Over the past two summers I've posted some recommendations for things to read, watch, listen to, or play if you're interested in games, gamification, and game design for learning.
In case you missed them, here are my reposted 2018 and 2017 recommendations. If you've got something to recommend, let us know in the comments!
My 2018 recommendations
Get ready to have your mind blown about board games
I’ve been simultaneously reading two books about the history of board games.
The beach read: It’s all a game! The history of board games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan by Tristan Donovan (2017). This is an easy read but packed full of interesting stories that will give you a new-found respect for the humble board game.
The deep read: If you want to dig deeper into the ancestry of board games, and enjoy thorough research, I recommend David Parlett’s book The Oxford history of board games (1999). His wry humour makes this book a fun read (assuming that, like me, reading nerdy nonfiction is your idea of a good time). I certainly couldn't get enough, and just returned from the library with his other book, The Oxford guide to card games (1990).
Learn about games and gaming through your ears
With the number of high quality podcasts around these days, some say listening is the new reading. Here’s some audio to feed your brain while you relax your eyes
The quick listens (under 20 mins)
- The educational value of computer games Bron Stuckey on RNZ National
- How video games can save the world Asi Burak on RNZ National
- The Landlord’s Game - the secret history of Monopoly revealed on 99 Percent Invisible podcast
The deeper dives (over 20 mins)
- Ethical gaming James Portnow, former videogame addict and writer for my fave Youtube series Extra Credits, on RNZ National
- The secret to making videogames good for you Jane McGonigal on Note to Self podcast
Get a grip on gamification
The easy reads: For some good general resources on gamification, I recommend Karl Kapp’s book The Gamification of Learning and Instruction or Matthew Farber’s book Gamify your classroom.
The deep dives: Have you ever heard of Alternate Reality Games? If you have no idea, watch this short video or ask Wikipedia. Hours later when you emerge from that Internet rabbithole, you might want to tackle this academic article that looks at how ARGs could be used to explicitly support students’ 21st century literacies Bonsignore, E., Hansen, D., Kraus, K., & Ruppel, M. (2013). Alternate Reality Games as Platforms for Practicing 21st Century Literacies. International Journal of Learning and Media - fulltext here.
Youtube your way to game expertise
- NZCER 2017 Games for Learning Conference playlist, featuring talks by Bron Stuckey, Amy Fredeen, Harko Brown, Yasmin Kafai, James Everett, Dan Milward, Maru Nihoniho, and more!
- Extra Credits - this channel features on my list every year, because it’s just so packed full of goodness. This year I enjoyed episodes like Puzzle break - Teamwork and Escape the room games, Exploration in Games - Four ways players discover joy, and Video game music: how to create a timeless theme
The latest book from Harko Brown describes 30 ancient Māori artefacts for play, learning, and exercise. Harko's co-author is his teenage daughter Yves, who assesses the hupara from the perspective of a 21st century learner.
On the international front, I’m also waiting in anticipation for Matthew Farber’s latest book Game-based learning in action which looks at how expert educators are using games in their classrooms to give students agency, while also teaching twenty-first century skills, like empathy, systems thinking, and design thinking.
My 2017 recommendations
1. The Minecraft Generation: How a clunky Swedish computer game is teaching millions of children to master the digital world.
An article by Clive Thompson for the New York Times.
A great article for getting your head around the rich potential of “sandbox” game environments like Minecraft, and what can happen when young people have time to explore, experiment, and problem-solve their way through an environment that allows almost infinite possibilities. Whether you’re already quite familiar with Minecraft, or just a beginner, I’m fairly sure you’ll find at least one new interesting angle that you hadn’t thought about before.
Type: Online article
2. Ready Player One
This is an easy summer read, set in a dystopian near future where people escape the bleak realities of the world in a virtual reality world called the OASIS. The story is heavily packed with references to videogame culture, with particular reference to classic games and pop culture from the 1980s. If you’re a gamer, or the 80s were your formative years you’ll enjoy the nostalgia kick. If you’re not, this novel may give you a perspective on the inner lives of gamers and why games are so compelling! The book is suitable for teens and young adult readers. (You may want to read it first before sharing with younger readers - contains mild adolescent sexuality and language). It’s also being made into a film, due out in 2018.
3. Extra Credits
I stumbled onto this great animated Youtube series when I was first starting to get into game design. “Extra Credits” aims to makes video game design approachable. Whether you are an aspiring young developer, a teacher, a student, or anyone else, you’ll find videos here that might make you go “a-ha” or “so that’s what gamification means!” or “no wonder making my first game took so much longer than I expected it to!”. For total beginners, I’d recommend starting with the Education in Games playlist, but many of my favourites are in the Game Design playlist (e.g. Fail faster).
Type: Youtube video series
4. Feminist Frequency: Tropes vs Women in video games
I’m a huge fan of Anita Sarkeesian’s well-researched, interesting video series which “aims to examine limiting, sexist patterns associated with female representations in games, and to illuminate how these patterns reinforce and perpetuate harmful attitudes about women in our culture”. Sarkeesian, a longtime gamer and engaging presenter, has been the target of all sorts of online and offline harassment for her work, which just goes to show how important it is to be able to have better conversations about some of the more problematic aspects of games and gaming culture. In every video, she reminds viewers that it’s possible to enjoy the games and other media we consume, while also critiquing them. Each episode is about 20-25 minutes long and illustrates ideas with footage from all sorts of videogames. This could be a great resources for discussions with mature secondary students. (Note: Some episodes contain graphic content and discussions about sexual violence).
Type: Video series