We had a great time this spring exploring the history of the Westward Expansion using literature, models, movies, science studies, poetry, and, of course, a game. The simulation was called Eden, for that was the name of the little town that most of them were embarking to found on the bluffs of the Missouri River in Dakota Territory. Each student was the head of a family, and we actually began by writing character description based on a few notes from me. We then took these characters and wrote a forty five minute play about the easterners journey and their encounter with the families already living in the area. The final scene was one of confrontation, confusion, and possibility, and it set the context for the first turn of the game the following Tuesday. Leaders emerged, and the land was divided, sometimes fairly. Soddies were built, and most families settled down to making a living. There were trials, a growing temperance movement, and a mysterious grassfire, and by 1882, the town of Eden was growing into diverse maturity. It was great. They lived it, and they loved it.
Next year my class focus will be on early exploration and colonization of the Caribbean and neighboring North and South America. I find myself referring to it as the Pirate! curriculum. Perhaps it's due to finding that ship model for the classroom mantle or discovering a costume store with a deal on eye patches and floppy, plastic cutlasses. As you may be able to tell, I'm already excited to find new materials and ideas for this year long adventure, so that means I'm looking for games. If you have any ideas about this or about using games in other ways, please let me know.
I am presenting three workshops and three tournaments at Gen Con this August in Milwaukee. The seminars are Games & Young People (Thursday, August 8, from 10 am to 12 noon), Games & Education (Friday, August 9, from 10 am to 12 noon), and Games & Society (Sunday, August 11, from 10 am to 12 noon). Of the three tournaments, Succession Council, which uses the Harnworld background from Columbia Games and which runs Friday, August 9, from 8 am to 10 am, is a live action game with lots of spaces. If you want to have some great fun and get a stronger sense of how I run many of my current classroom games, please come play! I hope I can see many of you at the convention.
I have included a separate note for the people I met at a conference this June and afterward included in the mailing for this newsletter. The messages within it apply to so many of you, though few of us have had the pleasure of meeting face to face.
Please, note that my email address has changed.
Have a wonderful summer.
Chaosium offers a 20% discount on any purchase of five or more books. You can mix and match as you see fit.
Global Games offers a 50% discount on games, plus $5 shipping and handling.
Mayfair Games will send FREE train games to classrooms. Simply request this on school letterhead.
Raven Star Game Design offers a 50% discount when purchase requests are written on school letterhead.
The CAR-PGa Newsletter is published by the Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games. Originally founded to address attacks on gamers, gaming, and the hobby, it has evolved into a more general support organization, promoting a variety of projects, including our own. You can reach Paul Cardwell, Jr., the chairman of the group, at 1127 Cedar, Bonham, TX 75418. Membership in the group is free (though supporting work is expected), and subscriptions to the newsletter are $7.50 ($12.00 overseas).
Dragonsmoke is a newsletter published by Bob Albrecht and George Firedrake and is dedicated to toys and tools for teaching math and science, project based learning, and "Whatever else come to mind." It's full of ideas, insights, and helpful connections. Just send the a SASE at PO Box 1635, Sebastopol, CA 95473-1635, and they'll have the latest issue back to you.
Interactive Fantasy is a new publication out of Britain. It explores gaming as a serious pursuit, while remaining aware of its inherently playful nature. Articles in the first issue attempt to define different types of games and styles of gaming, seek links with other forms of entertainment and study, organize the short but rich history of published games, and imagines the games of the future. It is fascinating reading at many levels and accessible to anyone. Subscriptions (quarterly) are $40 or =A320 and can be sought at Crashing Boar Games, 29a Abbeville Road, London SW4 9LA, Great Britain.
Paper Mayhem is a bimonthly magazine dedicated to Play By Mail Games like Star Webs and Feudal Lords. Bob Albrecht, among others, recommends it, and PBMs could allow your students to meet the challenges of games in a much broader context than a single classroom or school can provide. A one year subscription is $31.00, and you can contact them at Paper Mayhem, Department PM, 1518 Adams Street, Ottawa, IL 61350-4770.
Simulation & Gaming is a professional publication of the Association of Business Simulation and Experiential Learning (ABSEL), the International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA), the Japanese Association of Simulation and Gaming (JASAG), and the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA). It is scholarly and rarefied and can be very interesting. It is aimed primarily at academics and business or military simulators. If interested ($50), contact Sage Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320.
If you know of other interesting titles, please let us know!
If you know someone who would enjoy this newsletter, please let us know.
If it seems inappropriate for you to be on the mailing list for this, please let me know, but I hope you enjoy it and that it can serve as one way to retain Westtown links and memories for many years to come. If you know anyone else who might enjoy it, please send me a postal address or put them directly in touch with me.
O, and I haven't forgotten the song book. It's on the way before too long. Molly, is the Internet mailing list going to happen?
I'm still very much aglow from our time together, though I find I can't resist the occasional Mallerion mannerism in my everyday behavior.
I love you all.
I would like to see articles on the use of historical boardgames by teachers. I would like detailed information on exactly how the game(s) was modified for use by 20 to 30 students. I want to use games such as Kingmaker and Empires in Arms, but I'm not sure how to present them.
Timothy McCoy, 6953 Westlake Avenue, Dallas, TX 75214-3543
I work as an Extension Assistant at KSU where I manage a pilot program called Technical Outreach Services for Communities (TOSC). I cover a 10 state area, where I can provide technical assistance to communities impacted by Hazardous Waste cleanups. The project leaves me playing several roles, part consultant, part teacher, and part facilitator. I've found role-playing exercises can be quite useful in this adult training environment. In fact in my experience, these types of activities are often included in adult training. Generally they are referred to as case-studies, but they have many of the elements of role-playing/problem solving games.
I've also used similar materials in a session of a class on campus. Hazardous Waste Engineering is a seminar course where speakers are brought in to discuss different aspects of Hazardous Waste Management. For the past several years I've used a negotiation role-playing session to teach the superfund process to students. It has been fairly well received.
I am currently working with a community in South Dakota involved in the clean-up of a former weapons depot, and I hope to use a custom role-playing scenario to help their restoration advisory board better understand the issues involved in clean-up. I will likely use the same scenario for the Hazardous Waste Management Class.
J. Patrick McDonald
Just a line to update you about 1-2-3 OY!. We did quite a few teachers conferences in March, the Gifted Teachers Conference in Harrisburg, PA for, and the National Math Teachers Conference in San Diego. OY is selling really well (we're in about 600 schools now), as are the rest of the games. We also just put up our Web page. The address is www.weir.net/~dgreen if you'd like to take a look.
All the best,
I have plans to include a review of 1-2-3 OY! in the next issue of the newsletter, but my teaching partner has been the person I know who has used it the most, and her priorities can be different from mine. If there is anyone else who has used the product and would like to offer a review, please do.
Annihilation is an abstract board game of skill and strategy for two players. Because it requires a certain amount of thought to play (as in chess, for instance), I think it has a certain amount of educational value in developing thinking powers, as well as being fun to play. At first it may seem a little complicated to play while learning how the counters move in relationship to the colored circles on the board, but after several games the rules can be memorized, and the game becomes more fun to play. Also, it can be quite competitive, so perhaps there is a potential world champion Annihilation out there in the USA!
Annihilation is sold by mail order, and it would cost =A312 sterling, including postage and handling to mail out to the USA. Alternatively, it would cost $25 cash to mail out to the USA. Unfortunately the banks I have spoke to will not cash American cheques but only cheques made out on British bank cheques.
Despite these inconveniences, I hope that some people in the USA will still send off for a copy of Annihilation.
32 Holmroyd Avenue, Crosshillo, Nr Keighley, Yorkshire BD 20 7 LH, England
Destiny Deck is a wonderful resource for almost any classroom. Though originally designed as a way for gamemasters to generate scenarios or scenes on the fly, I have used it more generally to help students suffering a writer's block for an assigned story. We set aside the (very few, as it usually turns out) cards that don't apply and then draw cards until an idea emerges. Often the student has an idea even before the minimum number of selections are on the table. The cards could also easily be used for storytelling, drama groups, or anywhere else you find yourself developing narrative or characters. They can also be a wonderful tool for developing vocabulary or even testing spelling.
Stellar Games, PO Box 156, Swanton, OH 43558
I use this game with children ranging from kindergarten through fourth grade (and adults as well). We have used it in basic literature, reading, and social studies courses as well as a special program called "Odyssey of the Mind." We turned the game into a noncompetitive version by eliminating the Interrupt cards and having each participant create a story from start to finish. We played this game two or three times per week, and frequently the children would take it out to play at recess on their own. At less than $20.00, this game is a bargain. I highly recommend it to any educator for ages six to sixteen.
Atlas Games, PO Box 131233, Roseville, MN 55113
"It would be deceptive to claim that these games do not have a down side. Primarily, they are addictive; once a person gets his first taste of role-playing, he is usually hungry for more. They are also very time-consuming, and many a player has forgone his responsibilities to school or work in order to play some more. They can be very expensive, especially in the case of card games.... A select few of them deal with themes that may be too graphic or violent for many people...."
"It would be equally as deceptive, however, to claim that these elements could be responsible for murder, suicide, and the wholesale corruption of youth, as the detractors claim. Any hobby has the potential has the potential to absorb more time and money than it should...."
"In fact, when used in the proper manner, role-playing games and collectible card games can be beneficial to both education and the building of character in an individual, as well as a whole lot of fun, all at the same time. Role-playing games promote teamwork among players to accomplish goals and solve problems. Collectible card games promote strategy, intuitive thinking, and develop the reasoning process as players consider their options for each turn ofthe game. Both of them have the potential to teach social interaction, as well as providing an easy, low-cost, virtual-reality-style simulation of any experience or time period that the game master chooses."
"....Many parents allow their children to participate in...[Chuck Norris' Karate-based self-esteem program] and ones that are similar.... Comparing this type of activity to playing D&D...are we to believe that hitting someone in real life is not nearly as bad as rolling dice to perform an attack in an RPG?"
"....It has long been argued that such spellcasting activity...can instill an interest in the occult, witchcraft, or Satanism in the player. A survey of 100 gamers conducted in November of 1995 has shown this to be untrue...."
"Jeff Brain, a teacher in the San Francisco school district, uses Magic cards as visual aids...[and to teach] database management...[and] statistics...[and] mythology...."
"The act of playing an RPG involves many brief lessons in mathematics and statistics...."
"First and foremost, parents should become involved with their children when they display an interest in these games...."
William J. Walton, PO Box 5092, Wilmington, DE 19808-0092
Readers of Games & Education are probably already familiar with my role playing games and EFL work through the various brief articles which have appeared here or from the lengthy article which appeared in an early issue of Interactive Fantasy. If anyone wishes me to email an online version of one an earlier academic incarnation of that research on this subject (originally presented to the ROC National TEFL Conference and later archived by TESL-L, an online discussion group for English teachers with over ten thousand members), just send an email message to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll send it right out. Publishers willing to help out can also contact me at this address.
In addition to my RPGs in education project, I have also used various conversational and non/conversational card games in classes such as Once Upon a Time (this is a superb game for language classes and probably will work well with related disciplines equally well; most of the teachers in my department have four to five decks to use with their classes), Illuminati, Zebu, and the card version of Cluedo. I also plan to use The Great Dalmuti with classes this coming semester.
At the beginning of this school year, I received a couple starter decks and some booster packs of Steve Jackson's Illuminati New World Order trading card game (TCG) from a friend to which I later combined a factory set to create a large pool for classroom use. Initially, it worked out quite well; in fact one of the projects we've done in the past with the original Illuminati game was for the students to design new cards for the game based upon local politics and current events.
Illuminati is a great game for learning about American culture and politics simply because of the great diversity of groups and ideas incorporated into the game. There are a couple excellent concordances to the game which are invaluable for helping stude nts to understand where the ideas=20for the various cards come from. For advanced students it's a great way to deepen some cultural understanding while intermediate students concentrate more on the language used to play the game.
Beginner classes might falter a bit with the game, although the basics can be learned through play rather quickly. Since I work primarily with Intermediate to Advanced students, the game works well enough as a language/cultural tool.
As in the past couple years, this past semester students played Atlas Games's Once Upon a Time rather extensively and then designed their own decks based upon genres or story types of their choice, such as mystery, cyberpunk, horror, wilderness adventure, whatever, and the activity was both a big hit with the students and extremely successful as a language practice device. Some of the student created decks were also quite beautiful. I had suggested that the students "borrow" art from comic books and the like to illustrate their decks, but a few of the groups did their own original illustrations. One deck in particular, a humorous horror and mystery deck, worked out very well indeed with a combination of rather bizarre story items with very good original cartoons.
I've introduced Once Upon a Time to several teachers who now use it quite a bit in their own classes. This activity is effectively used at both the =46reshman and Sophomore level at my university and is one of the few activities students and teachers never tire of. By the way, Once Upon a Time also works well as part of a writing assignment; ask the students to play a game and then write the resultant story or give them several Once Upon a Time cards and one Happy Ever After Card and have them write a story using all of the elements.
Since the TCG games phenomenon is fairly big in the west but virtually unknown here in Asia, I suspected that the games might be perfect for my classrooms since all of this is new to my students, adding a fresh quality to the whole enterprise.
At the beginning of my project, I contacted a few of the TCG and RPG publishers I know of on the Internet, asking them for help, and was very happy with the positive response. Although a few companies did promise to send materials and then backed out later (unfortunately, some dropped out without telling us they had decided to do so), we had enough Magic, Wyvern, On The Edge, Ultimate Combat, Rage, Redemption, and The Last Crusade decks to get started. Although it didn't arrive in time for the start of the project, Sim City will very likely work very well once it does arrive, as will the other games we haven't had a chance to experiment with yet but which we know are on the way. From experience with the decks we received, I am certain that students will continue to find the activity very entertaining as well as worthwhile as an English language practice activity.
I have been using the games with first through fourth year university EFL students. Before entering university in Taiwan, students have already had six years of formal English language instruction from Junior through Senior High School so even a Freshman is not what one would consider a rank beginner. The classes range from straightforward English Oral Training and Practice classes to a couple writing classes and one class devoted to Role Playing Games; yes, I really do teach an RPG class for university students here. While some classes have as many as sixty students, and others have as few as ten, each class typically has twenty students who are all involved with the activity, usually divided into small groups of three to four for "group" games or two for "duel" or dyad games.
Typically, I would receive thirty to forty starter decks and a box or two of boosters for each of a company's games. Some folks sent as many as fifty or more starters, and others sent as few as ten. However, we made use of whatever we could get. For games with larger numbers, I've been able to use them with more classes simultaneously. I have also been able to set up inter-class mini-tourneys. When we have fewer copies of a particular game, we rotate its use between a few classes.
Since this is a language learning adaptation of the hobbies, I've tried to adapt the games for use in the classroom. I now have tweaked a few things in the approach and in some of the rules so that hopefully it'll help students (1) enjoy the activity more and (2) better practice their English language conversational skills.
One strength I have found of TCGs for use in language practice, surprisingly enough is the "T" - trading. When students begin the activity, I try to have them make note of what cards are with each starter deck. I have the individual students do the paperwork, as tracking that many decks would just kill me.
Since most of the materials currently being studied are trading card games, I take advantage of that fact to allow students to practice conversational skills related to trade and barter. Once students are familiar with the basics of how to play and have played against a few of their classmates, I ask them to start constructing more powerful decks by deciding which cards would help them and then bartering/trading with other students so that they can exchange cards and build decks. At this time I would hop e to bring in booster packs for the students. There really are quite a few language skills that can be practiced through this sort of bartering exchange. Quite a bit of the recent scholarly research into language learning has been devoted to negotiation and negotiation strategies in the classroom and this aspect of adventure gaming ties into this quite well indeed.
As they go through this process, students continue to build and play with their decks, improving both their game and language skills. Eventually, assuming we have enough basic starters and boosters, I try to arrange to have a multiple cross-class tournament where the first round pits students from one class against those of another, all students using their customized decks. I set things up so there are several rounds allowing students to play several opponents and then a final round which determines the champion for that grade level. Sometimes we arrange for matches to be held concurrently, if classes meet at the same time (when another teacher is participating it's usually possible to do this) or have students meet outside of class and record their games.
It's important for teachers to note that since I use these games as language learning aids, I normally ask the students to go beyond the "math and play" attitude many gamers have where they simply add up all the pluses and minuses and tally the results (gr eat for math skills but not much help for language). Rather I'll often ask students to visualize the game as a narrative construct in which they are telling the story as they play. The Magic comic books, short stories, and comic books have helped immense ly to help students see more than a card game when they play and concentrate on playing out stories, what I'd term as a RPGTCG or something like Once Upon A Time's narrative card game paradigm. This is admittedly difficult to implement but well worth the effort, both as a language learner and as a hobbyist.
As an introduction to this language use narrative construct paradigm, I've developed my own game. It works fairly well, and I imagine I'll eventually write it up as a submission to one game company or another as a bona fide product.
Obviously, this sort of thing works better for some games than others. Part of the point of the research project is to determine which games are best suited for this sort of classroom application, which ones can be most readily adapted through minor tweaks, which ones need major overhaul to be of much use, and which ones are best left alone. While a class of Juniors had not problems understanding how to play Magic, a group of Freshmen told me I was crazy if I thought they could figure the game out on their own. However, after my wife and I demoed a game for them, explaining each step as we went along, they took to the concept rather quickly. For some folks you have to give them freedom to do things on their own and for others you need to hold their hands the first few steps.
I prefer to have available to students as large a variety of material as possible, since this gives us more options as well as provides the students with more variety for language use as well as for enjoyment. I hope that enough students will be turned on by the activity that they'll pursue the hobby outside of the classroom, and a few have already asked about just that very thing. After all, as I'm sure most folks who read Games & Education share my sentiments, I use adventure games in my classrooms partly because they can be applied very nicely in terms of helping students learn a great deal in an enjoyable manner and partly simply because I'm a gamer myself and get a real kick out of sharing the hobby with others.
The final idea has been worked out to this. I'm testing for levels of absorption within two groups; gamers as the experimental group and a group of non-players as a control group. Four tests will be used to either confirm or not confirm this main hypothesis. Absorption and the imagery of various senses (sight,sound,touch,taste,smell) occur together. Absorption is being used to describe an ability to become "caught-up" or engrossed within an activity. This idea is based that a player must identify with, to a certain extent, his/her character. =46or that to happen the player must be able to respond to stimuli that the character might be taking in (i.e. the emotional rush of finding a chest of gold, the weight of a suit of armor, or the smells of dungeon).
As these examples might imply, to become engrossed with what a character is doing, a player needs to "feel" what stimuli the character "feels". The best way I can think of to describe this is that a player can "synthetically" create these stimuli within his/her own mind. Using a common situation, as a character enters a busy tavern he/she would hear the sound of several people taking at once, the smell of the food, and the arising tension of a bar fight. The player must be able to recreate these images within his/her mind. Also, most importantly, have control over those mental images in order to maintain their mental representation as they change from scene to scene The more vivid an image is and the more mental control the player has over it, the greater a player will be absorbed into the game.
In a nutshell, my idea is that gamers as a group have higher levels of imagery and imagery control than the general populace. I write this to you to ask your opinion. Does this concept match your own perceptions of gamers and that of other? What the industry seem to think? Would the industry benefit from knowing this and having the numbers to prove it? I appreciate any time you take in answering my questions. If you have any yourself, please feel free to write me with them.
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