Thursday, October 29, 2015

Lists can be a great way to get things done (You can do it!)

Look what I found!!  I knew it existed -- A LIST FOR BEING SUCCESSFUL!!  But, wait a minute, what about the human reality of what this list is asking?

Some of it is common sense but there are things that get in the way; like "get to class."  That is absolutely TRUE!  If you do not go to class you have a problem.  But, what it should say is "Figure out how to wake up when your alarm goes off, and then GET TO CLASS!"  Some of us have got the sleep thing figured out, and the alarm thing figured out, but some of us don't.

So, I am just saying -- READ WITH AN EYE TO WHAT IS NOT SAID, and then by all means let's figure out how to check off the list!!!


    Inside the Classroom:
    þGet To Class—treat it like a job—if you “cut,” your pay (grade) will be cut.
    þGet Involved in Class—come prepared, listen actively, take notes, and participate.

    Outside the Classroom:
    þRead Actively—take notes while you read to increase attention and retention.
    þSpend a Significant Amount of Time on Academic Activities Outside of Class—
         make it a  40-hour work week.

    Capitalize on Academic & Student Support Services: 
    þLearning Center
    þCollege Library
    þAcademic Advisement
    þCareer Development 
    þPersonal Counseling

    Capitalize on Experiential Learning Opportunities:
    þParticipate in co-curricular experiences on campus.
    þParticipate in service-learning (volunteer) experiences and internships off campus.

    Interact with:
    þPeers—by joining campus clubs and student organizations.
    þFaculty—by connecting with them immediately after class, in their offices, or
         by e-mail.
    þAcademic Advisors—see them for more than just a signature to register; find an
         advisor you can relate to and with whom you can develop an ongoing relationship.
    þMentors—try to find experienced people on campus who can serve as trusted
         guides and role models.

    Collaborate by:
    þForming Learning Teams—not only last-minute study groups, but teams that
         collaborate more regularly to work on such tasks as taking lecture notes,
         completing reading assignments, editing writing assignments, conducting library
         research, and reviewing results of exams and course assignments.
    þParticipating in Learning Communities—enroll in two or more classes with the
         same students during the same term.

    þTake Self-Assessment Tests—to gain greater awareness of your interests, values,
         abilities, learning habits, learning styles, self-concept, and personality traits.
   þSelf-Monitor your learning—maintain awareness of how you are learning, what
         you are learning, and if you are learning. 
   þReflect on Feedback—seek information form others (professionals and peers) on
         the quality of your performance and what specifically you can do to improve it.
    þReflect on Your Future—from time to time, take time from the daily grind to look
         ahead, set long-term goals, and develop strategic plans for your major, your career,
         and your life.

The foregoing material has been excerpted and adapted from the following source:
Cuseo, J., Fecas, V. S., & Thompson, A. (2007). Thriving in
     College & Beyond: Research-Based Strategies for Academic
     Success & Personal Development. Dubuque, IA:


I LOVE that it is strategies for THRIVING!!  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Learn to solve your own problems..."

Yesterday:  I have created games that I feel very, very good about.  Now comes developing and executing a plan to market them.  I can't tell you how messy my worktable is!!

Okay, I feel pretty overwhelmed right now.  There are index cards, thoughts, questions and lists pulling at me from all directions.

I need to learn about The American Freshmen.
I need to find international students to help write the scenarios that will become my International Student, and "I'm am not from where my college is" edition.
I need to figure out what makes a training pack.
I need to make a presentation for Kickstarter.
I need to meet Frank Bruni.
I need to read the article penned by the Stanford admissions person about helicopter parents.*
And, I am working on finding a First Year Experience and International Student connection in a college in all 50 states (Wisconsin and West Virginia are done).

And, that is just what has come to mind in the last minute.

Also, dinner, dog walk, switching clothes to fall/winter, emails for food for Thanksgiving, and getting ready to go to Ann Arbor this weekend!!

Whew, I feel better now...

Today:  I am reading the Washington Post article about helicopter parents, and yes, I can be one.  Just ask my creative, interesting, and very capable children.  But, there is often a sway that happens when an opinion hits the news stands. (Coffee=Bad, Coffee=Good)  How about the middle road?

*Helicopter Parenting article

So, why does someone become a helicopter parent?  In my experience, this would include lack of trust of the "experts," lack of understanding that a little communication can go a long way, disbelief that anyone can appreciate my children the way I can, and perhaps an overwhelming awe that kids these days can have SO MANY opportunities (and wanting to get in on that).

Oh, yes, middle road...

Learning means taking some chances, trying to make things work, taking what we are reading or doing and using it in either the same way or a different way, and owning the results.  Getting an A or getting IN is just the beginning.
Once a person has that accomplishment DOES IT RUN?

My games are based on experiential learning.  That means controlled RISK TAKING, TRIAL AND ERROR, considering situations that really will happen maybe before they do.

I just had a wonderful coffee break with Lily, a parent who I have had the pleasure to meet at school.  I am not good at small talk -- and I talk a lot, and Lily made me feel happy and accomplished regardless of how much I talked.  She is the inspiration for today's post.  Self-reliance is the gift that keeps on giving!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I'm registered!

Today appears to be the 100th post of Small Steps, and I NOW HAVE A REGISTERED TRADEMARK!  This leg of my journey grew out of the realization that when I Googled Small Steps Go Places my blog came up first.  The gift came when I acted on that realization!  Yoga, Meditation, Alisa and perhaps most of all my own focus and drive has grown out of that gift.

I have spent just a few minutes looking through past posts.  Overall, I can see the steps I have taken.  I seem to be staying true to my own focus.

Now, it is going to get interesting.  I have to go back to All Marketers are Liars (Seth Godin), and figure out how to explain in a video what I have done (for Kick Starter?)

But, regardless, today I am Registered!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Piloting the ship

It is amazing to me that we get to know people in completely different circumstances and then find they have accomplished big things in what they chose to do for a living. And, that finding that "living" was just as messy as my own "finding".  I write that as I am looking at an interview with Nobel laureates from 2008, one who is a dog owner in my neighborhood.  The Nobel fact popped out during a larger conversation yesterday, and it was no big deal.  And, when I shared that I had very recently called my grad school advisor, this kept the conversation going.

I am observing that when people are doing what they feel they are supposed to it is not necessary to point out that we are being cool when others are not.  That is not really true anyway.

It is difficult to stay the course.  Yet, when we (I) do life moves more seamlessly.  And, we can be much more helpful to others.

This past week has been amazing to me.

  • I visited the Residential Life department of a local college.
  • I have been open to and made loads of connections to begin filling in a constellation of communication. 
  • My goal is to identify three people in a college in all 50 states, that would benefit from using OPTION PLAY.
  • I called my graduate school advisor, who is a GAME DESIGNER, and inspired this journey!
  • I hosted the BIG PLAY for ENTER THE CAVE.
  • I had a spectacular lunch and dinner with very, very dear friends.
Now, I need to write out the answers to questions for Kick Starter and for a beginning presentation for funders.

In looking back at the list, there are so many I's!  Nothing could have or can happen without everyone in my life, but I must pilot this particular ship.  Earlier in my life I did not lead very comfortably, and perhaps there are moments like that now.  But, on this particular journey, it is the picture in my imagination that I am trying to bring to life.  May I continue enjoying this journey, and may the I's expand into we's.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Playing OPTION PLAY is the place to begin

Last night was my "first" event to share OPTION PLAY and ENTER THE CAVE.  I want to thank Book Culture

for providing the place for me to host, and the attendees for coming.  The majority of folks who came have known me, and have been instrumental in the success of this project.  This event gave me the opportunity to share progress with them.  And, we had one new person from a program which will become a new direction for users of my games.

Today has been an opportunity to debrief, look at what could be a better representation of what I want, and setting up my calendar for the next month.

I realize that playing the games, at this time, is the place to start.  The experience of playing leads to examining the value of my games.  So, to successfully play and discuss requires a streamlined and comfortable spot.  That will be one of the first things I need to find.

Then, I need to determine pricing.  This is new.  Also, putting together the presentation of the game for retail and for training.

This all begins with me and who I am.  It is so difficult to acknowledge that.  I keep looking for the person in the polished suit with the 40 years of experience and the Power Point presentation.  But, that person did not have the idea for these games, or put the work in, talk with the people, learn from the students who shared their scenarios, invest in the EMC, or take the chances necessary for progress to happen.  That would be me.

A possibility...putting these on Amazon with a link here so you can buy them.  What do you think?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

More Will Be Revealed

Today, it has felt like riding atop a dolphin or whale.  Not much for me to hold onto, great view and moving fast with moments of being completely overwhelmed.  Except, there is something for me to hold onto--I have developed it from hours of reading and doing.  I guess it is just my dramatic flair that needs to come out periodically.

  • I am so lucky and blessed.

  • Today or tomorrow I am going to receive 200 prototype OPTION PLAY card games.  Diva Design is such a blessing!!
  • A young man named Edward is going to ask about what I have been doing and perhaps I can provide something useful to him in his journey.
  • Monday, I will host a play event for OPTION PLAY and ENTER THE CAVE. This endeavor encompasses so many people, and so much work!  It is my 1st event and I am excited to get to the other side!
  • I am setting up a meeting with Manhattanville College to play, and meet with Residential Life staff.
  • More questions are popping up:  how to develop an OPTION PLAY for Residential Life programs to use in training X how many colleges???
  • When is the PLAY ENTER THE CAVE going to happen?
More will be revealed....

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Playing for Keeps in College

"Going to college can just be an extension of a high or low powered high school experience, or it can be the opportunity to try new things.  Games invite players to take risks, face fears, but still have control.  Combining the discomfort of different with the relevancy of real scenarios through the medium of game playing lets everyone be a winner." (Genevieve Griffin, 9/11/15)

I was greatly inspired by what I read in Frank Bruni's Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be,
"But too many kids get to college and try to collapse it, to make it as comfortable and recognizable as possible.  They replicate the friends and friendships they've previously enjoyed.  They join groups that perpetuate their high school cliques.  Concerned with establishing a "network," they seek out peers with aspirations identical to their own. In doing so, they frequently default to a clannishness that too easily becomes a lifelong habit...
Now more than ever, college needs to be an expansive adventure, propelling students toward unplumbed territory and untested identities rather than indulging and flattering who they already are." (p.112-113)

What am I looking to gain from this first event?  It will be the FIRST event, and I am ready to play.  I wonder if my assumptions are true.  Actually, I know they are true.  I know this because when I listen to high school students and then, college students, I see the choices and listen to people talk about trying things, getting frustrated when the other people do not react the way they want, getting happy when they seem to get it right.  Figuring out how to work through uncomfortable situations brought about by living with other people in close confines provides a lot of learning.  Negotiating successfully through something that looks as simple as a differences in bedtime and wake up time can give a person a sense of confidence and calm that pays off hugely in other areas of their lives.  Sure, a student may be able to say they can do well on a test or write a great essay, but can they apply that to an actual life challenge?

So, I am laboring on the Event Brite invitation.  Soon, it will be finished and out.  My FIRST event will happen.

Are you coming?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

If it is fun does that mean it is still work?

The summer session of work with the EMC has come to a close, and I will soon be receiving the prototype for Enter the Cave.  I have been playing the versions, as they have been updated and in the past few days have had the pleasure of playing with all three of my children.  It is amazing that not so long ago this game was an idea living in my imagination.  There is still much work to be done, and I hope that it becomes a necessary tool for players who are heading to college; but what a blast!

I am also working to finalize the prototype for One Scene At A Time; and with it find a new name for that game.  I have a list of ideas but so far nothing has grabbed me.  I have an event in September and want to be ready with prototypes to give out!

This seems to be a good time to look back at my posts and see what the connections are.  And, then, there is that question of "what does it mean to thrive?"

Good night for now...

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Well Designed

Well, I am working on the design of Enter the Cave and One Scene At A Time.  And, I am reading well designed:  how to use empathy to create products people love.  And, Jon Kolko's book which I found in an article from is everything I have hoped it would be.  There are so many quotes for my bag of tricks. Right now, I am working on identifying my emotional value proposition:  what can someone do after playing Enter the Cave or One Scene At A Time that they couldn't do before?

It is creation based on assumptions that need to be checked out through getting to know my players.

I want to know what players actually do when they play.  Boy, that is different from carefully setting up a focus group, trying not to put the players in any situation that would make them feel uncomfortable, and trying not to ask anything that would be wrong!  I actually want them to PLAY, possibly find things that are wrong, and prove that my assumptions may be not based in any usable reality.  That is okay, because I believe that by playing, these future or new college students will be better prepared to THRIVE in college.

So, here are some of my assumptions:

  • Playing before selecting roommates will help players make better choices about who should be their roommate
  • Playing these games means becoming familiar with actual first year college scenarios, and so Players will have thought of actions they could take to deal with the scenarios
  • Players who are already in college can replay scenarios and possibly realize other options they could take
  • Playing gives Players a sense that they are prepared for how to live on campus
  • Playing when in high school, and then again when in college gives Players a concrete sense of their growth from dealing with one context and then the new context
As I write out the responses from my focus group scenarios I see that most of the players (so far) feel that the objective of the game is not to earn the most points, but rather is for the READER to choose the BEST ANSWER.  Every player during the game will take a turn as the READER so PLAYERS have the opportunity to learn from watching others and also take the helm and make a decision. AND, if they really want to, they can EARN POINTS, too.

Most of all, playing Enter the Cave and One Scene At A Time is fun.  Players can laugh, compete, make fun of and have raucous discussions about a new experience without having the commit to anything.  The players will leave the game with new experiences in tow, without having to feel that they did anything more than play a game.

Next step:  find groups of players to check on these assumptions on.  First question to pose:  what does it mean to THRIVE??

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

It's Alarming

I have worked a great deal on the phrase "what you focus on, you attract."  It alters my thinking and acting.  My life has been transformed, especially over the past two or three months, as I just accept that what I create will provide value to those who play, and work to set myself and those creations up in the best position and light.  I get bombarded by questions and comments; some of them good and necessary but perhaps not timely.  Everything happens in it's best time if you let it.

And, then, there is trust -- of which I have little.  To be successful one needs to trust, and that is so, so, so hard for me.  It is a large symptom of being a control freak.  It is counter to my self.  It gets in the way of my creativity, and of me helping.  Sometimes, I just need to help.  That is part of a plan larger than I.  And, I need to believe that I am providing something valuable, and helpful.  Just believe it, just believe it and not let the questions and comments throw me off course.

I am working on marketing ONE SCENE AT A TIME.  First, however, I need a name that does not sound like an improv game.  This is a game that is both hilarious to play and that will leave players better prepared to successfully transition to college.  This game will be a great gift to buy for high school seniors and new college students because just reading through the scenarios will prepare players -- playing is like icing on the cake.  I wonder if a name about ALARM CLOCKS is good because getting up, getting to class, getting to a job, is so important.  It is ALARMINGLY IMPORTANT!  If one doesn't learn how to master awaking, getting in the shower or having that first cup of coffee/tea/something, then all of the wonderful opportunities in the world can exist but will gather dust.

More current questions are:  how much is it going to cost to make some prototypes for my gig at Book Culture in September?  Low expectation is 4 players show up, high expectation is 200 players show up.  How many prototypes do I need?  And, who is going to be my celebrity endorser?  I am reading Frank Bruni's new book Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be.  Maybe I should have tea with him!  Does anyone know Amanda Seyfried?  Does anyone have suggestions that would move them to pick up the box with my game?  I briefly entertained the idea of Mr. T ("I pity the fool who is not prepared for college...") but find myself feeling intimidated by the idea.

So, back to my table with my focus intact.  I am not opposed to attracting challenges or growth opportunities.  I do not want to attract negativity or gossip.  I do want to attract success and bigger dreams than I can currently imagine.

What are you focusing on right now?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Be more prepared by playing my games.

I am taking a breather in sunny Florida, trying to finish Reality is Broken, learning about new games and taking a crack at a marketing plan.  What is the objective of my business?  BUSINESS??  I design games.  But, I have been pushing up against the question of WHY I am doing this?  My father-in-law and husband had no problem telling me what the objectives of their businesses are.  I wrote all of this stuff down....

Then, in the shower yesterday, I realized how scared I am that I can't deliver and that my belief in what I do is not enough.  For a brief moment I wallowed in the thought that I am the only one feeling like this; for a brief moment.

My objective is to give players a less risky opportunity to try scenarios that will make them more prepared as they enter unfamiliar territory.  My games make players more prepared.  Playing my games provide a less risky opportunity.  Going into an unfamiliar situation with some practice gives a player confidence.

Hey, I went to college without this opportunity to gain less risky practice!  I survived.  It was one of the most influential experiences of my life.  BUT, what if I had had that opportunity?  How would my life had been different?  Would I have been a doormat for my roommate?  (perhaps not) Would I have made the same choices? (perhaps not)  Would I have learned about choices I obviously didn't know about? (try using a new machine without the manual).   I think there is a lot of room for students having many, many new experiences that tax and stretch them, and to build on having a leg up when entering that new, unfamiliar college.

On to more marketing plan....

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it."  Alan Kay

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pick your college carefully

I have been in Michigan.  I visited my mother and extended family there.  And, then I went back to Ann Arbor.  My alma mater and the place I will always love.  It was busy; full of people going and doing anything you could imagine.  There were tired, overworked looking students, hipsters, international students, students from city, country and in-between.  People were walking with professors, friends, teammates, co-workers, co-conspirators.  Books and computers were everywhere!  Students were just very, very busy.  There was no air of entitlement or edge.  Winter is almost over and joy is springing up.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Clonlara School
 to play LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING and invite students to critique it there, and to fill out a survey on Google Forms.  Those students seemed a b  it frightened about heading into the college application process or hear from the colleges to which they had applied.

Hey, who is working for whom?  Is School Broken?

The vision of busyness and vitality (and I am aware that there is a good amount of naivete in my observation) makes me feel hopeful, and excited.  I hope for a good fit for all applicants.  That means the road to college is filled with challenge, risk, reward and unknown turns.  And, that it leads to a place so full of opportunities you can't even imagine it right now.

Don't let the name of a college take your focus from finding a good fit!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Berkshire School's Pro Vita Day 5: I AM HAPPY!

My husband likes to talk about the Dunkin Donuts advertisement from way back where the little guy says, "it's time to make the doughnuts!"

 For me, it is a way of acknowledging that now we are going live and whatever we have, we have.  And, I think we have a lot of good stuff here!

This morning, the class is going to look at all of the notes I have written on the board and review our objectives and make something happen.

Stay tuned!

It has been a long day and I am doing my debriefing post much later than usual.
The final class went very, very well.  It is important to recognize the reality of where students are, what is needed for everyone to feel and be successful, and to still stick to the intended wish.

All of those notes I had written on the board kept us organized and on point.  I think I could feel the students looking at the board with some apprehension when I began pointing and talking, but it helped to get them into small groups and talking with one another.

My goals:

  • Make sure all students complete the survey for ENTER THE CAVE.
  • See the smaller groups or individual for Design, Programming and Art were seated with one another and talking about the tasks.
  • Review objectives, group name, game name and the three game aspects that the group would redesign.
  • Review the steps each small group would need to complete to redesign each aspect.
  • Redesign at least one of the aspects.
  • Encourage the group to complete the design steps in small groups, and then come together as the large group with at least one aspect.
All of this in 90 minutes, including a 5 minute bathroom break.

They DID IT.

It was important to cut the task of redesigning up into steps for each smaller group, but to also repeat the larger objectives so we could see both the small picture and the larger picture.

The group did a really solid redesign of the first aspect, which was introducing a new and more complicated scenario:

"You and your roommate are studying in the room.  Hall neighbors, while in the ceiling air duct, break through your ceiling falling to the floor in your room."

Card choices are ignore, go to the RA, or ask the pair to pay for the damages.

Designers began the task by saying they had already done their part.
Programmer, after understanding what it meant to break the scenario cards into action steps made a diagram.
Artists worked on creating the initial window art.
Ultimately, the Designers got involved in what the Programmer and Artists were doing.

It was a relatively easy jump to the final two aspects, using the redesigned window.
The second aspect was about making the choices more visual.  The third aspect was about creating an avatar.  The resulting discussion delved into making the overall game more responsive to individual players and pairs.

Amy, my fabulous teacher/mentor taped the entire class, capturing many invaluable comments and observations to use in my own design, and to share with the EMC at Champlain College.

It has been an epic week and I am....

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Day 4 at the Berkshire School's Pro Vita! Deep into Design

Good morning eveyone!

Today the Berkshire School Pro Vita Game Design class dives deeply into the redesign of ENTER THE CAVE!  I am so curious about how this is going to manifest.

My first question is who will be in what ROLES?

What will be the NAME of this TEAM?  Names are important not only for teams but for products, too.

It is time to begin!  More later....

I have been told that when ad libbing you must always say yes and go with it.  That is often my approach with this design process.  If a participant doesn't know the answer to a question or wants to think about the question, I won't accept that.  They have SOMETHING to contribute, even if it is not the perfect answer.  So, that is how some of this work got done today.

3 Designers
2 Programmers
2 Artists

Name of the team:  I Have No Clue

Why have a team?  Members working together is stronger than individuals working alone.



  • The game helps making decisions in real life
  • Scenarios are not all realistic
  • It is difficult to understand what is going on because art is not as visually detailed as it could be
  • Chats and additions to the Scenario can be easy to miss
  • Name

I suggested that instead of trying to redesign the overall game, which is a complicated and overwhelming task, identify three things that do not work to redesign.  To identify these things it is a good idea to identify aspects that do work first.   This sets thinking comparatively.

In the midst of pros and cons, and identifying, new ideas were flowing fast and furiously.

I have just finishing laying out what tomorrow's activity will look like, on the board.
It occurs to me how many words and ideas I am throwing at this group of young people.  I find my own level of enthusiasm and passion rising as I remember do this sort of project in graduate school, and the many hours I have spent at my table designing what I am sharing now.  I am sharing but this is not theirs.
What we have done this week so far has impressed me so much.  This "team" is ready for a break yet they are sharing something of themselves with me during this Pro Vita week.  I feel grateful to them.  I hope that even one will find enthusiasm for using games to educate, inspire or even solve the world's many problems.

It is time to pack up for the day.  More; the last, tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Taking Small Steps into the process of Game Design

Good morning everyone!  Day 3 at PRO VITA!!

Today, we play ONE SCENE AT A TIME which is a game either for College Freshman entering school or in school during their first semester.  I will be playing it with 9-11th graders in a boarding school.  I am going to learn a lot!  But, also, it is another form of game and this is a GAME DESIGN class.  Does it work?  What is the objective?  Could the scenarios be used for ENTER THE CAVE?  How would that happen?  What are the Pros and Cons?

People who I have met!

Dyllan McGee and MAKERS

Getting Into The Best College For You Edward Woodyard

Time to move the table!  More later....

We did not move the table because these guys (the students) said we didn't need to.  For me today, it was about not talking, talking, explaining...SO HARD!

It was an extremely valuable class on so many fronts!

Off the board:

What Skills would a Player use to play ENTER THE CAVE?

  • Decision-making
  • Communication
  • Recognition of problems
  • Solving problems
  • Reasoning
  • Walking in other people's shoes

  • Good Ice Breaker game
  • Think of different situations
  • Entertaining
  • Engage in conversation
  • Timer is unnecessary but an egg timer could be used to get conversations started
  • Tension within group (supports competition but overshadows purpose of game)
  • There could be more Answer Cards that are applicable to each situation
  • Currently the game is somewhat disorganized
  • No way to keep answers anonymous when they go to the Reader
I have written a number of notes for myself in addition to these notes from the board.


Can Players become Redesigners for a game whose focus is not exactly them?
Can students use simpler words that describe play objectives or action?  We train students to have great vocabularies but the design action and ultimate directions must be comprehensible.

Aha, something  new to read.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Taking it apart and rebuilding it again

Good morning everyone!

Day 2 of Pro Vita is well underway.  I am reviewing the Presenter's Guide for ENTER THE CAVE, getting the animatic hooked up to Amy's white board, putting up list names on the board and awaiting my 7 students!

I just looked at the many post titles I have accumulated over the past several years.  It has been a journey getting to this point, and this is just one of many jumping off points.  This specific jumping off point is particularly exciting.

I feel different.
What I have accomplished is worth talking about.
If things do not work perfectly, or as expected, it is an invitation to do it another way or to stick to my guns because I know it will work.
My games will not work for everyone.

Going into today's class, I will talk about what I have accomplished but this class will be involved just as much as I am talking.
Things are not perfect, and that is the purpose of this class -- DESIGN is about the good fit.
I know some of what works and will learn more.

More later!

Okay, so here is how the class went today:

One of seven listened to Jane McGonigol's TED talk.  But, the first exercise, which was writing the names of games and figuring out the objective of each game, was strongly connected to that talk so maybe the students will find the time to do it tonight.

This exercise was fascinating because teens do not think of games in terms of objectives.  They gave a "reason" for each game (such as CandyLand being a Race, Monopoly allowing players to be part of the 1% or FIFA being about scoring goals and winning).  Reason is connected to Objective.  I could almost see their minds moving around the concept.  Playing games is amusing, pleasurable but identifying an objective and building a game out of it is WORK.

I presented the development of ENTER THE CAVE, from concept to paper to box as a prelude to the Animatic.  Again, it seems like taking a toy--apart.

 Taking a toy apart and trying to figure out how it was made.  This is not as fun as playing with the toy.  Teens grow tired quickly of paper, questions and even three-D box models.  "Aren't you supposed to have a Computer Game?"

Everyone gathered around the white board to go through the animatic.

Everyone could see it well, I used the Presenter's Guide.  The presentation was good.  I kept the group involved, illustrating scenarios with members of the group at times.  SO MANY BLANK FACES!  But, when asked they said they were with me.   I am curious about how the surveys will end up.

Will they talk about the scenarios?  They seemed very frustrated with the lack of "realism" saying they couldn't believe students would be so passive/aggressive or unyielding.
I hope they comment on the Art Assets.  They said the opening screen was blurry, where I thought it was mysterious.  Hhmmm.

I encouraged throughout the session to think of themselves as a "team" and about what roles they want to have in the redesign.  I wonder who will choose each of the areas?

I believe this is a good tool, and that designing it has been HARD FUN.  I am looking forward to the rest of the week.  I am so, so, so curious about how this group will redesign this game.  Can they?  Or, are they just kids who want to play?

Monday, March 2, 2015

It is time to go live.

Good morning everyone!  I have been busy working on a marketing plan, trying to move ONE SCENE AT A TIME into a card context, looking for for focus groups for LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING and getting ready for Pro Vita at the Berkshire School.  IT IS HERE!

Thank you to the ENTER THE CAVE team (Tim, Steven, Donovan, Tucker, Robert, David, Aether, Adam, Lynne, Jen, and Ken) at the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College for sending me here in such a prepared fashion!  I am getting ready for Day 1 of Pro Vita where we will play LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING and learn a little about game design.

One of my favorite quotes from today's homework "Not only do games let us take risks, but they can make those risks feel real."  (Game Frame, Aaron Dignan, p.45)

If you want to watch the same TED Talk that is homework find Jane McGonigol's 2010 TED talk about game design, and treat yourself!

Time to put on my name tag...more later!

Hello again,  last night I listened to a program that included wonderful Berkshire School a capella groups, and some college groups including CDN.   There are a number of Pro Vita teachers here, including alums.

I have scripted out Days 1, 2, and 3.    Today, I met the seven students who will be having Hard Fun learning about Game Design with me this week.  We played LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING, took a greatly abbreviated look at game design and application and then delved into what these students know about games.  They will follow up by watching Jane McGonigol's TED talk, writing their own backstories and thinking about what skills come from playing games.

Their feedback was invaluable as is my growing sense of confidence.  No one in this group thought playing a game focused on getting ready for a college search was useful.  And, when we began the discussion many didn't think playing sports/fantasy games or fighting/mission games, or even Candy Crush was anything more than amusing and fun.  As we discussed further I could see that playing improves thinking strategically, encourages learning about possibilities and choosing the best.  Playing games sharpens focus.  But, how to make LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING more engaging?

Tomorrow will involve a taste of transforming ideas into "an artificial conflict that results in a quantifiable outcome."  Design means actual people take ideas, sit with them, discuss them, broaden them and then create an actual prototype which is turned into a series of logical steps and art work that leads a player in to the experience of playing the game.

"Not only do games let us take risks, but they can make those risks feel real." (Dignan, p. 45)

It is time to go for a walk, and then to meet more people, listen to Wes Moore.

The team at the EMC has developed an animatic of ENTER THE CAVE, an accompanying presenter's guide and an online survey to help support tomorrow's work.  I am very excited to lay it out and dig in deep.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

An Unfocused Inquiry about Teaching

What makes a teacher good?  Simple question, right?  I would like to think that I am and was a good teacher.  In some cases I was, and in some cases I wasn't.  End of story

This question has been coming up a lot; and now I wonder where in the day it is going to pop up.
It is not about kindergarten or college-level classes, or if the curriculum is being handled correctly. Those are all aspects that an adult somewhere has invented for a variety of reasons.

It is not as simple as academics because individuals are forging important relationships with teachers all over the world that are resulting in immense harm or benefit, that have nothing to do with reading, writing and arithmetic.

It comes down to what we each to need to know as we go along our path.

In the past two days I have been privy to multiple stories about good and bad teachers.  Intelligent teachers who have PhDs (!!) but do not know how to engage and pass along what they know.  Parents who are too young to be parents, treating their very small children like throw-aways instead of looking for the special and enthralling characteristics that could help that child achieve huge dreams.  Adults revisiting testing situations that they didn't do well in while in school, but now must pass for their livelihood to continue.  People caught in a terrible national web that doesn't even allow them to go to school.  These stories will keep coming and coming.

I return to my own experience because what else do I have?  Teachers who were not effective for me were very effective for others.  But, that does not soften the bad fit in my case.  So, maybe it is not the teacher being bad or good, but the sensitivity being on or not?  I was a creative, impatient child who wanted to try things myself.  This led to a stint in the corner for taking a chance, and decades later to a letter I wrote to my kindergarten teacher (long dead) explaining that I knew she was a good teacher but even so she had inflicted damage with her lack of recognizing good students didn't always follow her rules and classroom management is a thing of the past.  If we have to MANAGE the classroom doesn't that say a lot about the students?

I digress....

I have seen two reports that made me think more deeply, as I forge ahead on my game design and website development.  Let me just say that trying things out before one has to do them for real is a great opportunity to find what fits, and to have answers for questions that are going to come up.

What Do Teachers Make?

Parking dispute? Why don't we teach how to communicate instead of wasting valuable lives?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Steps can be small but they are still steps

I am trying something new; for those of you on Face Book you can now visit my Community Page:  Small Steps Go Places.  I am testing whether it is valuable to promote what I do in this way.

I welcomed Eva's help today.  She and I talked about what will go on the playing cards for One Scene At A Time, if scoring is a good idea and she introduced a whole new take on the game (more on that later).  Then she plowed into the wording for scenarios.  I can envision my new website's area to test some of this wording.  Relevancy comes from players giving feedback, right?

In March I will be traveling to the Berkshire School to participate in Pro Vita.  I just read through the course book (and found my own course, and all of the other opportunities)) and am looking forward especially to meeting Wes Moore.  I must read more about the other speakers!

The wind is screaming here and the sky is filled with clouds.  I think we are headed toward more frigid weather -- good for staying inside reading and typing.

I am curious about challenges that students from places outside of the United States find when coming to the U.S. for college.

Numbers are just the tip of the iceberg

How about some vocabulary for starters?

Monday, January 26, 2015

I have made something worth talking about

I am sitting here at my somewhat disorganized table feeling happy and anticipating what the next leg of my journey is going to look like.  I am laying out the steps to the journey but I have no idea the ins and outs.  I know I will be amazed, startled, overwhelmed, proud and frustrated.  And, that is all okay.

On my assignment list is learning about marketing.  That is kind of open-ended.  But, with my usual "figure it out as I go" method I am reading All Marketers Are Liars (The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World) (Seth Godin).  This is a great book.

The amazing Alisa suggested reading some Seth Godin already and I found I really liked this title, especially "authentic stories" and "low-trust world".  It makes so much sense to connect what my games mean to real concerns and people,  and what better way than to spin some yarns.

I am astounded at where I am right now.  My team at the Emergent Media Center at Champlain College is working on translating scenarios and the current structure of ENTER THE CAVE into an animatic to use and collect students' observations and suggestions, when I go to the Berkshire School in March.  With the priceless assistance of Ray, and observations of Kendall and Eva ONE SCENE AT A TIME is blossoming.  I can actually see how it is going to become a product.  And, with the faith and generosity of Pauline, I have developed LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING.  Nick took a player's suggestion and made it 3D which has changed the way I will use the game.

The story is simple.  Students who have attended high school or who are home schooled and want to go beyond to a deeper study must look at options.  The first question:  IS GOING TO COLLEGE A GOOD FIT?

If that is the path to take then doesn't it make sense to hone a sense of focus?  It is not just about grades and test scores.  I invite players to climb the pyramid and LOOK WHERE YOU ARE GOING.

Then there is an area of finding that place, that college.  I think a game may grow here, but I have lots of resources for the meantime.

Once a students makes a choice it is time to get ready for the leap into college.  Some would call this transition, or getting oriented.  I would say you are going to ENTER THE CAVE.  The CAVE is both familiar and unfamiliar, scary and exciting.  And, to enter successfully you need to practice using skills you probably already have but haven't brought fully out yet.

Beginning college will present new territory.  When you are trying out for a play, isn't it better if you have read through the acts first to consider how you will interpret the characters and deal with the scenes?  As a player you will benefit greatly by playing ONE SCENE AT A TIME.

I need to offer the opportunity for maybe 100 players to play these games so I prove they are relevant and valuable.  Everyone is SO BUSY.  I will figure out how to do this.

I can see that I  need a website where I can offer more of an interactive experience to all of you wonderful people, and have the blog be a part.  Wouldn't you like to be able to play, comment, find connections to others or to information, or just share listening to some nice music with me?
I am putting the structure of my blog SMALL STEPS GO PLACES on a storyboard, and seeing where my creativity takes me.