Virtual Protest Organization – A Play Journal Entry

*This is the continuation of a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal settings.

If Not Now When bannor

I have been following a breadcrumb trail connecting me to games that explore social protest and activism. I was inspired to look for these games because of a scholarly text critique I did in the last cycle of my Games and Learning class, which reviewed an independently produced video game that enabled the user to  destroyed a an object of intolerance in virtual space. The tumultuous political times we live in have motivated me to become more politically active then I have been in the past and seeing that games have found a place in the resistance has been eye opening.  A Wired magazine article linked me to five suggestions that seemed interesting example of activism games for my play journal. I tried out the games suggested by Wired and was particularly interested in If Not Now, When? (INNW), created for the 2017 Resist Jam by independent producer Ravynn.

INNW is a simulation game that puts the user in charge of a occupy style protest camp. The user has to make decisions throughout the day about how to delegate time and resources that support the cause and ensure the comfort (food, water, shelter) and safety for the members at the camp. The user is presented with a dashboard that shows the statistics for different camp supplies and options for decisions that are made three times during the span of one day in game.

If Not Now When dashboard

Simulating the organization of a protest encampment was awesome because I was able to experience some of the challenges that go into the organization of a similar protest but without the physical world consequences. For example before I played I knew that I had to make sure there was plenty of food and water for camp members but through game play I developed a broader understanding of the daily need to keep tabs on the consumption of supply and to ensure that there is enough supplies in case of emergencies. I also encountered issues that I would not have imagined, such as corporations “donating” products for PR reasons and the possibility of those corporations derailing the message of the protest.

If Not Now When message 4

While this simulation would not prepare a user to run out and organize a protest encampment on their own, it does open the possibility for the user to think about struggles and problems that will likely come up during a protest and enable the user to proactively problem solve for possible obstacles.  

Overall the game was enjoyable and enlightening, I did run into two areas that detracted from the seamless game play. First there were events that seemed to be triggered by particular days in the simulation, to pass the event specific levels of supplies were needed, but if the user did not have the right level of supplies instead of going to a game over screen the inability to pass the event created a feedback loop and effectively froze the game. Also the point of the in game protest is left vague which is a good feature for making the game appealing to anybody looking to organize a protest, however, this became problematic towards the end of the game where there is a final decision to make. I’ll spare the spoilers but how one reacts to the decision could have been developed throughout the game and not right at the end, setting up the possibility of the choice at the beginning would give the user the chance to weigh the pros and cons throughout the simulation and not just at the end.

Virtual Protest Organization – A Play Journal Entry

The Family the Feuds Together . . . Play Journal Entry

*This is a continuation of a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal setting

This weekend I was at a small gathering of friends, when we decided we needed a shake up our entertainment and used an appleTV device to cast a mobile app game to the television. We often gather on Friday nights and have identified a collection of mobile apps for classic game shows, such as Wheel of Fortune or The Price is Right. We cooperatively play, with the whole group calling out answers and playing as one team. This week we channeled our inner Richard Dawson to play the crowd favorite Family Feud.

  

This is a newer version of Family Feud then we are use to playing so there was a lot for this group to master in the game. One of the new features is a tournament mode. In this mode eight players are trying to find answers to the same question. In Family Feud 100 people are surveyed and their answers are hidden on the game-board. The players try to guess all the responses and are awarded points based off of how popular the answer was. In the tournament the two players with the lowest score after each round do not move on to the next round.  So the first round has eight players, the next has six, then four, and for the final round only two players are left. This is a departure from the classic game play where only two players compete at a time, over four rounds.

family feud game play bar.jpg

The knockout nature of the tournament forced us to adjust our game play. In the past our goal was to guess all the answer on the game-board, with the less popular responses seen as unique and therefore the most prized responses to guess. In the knockout games earning the large point responses first, the popular choices, was key because we discovered that ties went to the team who scored fastest.  This made the group slow answers down and focus on what the popular answers could be not just quickly calling out answers and reaching for the obscure responses.

family feud game playTo play in the knockout tournaments players have to collect coins that can be slowly earned in the standard mode or can be obtained quickly in though in-app purchases. There is also a large reward for winning a tournament and second place prize that is enough to pay for another entry to the tournament. In the previous version of this game coins could be collected by watching advertisements. This is a feature we used a lot, it would have been nice if it had been included in the new version. Companies may have not seen that as effective advertising but could have tried trading in-game currency for responses to marketing surveys, there by collecting valuable information and users the opportunity to collect more coins.  

family feud championI believe that the knockout tournament featured was included in this new version of Family Feud because players of the old version were “gaming the system”, defined by Deterding as a situation when players “find a way to exploit any rule loophole” (2014, p.310). We knew how to game the old version’s advertising model to get more in-game currency and how to guess low probability answers early when there is more leeway in time and chances then give high probability answer when the round is almost over.  Removing the payments for watching advertisements and including a time dependent knockout tournament effectively stopped our what we thought were sneaky game play strategies, forcing us to discover new ways to game the Family Feud app.

The Family the Feuds Together . . . Play Journal Entry

Play Journal – Champions Online

This is the opening entry into a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal settings.

I decided to kick off my game play experience with a game that was both comfortable and out of my comfort zone. I have never been interested in online multiplayer role playing games, also refereed to as Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). I have tried them before but have been overwhelmed by the number of tasks to be undertaken, having to explore, find materials, conduct missions, build or upgrade, etc, are too much for me to enjoy the game play. I never know if what I am doing is making me a better player and I get bored or frustrated and quit. I also generally don’t enjoy the settings or genre of role playing games – fantasy – I am more or a science fiction or superhero guy in my nerdy pursuits.  So while I wanted to try a game that is out of my comfort zone, the MMORPG, I decided to try  to find one that had content that more closely matched my interests.

The game I settled on was Champions Online, this free game lets users create and design a superhero based around a specific class of powers, for my character Fire, I chose the ability to create and manipulate, you guessed it, fire. The game starts with a lengthy tutorial that runs through the basics of game play and upgrading offensive and defensive powers. The tutorial also connects with a community forum where further questions can be asked or answer can be searched for from previous questions. I found this forum useful because I wanted to better know how to take advantage of my character’s abilities. I have a ranged attack and learned that if I let other players, who can take more damage, spearhead attacks, then the focus of the enemies will be on those players and I can provide support with my ranged attacks. This information may have been shared in the tutorial but I missed it and was getting frustrated at how fast I was dying as I rushed into battle. By leaning on the tacit knowledge shared by the others in the Champions Online affinity space I was able to overcome my frustrations and be a better contributor in battles (Gee & Hayes, p 19, 2012).

To support learning I think that this game would good to encourage students to apply a trial and error approach that lets them identify what they can solve on their own and where they need help. For me I learned that I was not effective in my original approach to how I attacked the bad guys. I ran head first in and died too quickly to be an effective contributor. This trial and error highlighted that my approach to the battle could be wrong and I was able to refine my query about how to improve my play. Students could be supported in other learning endeavors by playing this game if they transfer skills around attacking problems with a trial and error approach to determine specific challenges that they need scaffolding for to be successful.

Play Journal – Champions Online