Playing With the Past: Pick One of Three

May 19th, 2010 |

I know there are at least a handful of other folks interested in games and playful thinking in history and the humanities more broadly, so I thought I would stick a post up here to start a conversation and see what kind of session we could pull together. Here are three quick ideas for playing with the past sessions. Chime in with your thoughts and suggestions.

1. Share A Game Play Time:
One option would be to just make some time to play some humanities games together. If a few people suggest a few games we should have plenty to play with, and I think they would prompt some great conversations about the power of the medium. If we went this way, I would share Argument Wars.  (If other folks don’t have other game ideas to share I can dig some more up)

2. Mini Humanities Game Jam:
In a game design jam the objective would be to break into groups and work up a playable prototype for a game on a provided topic in less than an hour. (For constraints on this see Raph Koster’s blog) We could try that, or we could try something more like tiltfactor’s grow a game workshop, where groups draw cards for different components of games and then put together short pitches for their games (See this overview for rules, and we could use the Flash version of the Grow-A-Game cards). I would lean toward the tiltfactor approach, with the caveat that we could swap out the challenges or goals for history or humanities learning objectives.

3. Prototyping Some Barely Games Into Digital Incarnations
Rob MacDougall recently blogged about some really cool “barely games” that playfully get at some critical elements in historical thinking.  It would be relatively easy to work up plans for “digitizing” these simple game/exercises and putting them up online.

I’m personally most inclined to the third option, but I would be up for jumping into the other two as well. So, who is in?

Comments Feed

4 Responses to “Playing With the Past: Pick One of Three”

  1. Zach Whalen Says:

    It seems that idea number 2 could very easily lead to some examples of idea number 3. I like this concept, “barely games,” and it captures pretty well what’s game-like about most Alternate Reality Games (besides “very little”), if we put that into a semantic context, where the play pieces are textual strategies (kind of like the Ivanhoe Game).

    Anyway, besides “learning objectives,” could we also include “scholarly objectives”? If the rhetorical premise of most historical games is that we want someone (students or the public) to “get something,” and if scholarship is about demonstrating expertise by inviting other experts to “get something,” then maybe we can start looking more to gameplay as a different way to express scholarly work?

    Whatever you want to do, I’m totally down.

  2. tjowens Says:

    Thanks Zach, I think you are right about 2 being able to get us into 3 🙂 and opening up the idea of objective to be learning and or scholarly makes sense to me.

  3. ethan.watrall Says:

    I am, of course, down with this. I would kick in my vote for #2. I too very much like Rob’s idea of Playful Historical Thinking (and am striving to apply the same model to archeology – playful archaeological thinking). Another approach we might take is to look at design patterns, narrative models, UXD, interaction, etc present in non-serious games (ie. mainstream commercial games) and explore how those might be applied to serious games.

  4. Mark Sample Says:

    Great idea, Trevor! I’m up for any version of #2 or #3. I’m invested in games just for their own sake (i.e. game studies), but I’m also interested in gaming and simulations for the sake of teaching other fields. History seems to be a natural fit for games, but aside from Ivanhoe, not much thinking has been done about literature and games. So, just as Rob wants to promote playful historical thinking, and Ethan wants to promote playful archaeological thinking, I’d like to promote playful literary thinking.

    And on a total side note: what are the chances we can run a Zen Scavenger Hunt during THATCamp?


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