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.