Returning to Play at THATCamp

There’s a lot about THATCamp that’s inherently playful: as participants show up early to vote on sessions and let the structures evolve as needed, it turns the traditional conference model on its head. Last weekend at the University of Maryland, THATCamp Games embraced the combination of play and games and brought together nearly one hundred professors, graduate and undergraduate students, archivists, librarians, game designers, alt-ac professionals and more to brainstorm and build ideas surrounding the  role games might play in the intersection of teaching, technology and the humanities.

Here are a few ideas and resources from the THATCamp Games conversations:

  • The trend towards classes as games. Game ideas are continuing to catch the attention of those outside the “traditional” world of gaming, particularly as projects like the Digital Media and Learning competition in Badges for Lifelong Learning have started to fund projects aimed at a future of achievement-like systems for evaluating skills and learning outside the traditional classroom, and Scott Nicholson released his introduction to meaningful gamification. While the DML Competition funds larger projects, many programs and professors are experimenting with badges as a tool for classroom recognition and incentives on a smaller scale. The conversation at THATCamp Games asked what it would look like if learning had badges done right, alongside a number of sessions on game structures for the classroom.
  • The educational potential of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs). ARGs are grounded in puzzle-solving and storytelling, and they offer the opportunity for bringing structured play into the “real” world without necessarily relying on any elaborate digital structures. There were several great conversations on ARGs throughout the weekend, including a workshop on Narrative Puzzles by the team behind Arcane Gallery of Gadgetry, a playful history ARG, and a workshop on building your own ARG course by The Pericles Group, the Practomime Latin ARG course team. (for instance, a Snow Crash ARG course).
  • Games for every classroom. There were several conversations surrounding the possible role of games and ARGs in particular in different disciplines, including literature, history and philosophy. As the structures of games naturally tie to STEM education principles (with logic, programming and mathematics essential to game creation), these conversations embraced the flexibility of games. I previously offered a few ideas for using games in the classroom in my series here on ProfHacker.
  • Students as game creators and co-creators. An undergraduate-facilitated session offered a conversation on the ways students (particularly those with no prior experience) can be brought into game creation as part of engaging with course material. This went alongside the constant refrain of the weekend that games should be seen broadly, embracing the physical, digital and beyond.

Are you trying anything with games this semester? Let us know in the comments!

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