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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Games and Learning

Chris Campbell

Every year with the Connected Learning MOOC the pattern with me seems to be diving in, getting caught up in other summer stuff, and starting to lose the thread. It's a challenge for me to stay within a routine when I change my routine. In the summer I will usually travel and that is where the pattern changes. When there is a game that I play it will work in the same way where I will be heavily into it (and maybe even a bit obsessed) and then will either not have the time or get frustrated by something and then the interest will wane. That's the same sort of thing that happens with learning too!

In thinking about teaching and learning and games the things that work best for me balance surprise and improvisation with structure. So that means the key is having a set of rules and paths to follow to make sure that there is a way forward and milestones and guideposts along the way. While for many it may seem obvious, the key event for me which transformed the way that I do just about everything was realize the importance of outcomes. What is the goal?

Whether it is editing, writing, teaching, learning, or playing a game, having a simple and clear goal seems to be the key. If you know what it is you can expand or contract what you are doing to fit within the constraints that you have. You can do a 5 minute version, a 45 minute version, or even a 5 week version of something. Games can have complex mechanics where you need to learn how to work within the system or even figure out the controls. Once you have that down you build on that and move on to other things. While writing this the games in my mind are more computer-based ones as those are the games that I play the most now.

The games I keep coming back too are simple and beautiful. My favourite now is Alto's Adventure which is a small and simple game where you snowboard and capture escaped llamas. The controls are minimalistic and it's easy to start playing, but the complexity grows. This is the type of goal that I strive for with any workshop or thing that I teach. What is the most basic, important thing to learn and how can that form the basis of additional learning? It takes a lot of work and thought to get to that point and in a game something that is well-designed gives me joy and keeps me wanting to come back to it. Teaching something more than once can help a lot as you see what works and what doesn't, what's important and what isn't.

I played with Twine a bit to create a game that was a sort of essay about games and it was neat to be able to easily create a game that is text-based. The goal was just to share a bit of history, but it was good to write in a slightly non-linear way with some loose planning to get started. The tool is fairly easy to use with additional complexity that would allow you to make much more interesting things with it, but in keeping with my goal to think less and make more, I finished it and now will share my Game About Games (which is hosted on Phloem.la).