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Tuesday
Apr152014

Seeking feedback on a convention idea for transformative tabletop games

I've been thinking about starting a small convention for those of us working with transformative tabletop games (meaning educational games, games for social good, and other games designed to make a difference in the lives of the players).

Modeled after open gaming conventions like BGG.con and the open play spaces at gaming events, the primary attraction would be open space for playing and sharing games.

There would be few formal sessions.  Instead, the reason why people would come would be to play many different types of games.  The transformative game overlay would encourage people to bring games that they have used in an educational or transofmative setting (even if they are recreational games).   You could also bring prototypes or games you have created, and I would reach out to publishers of these games.

You would spend your days trying games that others have brought, with the goal of helping you find game ideas that you can bring back to your classrooms or workplaces.

This is an activity that runs alongside many game studies conferences, but the goal of this would be to focus on that space and to focus on tabletop game experiences.  Discussions about how a game could be used in different settings would be encouraged and welcomed (as compared to frowned upon by someone who "just wants to play the game").

If you are someone who works in transformative games, I would appreciate your feedback on what you would find valuable at such an event.  Focus on big picture things, like what types of activities or events would be useful, instead of things like date and location.   You can post here or can send me a mail at scott@scottnicholson.com.  

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Reader Comments (4)

This sounds like a great idea. I think it is important at this kind of gathering to have a serious discussion about assessment. Too often, I see projects that fall into this "research" antipattern: (1) design a thing; (2) design an instrument without regard for reliability or validity; (3) deploy cargo-cult assessment; (4) throw data at statistical software; (5) profit!

This represents at least two fundamental failures. The first is that, if the instrument is neither reliable nor valid, then one cannot honestly claim anything. The more insidious failure here is the assumption that we can know, a priori, what kinds of learning is going to occur through a game. However, I believe---and have data to support---that what people learn through play is much more nuanced than how learning objectives (or transformative objectives) are articulated. I'll be talking about this at GLS in the context of a game in which players learned something, but not at all what the designers intended. This is critical for us to consider, since those of us who believe in the power of playful learning need to consider whether or not our games have negative educational side-effects.

I am not sure how this "big picture idea" translates into specific conference events, but I think it's an important theme to keep in mind, and one I see too often avoided at games-related events.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Gestwicki

Count me in.... I have a game design in the works about environmental vs economic impact, and I am a huge believer in gaming as a means to create change.

April 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterNate Scheidler

I love the idea! I'd still have some structure such as a daily meal and speaker plus a group game exercise. But I'd have much of the time be open gaming with a formal debrief on application afterwards.

You could build a website of transformative table top games that could be sorted by application and time that can be populated by the participants.

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Koeser

If only I lived on the East Coast! I teach college business classes and use many games in the classroom. I've developed a few role play scenarios in starting a game business as well. Would love to bounce some ideas off you the next game show... which may be GenCon. Keep up the good work Scott!

April 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Rivaldi

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