Assignment: Game Written and Video Review

What a semester it has been! Teaching this class has been amazing. For me the worst part of a class is typically grading. This semester, however, it has been a treat, as the new assignments that students have submitted have wowed me. Some of the best have been watching students who came into the class with limited knowledge of playing board games create actually fun prototypes at the end of the class, many of which could stand up in today’s competitive tabletop game market.

Over the next few weeks I plan to share some of the assignments turned in by students (with their permission) on our humble blog. I think these submissions will go a long way in showing some of the amazing things students have done this semester.  While all of the students did stellar work on different assignments, I’ll be limiting to a few submissions for each assignment.

I’m starting today with the assignment for written and video game review. All I’ll be sharing is the video part of their review. As with many of the assignments in class they were not limited to tabletop games and could also do any other type of game they chose. I think these will be a nice start to showing some of the amazing work of students in EDL 290T.

Ali Hancock: Review of Animal Crossing Pocket Camp

Nolin Hamlin: Review of BIONICLE: The Quest For Makuta

I hope you enjoy the hard work Ali and Nolin put in! I look forward to showing you more amazing work over the next two months!

Through the Looking Glass

At first, I was really disappointed that I would not be able to teach this course the first semester it was offered on our campus. JS and I worked so hard on making sure this class would be available to students within a semester, it was almost like a jab in my side when I found I would not have a front-row seat to watch the light bulbs above the students’ heads (or nat. 20s- whichever picture suits your imagination). However, I have found that this semester I have spent “behind the scenes” has provided both JS and I a more comprehensive understanding and opportunity to dig deeper into the course data.

As discussed in an earlier entry, I love data… so does the CTE who gave us the grant money. As such, JS and I have been very diligent in collecting TONS of data with which to compile and pull themes. Daily notecards with a question of the day that related to what was discussed in class that day, every aspect of assignments (when they were turned in, how many students did one assignment over the other, which themes students stuck with over the course), pre and post tests- the list goes on….

Because I did not get to spend time in the class this semester, I was able to push JS’s findings further by asking those questions of “why this”, “how that”, and “what is this referring to” in order to better situate the data we have collected and explain it to others who may not have the experience in the course. I was able to approach the data with a more objective view due to not having the direct relationships with the students. (Don’t get me wrong, I still would have preferred to be in the classroom, but this was the next best option!) I had access to this data throughout the course so I could follow along with what was happening and what everyone was experiencing.

Without giving away too much information (we do have LOTS of combing through data before we can post something super formal….), I did have a few thoughts I thought may be of interest to those who have followed along thus far. Please keep in mind, these are my personal observations/thoughts and are not necessarily backed up with physical data- at least, yet.

  • The course layout seemed to facilitate community within the classroom, classmates, and facilitators.
  • The students did phenomenal work on the projects that were submitted. Seriously- we cannot wait to share the ones we received permission to do so with in a future post! Although most of the assignments were submitted in the last month of the course, you can tell a lot of thought and effort went into each submission.
  • The grading scale needs some work. It was modified towards the end of the semester with much gratitude from the students, but we will still need to revisit it to ensure our students are still achieving and meeting the expectations of the course.
  • There is room for improvement on the course. If we stopped finagling with the course now, we would be failing ourselves and our students. One of the biggest areas of improvement? We want to immerse the students even further into the gaming community. Why stop with just getting feedback from classmates and facilitators? Did I hear someone say, “field trip”?!?


And with that, I think I will leave you in suspense for the larger post of findings coming soon. I look forward to continuing to share our passion of tabletop games and leadership with our students. However, next semester I get a front-row seat!

TIME Stories, a New Game Every Time!

Last week in class we played TIME Stories, an adventure game where teams work together to solve a certain mission. There are several different missions that can be purchased for TIME Stories, and each one is set in a different location with a different theme (we played the asylum mission in class). Each mission is filled with secrets and challenges, so the replay value is extremely low once you complete an individual mission, however there are TONS of missions to buy so you have a lot of play-throughs at your disposal. I’ve never played a game like this before, and it’s actually become one of my favorites of the semester.

The hardest part of the game was trying to discern what information was valuable and what information was trying to throw you off your mission. Certain entry points require a lot of time to pass through and end up being a complete waste of your team’s resources. Also, you lose all of your progression upon failing the mission (depending on various conditions), and it’s tough to remember how you got to where you were, where you got certain items, etc. This made the game extremely challenging, however it was rewarding as you cracked puzzles and made positive advancements in the mission.

Leadership was a huge element of playing TIME Stories. Each turn, there’s a captain who ultimately makes decisions and does dice rolls. He/She must be able to listen to their team’s ideas, as well as be confident in their actions. The group has the same goal, and with so many options available to your team, someone HAS to step up and facilitate decision making if you want to win.

I think my brother would absolutely love TIME Stories. He’s a huge fan of story telling and strategic gameplay, which TIME Stories revolves around.

Ladies & Gentlemen

Ladies & Gentlemen.

No, I’m not about to welcome you to a circus or a wrestling show or anything. The board game Ladies & Gentlemen (as I believe I’ve mentioned) is one of the games that spurred my desire to create this class. I knew we could have excellent conversations around the topic of leadership and social identities through this game.

First, however, I should probably provide you with a way to learn what the game is about…and you read enough of what I have to say. So here is the Shut Up & Sit Down review and overview of Ladies & Gentlemen.

So-the game is set in Victorian times and encourages role play of the roles as they were in that era. The game features very stereotypical gender roles, but also have a few other things going on as well. Would people pick up on it? So after everyone was done playing I asked for an initial reaction. The perceptions were what I could hope for. That clearly it is a game and is fun. That it is largely satirical. At the same time-it clearly demonstrated many stereotypes, showed the sexist nature of society and many other things I wanted them to notice. So we put a list of social identities on the board and asked students to find out ones that came out in the course of the game, either through game mechanics or the interaction of players.

Gender: This clearly played a large role in the game.

Race: “Yeah-these were clearly all white people.” (That the game has you play)

Sexual Orientation: “If the game was set now it would be more acceptable that it could be Ladies & Ladies or Gentlemen & Gentlemen.”

Social Class: “Social class was there. These were rich people-poor people don’t care about elegance at balls. And in the game were the servants.”

Nation of Origin & Or Citizenship: “In my group I decided to say something in Spanish. One of the other other players, in character, said “Who let the foreigner in?””

Body Size/Type: “Clearly this played out as you could tell these were all supposed to be well off, beautiful women.”

The class reflection questions also did a good job of catching viewpoints. We asked “How would this game be perceived in general society?” Responses include:

“The reaction wouldn’t be great because even though it’s satire, people don’t understand or care for it and it leads to people being upset.”

“I think larger society would be kind of ok with it honestly. It’s a game, & it’s set in Victorian era. This is pretty much how it was back then, and no one will deny that. It doesn’t reflect society today, so I don’t see why people would care. Of course some would, but I think most wouldn’t.”

“Very negative. If the news ever got to a website such as Tumblr the amount of online yelling would be horrible.”

“I think society would be upset by the gender stereotypes perpetuated by this game. In recent times females have had a stronger presence in STEM, Business, etc and this game diminishes the ability of women to be involved in activities other than shopping.”

“I think people would enjoy the game, but I could see women being offended, especially when men play ladies and play it up and make stupid comments, it could get hurtful.”

“Shock and disgust. Someone would claim that this game is a way of promoting patriarchy or gender subjugation.”

“It would have a very mixed reaction. Many people wouldn’t look past the surface and wrongly assume the game is very sexist. Some would understand the satire.”

We discussed current issues faced by various social identities, both at Miami and larger society. Overall-the game served all the purposes I wanted it to.

As a side note, a photographer from the university was present and took pictures of the class for future Miami publications, which is awesome.

You should check out the photo gallery of the pictures Miami took to use in publications.

Another great week of the class!

How “Two Rooms and a Boom” Creates Obvious Leaders and Followers

This week in class, we played an awesome hidden role game called Two Rooms and a Boom, where there are two teams (red and blue) with two different objectives. There are also “gray” players who have individual objectives to win the game, regardless of the outcome of the red/blue battle. People are split into different rooms, and then given a random card designating their team and special role, if any. On the red team there is a bomber, and on the blue team there is a president. A leader is chosen in each room, who decides which hostages to trade with the other room’s leader every round. At the end of the game, the red team wants the bomber to be in the same room as the president, and the blue team does not want this to happen.

Right off the bat, we are naming people “leader” and giving them ultimate control of the current state of the game. It was interesting to see which people jumped to the front and requested to be leader, and how others wanted to stay in the back. Someone with a dominant role like President or Bomber may want to be in control because they are important pieces to the team’s objective. However, some roles (particularly gray players) require you to be a little more relaxed and not running too much of the game. For example, I was a gray Romeo character, where at the end of the game I want to be in the same room as Juliet and the bomber. I honestly didn’t care how the red vs blue war turned out, so I offered to be more of a supporter for whatever team tried to help me. The game is interesting from that perspective, because you are not an active decision maker. I was much more of a follower, while the leader of the room was directly trying to influence the game to meet his/her objective.

The hardest part of Two Rooms and a Boom was completing your task without making it obvious as to which role you were playing. If the leader was on the red team, he clearly wants the bomber to find the president, but can’t make that super obvious or the blue players in the room will elect a new leader. Hidden role games are extremely difficult in this regard, and require extra strategy and communication skills between players. While this is difficult, it is also one of my favorite parts of this genre of game because of the creativity involved in achieving your objective.

My friend Ryan would absolutely love this game. He’s huge into hidden role games, and this one adds just an extra element of immersion by physically being in different rooms and swapping hostages. If possible, I really want to find out a way to play this with a group of friends in my apartment sometime, because it’s so much fun. Definitely my favorite game we’ve played so far.

Day One Leadership, Drew Dudley, and the Framework of the Class

As I’ve mentioned in many contexts-I coordinate the EDL 290 family of classes and teach some of the sections. My direct responsibility is for 290E (Emerging Leaders), 290S (Student Organization Leaders), 290O (Open section about individual leadership for anyone interested), and of course 290T (Tabletop Games and Leadership.) The concepts of the Emerging Leaders class started back in the late 90s while I was still in college as an undergrad at a different institution and has evolved through the years. As Bethany said to me recently “The point of education is that it is constantly evolving-if you weren’t changing things I’d be worried.” As part of that I am consistently looking for new things to add to the class to make it the best possible experience for the students.

A few years ago in my searches I found something that literally changed my perspective on things and changed the way I taught leadership, or at least gave me a better tool to do so. It was a short YouTube video.

Listening to Drew Dudley talk about leadership in this way that I knew and believed myself changed how I taught the class. It is hard to describe, because I had concepts like this that I taught-but it gave me the language and the means to get students to think beyond the normal perspectives they had of leadership in a relatable, touching manner. It let me give students a new way to look at leadership: as Lollipop Moments. It quickly became one of the three frameworks I use in my class for what leadership is. (The others are Heifetz & Linsky’s Leading with an Open Heart and Kouzes and Posner’s Five Practices of Exemplary Student Leadership.)

Really…the Everyday Leadership video I thought would be all I needed. And  I watched it again…and again…showing it to literally hundreds of people (who spread it more themselves) and wanted to see what else Drew had to say on the topic of leadership. And it was so much more.

The video The Leadership Game had me reconsidering things in class and help discuss integrity and values in new ways. The Game Has No Winners and The List are excellent ways of getting students to consider the goals and vision for what is important in their life. Those were wonderful additions. The fact that I agree and believe Drew’s philosophies and statements helped. What he gave me was the resources and the words from an expert to let them see what I wanted them to hear.

Best of all though was The Power of Disconnection. Where Drew shares a believe that has shaped the rest of his career (and without knowing it has always been a major part of mine): every day being a Day One.

When I walk into class every day…it is Day One. All I have in mind is the 20+ students in my class They are all that matter to me. I know many people dread going to work…I have been employed at Miami University for over twelve years and I don’t think I’ve come to work a single day in my life. Every day I want to be here and help and serve the students. If I was independently wealthy I would do this job for free. Every day, in the words of Drew Dudley (and the guide through the desert-we can’t forget the impact Mustafa has), is a Day One.

To my great pleasure as part of another aspect of my job (University Lecture Series) last year we got the pleasure of bringing Drew to campus. I got to spend about a half day with him. It was amazing. Drew is such a fantastic person who has touched so many people he will never get to meet. It was awesome getting to let students interact with a man who has inspired and shaped their beliefs. He was blown away by how much our students know about his work. He would mention one of his videos and everyone around knew and had watched it.

JS, Drew Dudley, and Jennifer Bragg

Drew is an amazing individual. He has done so much to touch so many lives and I am so glad I was able to bring him into my life and help spread his message to so many people through EDL 290.

As one last piece of advice from Drew to all students:

Secrets Hitler: “But we have a thing!”

We recently played the board game Secret Hitler which was both entertaining and extremely reliant on communication and logic. In the game, there are two factions who are either trying to elect “Hitler” as chancellor or to get him assassinated. The only players that know who anyone else is are the ones on the fascist side. This lack of knowledge forces everyone else to communicate logically to determine who is good and who is evil – using critical thinking and logical deduction of other players’ words and actions. Some instances of trust are garnered through illogical means such as two players claiming that they “have a thing!” and that they trust each other on that basis. This, while not always the best strategy to win, definitely makes this game thought provoking and fun to play with friends and strangers alike.

First day of class!

This week was the first day of class! The day Bethany and I worked so hard to accomplish was finally here! So of course, I decided to just cancel class!

Of course…that is far from what I did!

What Dane and I did was talk about the first class a few times over the course of the week. The only thing left was to teach the class.

This week was really an introduction to the class and how it will work. We spent some serious time on how the quests (assignments) will work and answered all questions. We then passed out our pre-tests and weekly note cards. The question for this week’s note cards (where we ask a brief reflection question) was what worried them the most about the class. The two biggest responses is people worrying about fitting in, language barrier (for several international students), the complexity of the games and about the freedom of dates and assignments. That gives Dane and I good feedback for what to work on and look at.

After that, it was time for one of the key parts of our class: Tabletop Games!

This week the class was playing Avalon. Avalon is a hidden role game designed by Don Eskridge and published by Indie Boards and Cards for 5-10 players. With class we have three groups of eight players, so we had Merlin, Percival, Morgana, the Assassin and Mordred as special roles. This was the one game we taught in class; future games everyone has to come to class with an idea of how to play. We are offering three opportunities for them to learn them; we have uploaded the rules, we have shared rules videos from YouTube or they can attend the Strategy Gaming Club on Tuesday in the same room and time from the class where we will teach the game from that week’s class.

After the first game of Avalon, we discussed just in general what the experience of the class was while playing the game. The students did an excellent job of discussing the various things they noticed. Topics included the difficulties of being Merlin when the first three people randomly were evil, the role trust and distrust plays and more. After that, we reset and played one more game.


Each of the three groups playing Avalon

Over the two games each group had similar things happen that are common to games of Avalon, especially with new players. Two evil people failing the same mission. Evil people being too cautious and despite having two on the mission not failing. A good person who is learning the game accidentally failing, which corrupts the game. However, after their reflections on ways they saw leadership in the game was also excellent.

After the discussion we wrapped up with sharing the article The Types of Board Games Everyone Should Know About to help people understand initial basics of tabletop games to help build their gaming knowledge.

Overall, it was a wonderful first week of this new and exciting class!

There’s More to Assessment Than Grades?

So, you know the course is working if students are playing the games, right?

Well, that’s a good start, but there is such a large opportunity to learn more about what students are receiving from this course! The students playing the game shows us that they might be doing their homework of preparing for day-to-day classes, but are they understanding the underlying message of the game? Are they able to reconstruct the game to teach a different message? Are they able to teach the game in their own words with game-specific lingo?

All great questions that can be found through different forms of assessment!

Our first (and final!) form of assessment will be a pre and post test to the students in the course. This test is not actually a test, but moreso a form that students will populate with their current understanding of gaming and leadership knowledge. It includes likert scale questions that are answered on a 1 (very little) to 5 (very much) scale. It also has open-ended questions where students can choose to answer as lengthy as they would prefer, such as describing their approach to leadership. Comparing the pre-test that is given at the beginning of the semester to the post-test at the end, we are able to see any increases in comfortability with gaming and  leadership concepts, as well as personal growth in formulating their philosophies in these areas. Witnessing a student’s leadership definition go from 3 words to a paragraph long with examples supporting it makes my heart flutter!

Another form of assessment for the course is collected through in-class discussions. There is allotted times during each class session where students have the opportunity to participate in these conversations, sharing their thought processes and quandaries about the topic. We have also made available online discussion forums if students feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts digitally rather than in class. These discussions help us to see where students’ understandings are in regards to depth and clarity of the topics each week. These discussions are not necessarily for a grade, but rather to help us, as instructors, to guide the conversations and provide extra support to the students that might need it.

Speaking of grades, we will be using assignments as an addition form of assessment. This is where it starts to get somewhat tricky… Because the assignments have been completely gamified into experience points (XP) and students choose what level they want their characters to end on, we expect some students will not be as driven to reach an A+ level. Some students may be okay with earning a C in the class and only turn in that many assignments. (Thus, we have other forms of assessment to ensure learning is still happening!) The 80+ different types of assignments will help us to see where the students seem to direct their energy in completing “the missions” (assignments). Perhaps Student A submits many assignments in the current events category, so we may try to provide additional current event information that we come across for the student to delve deeper if they so choose during their own time. Maybe Student B submits multiple game designs for different assignments, showing interest in game design for a career, giving us the head’s up that we could introduce them to someone we know in the field- helping to make those crucial connections for internships, experiences, and perhaps even jobs!

In addition to these more immediate types of assessment, JS and I will also be completing an overarching data comparison with all of the data collected in this course with a previous, similar course that had been offered in the past in a different department. What this comparison will look like is still up in the air, but we thought this comparison would be important to see what differences we made in the course made a positive or negative impact on the students and their learning.

So, what’s next? Just collect the data and move on to the next class? Absolutely not! After visiting the data, JS and I hope to not only revamp the class accordingly (to better support our students and their learning), but hopefully continue to build off of this class in other areas of our professional lives. Yay for data making a difference!

Collaboration and Creation

JS: I have worked with a lot of people through the year. The day we are writing this and posting it is the final day of my twelfth year at Miami University. I’ve served on a number of committees, worked on tons of projects, and done a ton of different things. I’ve never had a collaborative relationship like this one. To start with I was never asked about doing it…Bethany told me we were going to. And then she told me her time frame and I thought she was insane. Looking back at it 8 months later…it is easily the best collaboration I’ve ever been a part of. And I think that is because we are, very much and in a lot of ways, opposites.

B: The collaboration piece of this project is what made the end product so amazing. JS had an idea and I believed in him- so I may have given him a little extra push with some confidence… and an aggressive timeline. JS was our big picture person. It was JS who brought in the overarching idea for the class and goal of having everything gamified. I came along and helped to set up the checkpoints to ensure we got it done and met all of the adminsitrative-y things along the way. The details? Well, let’s just say we were not saving the trees with how many post-it notes we went through when going back and forth come to a “decision” in our discussions.

JS: Bethany hit the nail on the head. I am very much an idea person and not so much with the executing. Even StrengthsFinder will tell you that. I took a course to learn to facilitate strengths and they gave us our full list. The highest thing in the Executing theme of the signature themes was 14th. Ideas…that I can do. Following through…not so much. Bethany made sure I followed through. And pushed me to be a better collaborator than I had ever been. Or as she called it…a mountain builder.

B: Oh, StrengthsFinder… I think 4 of my top 5 were executing? (JS: I think sometimes she wanted to execute me…) Anywho…

Overall, I was impressed that we were able to not only meet the aggressive timeline, but surpass it with everything we were able to achieve. Not only did we create the course, but we also wrote a grant (that was awarded!!!!), created the online portion of the class, connected with multiple academic departments to cross list the course, get it approved by the university, do initial planning to ensure the course was as accessible as possible for students with all learning styles and abilities, create materials for the course, build over 100 types of assignments…. Well, need I go on? Seriously, this team was ON FIRE!

JS: Assignments? I think you mean quests. We decided to come up with a totally different framework from how we’ve done classes before. However it didn’t start with this class-I gave Bethany the opportunity to fully re-write a different class I coordinate. No restrictions-no limitations…take the general idea and make something new. And she made something I would NEVER have created. I would not have selected the concepts she wanted to cover. I would not have chosen the format. After a bad experience with two-day, shorter classes I wouldn’t have switched that. And she was able and willing to create something new. She proved an ability to challenge me to stretch myself and become a better person. She created a totally different way for things to be done and different class concepts I would not have chosen to teach but that are perfectly relevant. Working together on that class built a trust that when she said “we are doing this” I believed her. When she would challenge something I was thinking it was to make things better and push me in a new way. It was really all for the benefit of the students and the class. So I allowed myself to be led down a path that I had just visualized a few years earlier and was unsure would ever be a reality.

B: I think JS hit on the two key pieces of our work together: trust and challenge. I am the safe player. I can tell you the next ten moves, ten weeks in advance- it’s just how my brain worked. JS challenged me to think in a way that helped me grow and helped to build the best experience possible for our students. When JS challenged my ideas, I was scared- we travelled into the unknown! EEK! But, that is when the best ideas came to fruition. I followed JS into the scary abyss of the unknown and he allowed me to put it into something physically in front of us to continue to make sense of. This created trust between us. We knew that where one person was nervous or lacked confidence, the other person could be the foundation. Thus, the mountain building phrase we came up used throughout. Didn’t mean it wasn’t butting heads sometimes, but it was constructive and created the peak!

JS: An interesting thing to notice here…since this is a leadership class. We were both leading. And both following. Both equally important, in my opinion, to good leadership. We were willing to set everything else aside for the good of the class and students it would be serving. The students were always our focus-what would be the best, most engaging classroom experience for them. We shared similar goals and worked together to reach for them.

B: Also good lessons to be learned- We failed. There were days that we got almost nothing done. Days that we were on completely different ideas as to what we thought things looked like. But, it was through these “failures” that we succeed. When these days happened, we took a breather and came back with a fresh mind and ideas and continued to build the mountain. WE did it!