For our latest face-to-face meeting of the Games and Learning Special Interest Group (GLSIG) we made our way north to the beautiful town of Huddersfield, to be welcomed by a very generous Andy Walsh as host at the town’s University.
With ten members present (and others joining in online through the live-blogging we debuted this year), we launched straight in over lunch to playtest a new card-and-description game I’m designing for the Engaging Visitors Through Play event at the end of May. That event is for museum professionals, and my aim was to teach them about simple contextual games through a simple contextual game involving curating a group of artefacts. The play test was incredibly helpful, simplifying my overly-complex rules and producing a much leaner game.
We then launched into the main session of the afternoon – new member Simon Grey (University of Hull) setting up four Raspberry Pi’s and launching Minecraft on each of them. Simon uses this set-up to teach basic programming skills to his students, and he took us through the method. Many of us had some background in programming in the dim and distant past, and we found ourselves learning loops, if-else statements and functions in Python, whilst seeing the results in technicolour lego blocks within Minecraft. It was a highly engaging way to learn (programme-see a reward) and we followed our practical test with a good discussion about this method and its potential, over some magnificent cake.
We finished the first afternoon with a deep delve into games and learning theory, Nic Whitton leading us through a structured set of themes to crowdsource our collective knowledge of work in the field. This proved to be a highly useful, thought provoking task for all, and neatly finished off our aim to mix theory and practice in all GLSIG activity.
For the now-traditional evening games, drinks and deep conversations, Andy led us to a quite remarkable pub (The Grove – more real ales and mythological stuffed-creatures-on-shields than you could shake a jackalope at). We played some weird and wonderful independent card games (We Didn’t Playtest This At All, Zombie Dice and Diggity) – all interesting in their own way, with Diggity taking the most time to work out a strategic approach to – and shared our knowledge of (and played through a few too many) drinking games.
Friday morning saw us shake off any wooly heads with my and Nic’s Game Design Workshop (a 60-120 minute fast-paced game creation experience which we’ve now run successfully for a wide range of participants) – our two teams coming up with a pair of highly original games within the space of 50 minutes. We then merged with online GLSIG members to discuss potential ways to free up time and gain funds for research and practice in the field: whether small local practice, or bigger inter-institution projects. In the process, we resurrected the SIG’s parked Ninja Badges project and set it back in motion for the coming year. SIG business then rounded off the 24-hours, and we all set off happily back to our various corners of the UK.
Another excellent event, and one which mixed theory and practice particularly well: giving us all tangible things to take away and implement, in addition to new theoretical avenues to explore. Special thanks go to Andy and the University of Huddersfield for being fine hosts, and to all the GLSIG members who played active and playful roles.