communication by sharing their games, discoveries, insights, and critiques. We all benefit from each other's ideas.
Gaming & Education is distributed through the US Postal Service and is posted to a number of USENET newsgroups, including rec.games.abstract, rec.games.board, rec.games.frp.advocacy, rec.games.frp.misc, rec.games.mecha, and rec.games.miniatures.
next volume 2-2, previous volume 1-4, archive, or top of rpg.net