Tag Archives: games-based learning

CUNY Games Festival Updates and Extras

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As the CUNY Games Festival draws ever closer we’ve got a couple of updates and extras to announce!

Our registration deadline has been extended to January 1, 2014. If you haven’t registered for the conference yet, head over to the conference website to do so.

We’ve secured a spot for our game day on January 18: the Richard Harris Terrace at BMCC. Find more info about Festival locations on our website.

We’re putting the final touches on the schedule for the conference on January 17, and will post details on the conference website as soon as we can. We’re delighted to feature a full day of presentations, shorts, posters, and arcade demos — titles of the accepted proposals are listed below, and there’s sure to be something for everyone interested in game-based learning in higher education.

The conference day will conclude with a plenary session featuring a diverse panel of scholars and game designers: John Black (Teachers College, Columbia University), Robert Duncan (York College, CUNY), Joey Lee (Teachers College, Columbia University), Anastasia Salter (University of Baltimore) and Eric Zimmerman (New York University).

Hope to see you there!

CUNY Games Festival accepted conference proposals


  • Choices in Games
  • Play as an Invitation to Learn: Teaching Grammar with Games
  • Beyond the Multiplayer Classroom: Story
  • Journaling the Zombie Apocalypse: Minecraft in College Composition
  • Cool School: Where Conflict Resolution is Fun
  • Adventures in Writing: Composition, Pedagogy, Video Games, and a Lot of Questions
  • Virtual Field Trips in Health Education
  • Designing Futures with Games: Game-Framed Math & Science at Hostos Community College
  • Fun and Usable: Making Better, More Intuitive Games
  • World of Warcraft: Experiencing Reality in a Virtual World
  • Teaching With Toons: Digital Avatars as Information Seeking Tools
  • Using Indie Games to Teach Ethics
  • From Game Player to Job Search Pro
  • Using Meaningful Gamification and Playful Design instead of Rewards for the Classroom
  • What Can Chess Teach Us About Sociology?
  • Teaching Fiction Writing Using Role-Playing Games
  • The Transformative Games Initiative: Learning by Design
  • The Education Arcade
  • Iterative Design and Implicit Bias: What we learned from making FairPlay.
  • It’s How You Play the Game: What Playtesting Taught Us about Game Design
  • Teaching the Art & Sound of Video Games across Two Disciplines
  • The Instrumentality of Virtuality: The Perceived Real-World Value of Video Gaming
  • The Integrated Problem Set: An Example of Social Science Gaming
  • Entertainment Games for Education: Self-Motivated Education and EVE Online
  • Meta Modding: Brainstorming Card Games for Pedagogical Purposes
  • What’s in a Game?: Teaching Online and Face-to-Face Composition Classrooms with Game-Based Pedagogies
  • Rules and Rhetoric: Unfair Games in the Composition Classroom
  • Liminal Space Between Fun and Educational Impact: A Post Mortem
  • Geolocation and Fear: Horror on the Ridges
  • Video Games as Feminist Pedagogy
  • The Challenges of Developing an Educational Board Game: Balancing Content and Gameplay
  • Woman Up!


  • Playing Together: Teamwork in Online Games
  • Game Design as Life Design: A Deck of Cards
  • Marriage Equality in Games: What Are Games Teaching Us?
  • Using a Card Game to Teach Circuits
  • Games and the Re-play of Gameplay: Rendering Deleuzian Memory
  • The Role of Video Game Glitch in Emancipated Learning and New Literacy Acquisition
  • Playing to Learn: Games, Engagment, and Deep Learning in Higher Education
  • Developing Game-Based Learning (GBL) Apps
  • “Choose Your Own” Fairy Tales? Electronic Literature and Game-Based Learning
  • Gold Stars & Badges
  • Complex Mechanics
  • From Cool School to CEDARIA: What Teens Can Learn from Kids About Gaming


  • Analyzing Procedural Learning and Emotion Recognition in Children using Serious Games
  • Computational Thinking Via Visual Game Coding
  • iSketch: A Digital Art Therapy Game to Improve Self-Esteem
  • Lerpz Behaves: A Game to Teach Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • Unbiased: A Game to Reduced Errors in Cognitive and Social Biases
  • Saving Mikey: A Digital Games to Educate At-Risk College Students About Depression
  • Critical Thinker: A Digital Game that Teaches Critical Thinking Skills to College Freshman
  • Restaurant Rockstar: A Digital Game that Teaches Student How to Read Nutritional Fact Labels
  • Using a Board Game to Teach Students About Divided Attention
  • Improving Decision Making for Extreme Prospects Using a Board Game
  • Monster Appetite: To Eat or Not To Eat, That Is the Question
  • Murder Mystery Challenge! Engaging First-Year Students in a Game-Based Library Investigation
  • A Language Learning App for International Students Preparing for Higher Education in the U.S.

Arcade Demos:

  • Argument
  • The Game of College
  • Project CONST∆NT: A Gesture-Based Game That Teaches Calculus
  • Gametron7000
  • Salty Dogs
  • Stellar Chemist: A Work in Progress
  • Mind Reader and Forty Eight
  • Government in Action
  • Off the Page, Onto the Classroom Stage: Discoveries Through Play with Text and Language
  • SlashDash
  • Meanwhile

Does Practice Make Perfect (Games)? Last Week’s Practice Conference @ NYU

Tl;dr–if you’re at all interested in game design and can attend only one conference a year, make Practice that conference.


The Practice conference began as all conferences should. With Breakdancing.

Because, as we learned from Susanna Liu’s presentation, Breakdancing is competitive; it has procedures and rules; within the confines of those rules, B-boys and -girls constantly innovate, push boundaries, surprise and delight the audience with their creativity and skill. In short, it shares a great deal in common with sports. With games.

The conference is now three years old, and every year it has included some “outsider” element, some practitioner on the fringes of game design. The first year of the conference, it was a representative from the National Football League discussing American football rules; last year, an expert on military wargames discussed their design. They approach the problem of game design not for its own sake, but in the service of a highly specific goal–professional sports, military training, the underground dance scene. They’re never hung up on philosophical logorrheic game-designer doubletalk. These folks have their own agenda to which, through a loose and practical series of experiments, they arrive at the mechanics they need. They’re not brought in as novelties. These folks are the real deal, and the attendees know it.

What defines Practice for me is its catholic approach to the problems of game design. The conference’s ethos, as I read it, is this: we don’t care where you come from, we just want you to show us how you work. So sure, breakdancers rub shoulders with the likes of game-design gurus like Warren Spector. One presenter will bash dependence on narrative in one talk, but later they’ll be a panel led by interactive narrative archon Emily Short and the writers of The Walking Dead gleefully discussing how narrative their games are. Have a look for yourself at the schedule and see just how varied the presentations were. It’s a definite Practice hallmark.

I didn’t hear a bad talk all weekend, a statement I can’t make about any other conference I’ve ever attended.  Ever. Even those less skilled in the art of oration still had much to offer in terms of the content of their presentations, and the appreciative crowd was sure to ask them excellent post-talk questions to help bring out the best in them. Credit goes to NYU Gamecenter Director Frank Lantz, Eric Zimmerman, and the able Practice planning team for the careful curation of the speakers.

That said, some speakers were just outstanding. Rob Daviau, formerly of Hasbro, spoke of how he more or less reinvented the game Risk by allowing players to make permanent changes to the board over a campaign mode that lasts for 15 games. His insights into how to enlist players to help you balance a game while they are playing were by themselves worth the price of admission. Davin Pavlas and Morgan Kennedy (who work on League of Legends and Assassin’s Creed, respectively) provided detailed analyses of how they assess player response to specific aspects of their games. Pavlas struck a particular chord with me when he stated that raw data do not interpret themselves; they have to be responsibly curated and tended to, lest they be manipulated in ways that can be counterproductive. Hear that, CUNY assessment?

But to my mind, LARPers Cecilia Dolk & Martin Ericsson stole the show. You see, Live-Action Roleplaying (LARPing) carries a pretty big stigma, in no small part because of this video, whose infamy continues to color people’s perceptions. But if LARPing were thought of more in the ways Dolk and Ericsson presented it, I have trouble imagining it wouldn’t have a huge following. Their presentation centered on showing what it took to host their weekend-long, Battlestar Galactica–themed LARP, Celestra 2.0. Dolk and Ericsson (and hundreds of other volunteers) took over a real battleship in Gothenburg, Sweden, fitted it with Arduino computers and authentic-looking props, and created a 72-hour live-action roleplay experience that benefited as much from improvisation techniques as it did from more traditional LARPing battle systems. In the mean time, they discussed how different LARPing is across the pond than it is presented to us here in the States, how much more character-driven and drama-inspired it is, and how many genres other than fantasy are represented in it (including good old realism).

You want to know how to LARP? This is how you LARP:

Maybe Practice’s most unique element is its “Open Problems” session. Designers, from NYU students to professionals in the industry, pose a specific design problem they are having with a game they’re working on to the audience and solicit suggestions and ideas for addressing it, all in five minutes per presenter. It’s a frenetic and raucous session where the emphasis is more on quantity of responses than quality. But, at least to my ear, a good deal of quality tends to emerge: because game design always benefits from applying multiple brains to a problem. It’s also a great time just to see all the ambitious game projects the audience members are working on.

Practice is technical; it’s about the details of design, the unglamorous guts. Some of the most-respected, most innovative designers in the world go on stage and catalogue the frustrating design process they had to endure to arrive at the game that got them to the stage in the first place. I imagine many people would be bored by Practice’s gleeful obsession with the minutiae of gamemaking.

Fine. They’re not the target audience. They’re not gamemakers. They can’t be, almost by definition.

What Practice does best of all is represent how games really get made. Maybe there isn’t another discipline in academia that is so willing to embrace situational ethics as is the field of game design, but that’s only because holding on to precious notions of right and wrong will lead to less-realized systems. It if works, keep it; if not, dump it; and if you don’t know, take a look around and get novel solutions from everywhere you can. And if you’re a little too pleased with your game-design pedigree to take lessons from, say, the breakdancing scene, you’re impoverishing your games before you finish them, says Practice.

And I concur.

Blog for Academics Starting Game Development

YORK COLLEGE, NY – As the newest member of the CUNY Games Network, I would like to reach out to faculty who might be embarking on their first game by inviting you to follow a personal blog that chronicles the day-to-day challenges in developing games for education. I borrowed the title of the blog from Jessie Schell, who notes that the term “Serious Games,” while sober enough to attract the attention of academics and funding agencies, is actually an oxymoron. Games must be fun and engaging to be successful, even if their ultimate purpose is serious in nature. The idea behind Transformative Games is that game mechanics can be used to inform, teach, and shape behavior. As those who follow the CUNY Games Network are aware, games are excellent learning management systems that are capable of both teaching and assessment. The realtime nature of games allows them to occasion “teachable moments” for “just-in-time learning.” Well designed games adjust task difficulty according to user performance, which facilitates sustained attention, engagement, and learning while minimizing boredom and frustration. Standard psychophysical staircase procedures can be utilized in games to optimize engagement and put the user into a state of “flow,” where time seems to pass very quickly. Transformative Games strive to incorporate everything we know about psychology, neuroscience, education, and game design into the learning experience. As a cognitive neuroscientist, I will be describing the process of game development from a quantitative perspective and doing my best to relate standard procedures in game design to the vast body of knowledge that exists in psychology and neuroscience.

During this summer, I will be working with several high school students, college undergraduates, and programmers to develop a number of games for college freshmen. We only have six weeks to develop the games, collect data, and present the results at a local conference. Consequently, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of valuable lessons to pass along in the next month. I will also document my efforts to unify college professors interested in games at my primary institution, York College. And I am working with others at the CUNY Games Network to develop a CUNY-wide institution for games. Our first task is to develop a conference in April 2013. Finally, I’m also developing simulations in Second Life with the York College Center for Interdisciplinary Health Practice to provide students with tools to practice skills that would otherwise be too expensive or risky to perform in the clinical setting.

Expect major updates every week and sporadic posts along the way. I’ll develop major categories in the future in the event that you only want to follow one of the aforementioned pursuits.