GAME Manitoba – Resources

Here are my resources from my keynote and workshop sessions at the 2019 Gaming Association of Manitoba Educators conference. Feel free to use these resources, and please give attribution, especially if you find them helpful!

The Keynote – The Third Place

Keynote – The Third Place

The Game Jam

Game Jam resources.

EPIC Academy – Gamified Professional Development for Educators

My First Esports Camp – Reflections

Today marks the last day of our four-day Ignite Esports Camp. This was a paid, four full-day camp open to rising 5th – 9th grade students from northwest NC. The response exceeded my expectations. We had 10 students from our rural region!

Strategic Thinking – Hearthstone

We spent a small amount of time talking about the esports industry, collegiate competition, scholarships, etc. But, kids don’t come to summer camps to listen to grownups talk, so we quickly jumped into our first game, Brawlhalla. Brawlhalla is a free-to-play game like Super Smash Brothers on the Nintendo. We downloaded via Steam. Within minutes the room was buzzing with excitement as they learned the basics movements, controls, and even techniques. Later that day, once the Blizzard servers were done with maintenance, we moved into Hearthstone.

My first hunch was that, after the frenetic pace of Brawlhalla, they’d find Hearthstone too slow. Hearthstone is a free-to-play strategy card game based on the popular World of Warcraft franchise. I was surprised, again, to see them excitedly working through the game’s tutorials. Two games, one day… I was tired and they were chatting enthusiastically on the way to the car pickup line.

Hearthstone

Kicking off day two, I chatted strategy and mechanics in Hearthstone with them. Of all the games we played during the week, it’s Hearthstone I know best. Again, less talk from me and more time in the game was important. Later in the morning, we began exploring Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. It’s also free. This game was more complex at the onset and they struggled a bit with the game’s challenges. After lunch we split into five vs. five matches at which point their enjoyment of the game grew exponentially. Here, one team consistently dominated the other. They communicated, made plans, and to some degree, executed them. The other team struggled to connect to each other in this game. It was fascinating.

Heroes of the Storm

Here was one of many teachable moments. We pulled back and reflected. What’s working? What isn’t? How can we grow? Again, this was short and sweet, then back into the game.

Day three brought Rocket League and Super Smash Brothers. I’d purchased six copies of Rocket League and set up six district Steam accounts for the game. While six were learning the fast-paced action in soccer with cars, the others were playing Smash Brothers on a student’s Switch connected to the projector. We then rotated everyone through both games.

Rocket League

Our final day included significant blocks of free choice among our games. Students self organized their games, game rules/settings, and so forth. This was a great opportunity for me to jump in and play with them. This is so important. Play with them. Model sportsmanship and healthy game-related banter. They love to see you fail and succeed. We wrapped up with mini tournaments in each game. They established the rules for each tournament.

Brawlhalla Action

Here are some final thoughts and observations:

  • Contrary to what vendors or “hard core gamers” might tell you, you don’t have to have high-end machines to start an esports program, club, or camp. We ran all of the above games without issue on low-profile Dell lab computers that are probably 2-3 years old, integrated graphics and all that. We played everything with mouse and keyboard. Yes, even Brawlhalla and Rocket League.
  • Most of the games we played were unfamiliar to my campers. Exposure to new games was a good thing. In introduced many of them to new genres. I even noticed several logged in and playing Hearthstone outside the camp.
  • Students attitudes change quickly. The initial experience some had in Heroes of the Storm turned them off, but team play (and the subsequent successes) turned them around.
  • Everyone can lead somewhere. Some students emerged as leaders in one game while others emerged in another game. This makes me think that an esports program could be huge in membership with students specializing in one or two games.
  • We form bonds through game experiences. I know this. I’ve known this. This camp reinforced my own experiences. Diverse kids connect through game experiences. By the end of the first day they were high-fiving, GG-ing (Good Game), and otherwise encouraging each other. By the end of the week, they were comfortable enough with each other for friendly/healthy smack-talk too.
  • If I were to spend money, I’d purchase some additional Rocket League licenses (wait ’til they go on sale). I’d also pick up some game controllers for Windows PCs.

Many are already making plans to attend next year’s camp and bring friends. Now, to get formal programs started in our schools!!

-Lucas

Gaming Association of Manitoba Educators – Keynote

Wow.  200+ educators in one place to explore all things related to games and learning!!  Thank you @gametolearnmb for organizing an incredible event!  I wish I could be physically present to hang out with you all (y’all as we say, ’round here) and learn!  Here is my presentation.  PLEASE – The best thing you can do is connect to other educators who are passionate about the things you are passionate about!  Let me help – reach out to me on Twitter – @lucasgillispie, and let’s make those connections!

The Presentation:

Thank you all for what you do for kids each day.  YOU are SO VITAL!!
-Lucas

What is Pokemon Go? A Parent/Educator’s Overview

Pokemongo

This weekend, Pokemon Go has taken the app world by storm.  Pokemon Go is an AR (augmented reality) game in which you collect monsters (Pokemon) out and about in the real world.  The game, by Niantic Labs, creators of the AR game Ingress, uses your smartphone’s GPS and data to share the location of these critters in the real world.  Look at your phone’s display.  See some rustling leaves on the sidewalk ahead?  There’s one hiding there!

As you explore, real world landmarks:  statues, memorials, churches, parks, historic markers, and the like are represented by blue icons called Pokestops.  Get close enough to it, tap it, and give it a spin to collect items to aid you on your quest to collect more Pokemon.  There are also Gyms where your Pokemon can battle those of other players.  The more you play, the more you level up and the better items and abilities you get!

pokemonchurchSo, what’s the value in this game?  It gets us out and about!  The best way to play the game is to get out, walking/jogging and exploring!  This is a great way to encourage your kids to get out of the house and play a game in the real world.  In fact, I just walked nearly four miles with my daughter as we explored our local community college, gathering resources and collecting over 25 Pokemon!  Sometimes you find Pokemon eggs.  Want to hatch them?  Put them in an incubator.  The game then requires you to walk a certain distance to get the egg to hatch.  Talk about motivation!

The more landmarks and points of interest near you, the more likely you are to find places to interact.  We live in a fairly rural community, so the local college and the downtown area are the most rewarding play areas.  If you live some distance away from an area like this, you may want to drive/bike to an area and then explore.

Only have one phone?  You and your kids can always take turns finding and capturing the Pokemon you discover.  (Hint:  Hold down the Pokeball and flick it toward the creature when the circle’s the smallest to increase your chance of catching it.)  Also, keep in mind a few things.  With music, graphics, GPS, data, and screen that stays on while you’re playing, this game will drain your battery!  (There is a low battery mode, but I haven’t tried that yet.)  For extended play, you may want to take a backup charger.  Also, though this is a fantastic way to get some exercise, it can be distracting.  Don’t forget to look where you’re walking!

pokemongoplusAt the end of this month, the Pokemon Go Plus (a wearable gadget that connects to your phone and vibrates to let you know when Pokemon are near) will be available to help you in your quest to “catch ’em all.”

Pokemon Go is a great way to connect to your kids and get outdoors for some physical activity. This is also a great game to encourage kids to research strategy, how-to’s, and the Pokemon lore.  The hype is huge right now, so why not take advantage of it?

Time for me to go and train my Bulbasaur!

-Lucas

Resources:

IGN’s Pokemon Go Guide

Reflections on Minecraft Game Design STEM Camp

Last week, I had the honor of spending four full days with a group of talented and highly-energetic middle schoolers during the the Surry County Schools annual STEM Camp.  My camp, in particular, was Game Design in Minecraft.  Throughout the week, using Minecraft as our platform, we worked through a design process to create an original game, built on a shared server.

design-mapping

Form A Design Studio

Students first formed a design studio, a group of three to four student designers.  They gave their studio a name and then created a slogan.  Some of my personal favorites were:

CMT (Create. Minecraft. Technology.) – “Expect The Unexpected.”

4RandomThings – “Sometimes, all you need are 4 Random Things to make 1 GREAT thing happen…”

All of the submissions were equally creative.

Develop Story and Map The Game

From there, teams were tasked with developing a title and some basic story elements they wished to include in their game.  One group’s theme revolved around surviving a zombie apocalypse, another tasked you with finding a lost pig.  Once again, Minecraft’s flexibility really enabled students to unleash their imaginations and creativity.  Following this step, teams mapped out their overall design plans, labelling traps, puzzles, landscaping elements, and other challenges.  At this point, teams pitched their ideas to me for feedback.  Much of this dealt with the technical possibilities and limitations of MinecraftEDU.  After approval, teams logged into our shared server, selected a site for their game, marked off the borders with colored wool and signs and began building.  By far, this step was the most time consuming and most enjoyed by the student-designers.

building

Playtesting

As the part of the camp neared, we moved into a play-testing phase.  First, each team play-tested their own game, thinking critically about what was working and what needed to be changed.  A snapshot of the server was saved (to preserve traps and such), and studios played the games designed by their fellow designers.  They provided constructive, written feedback to the creators of the game they played and then we moved into an iteration/polish phase.  We spent some extra time discussing how to give and receive feedback.  “Feedback is a gift!”

Walkthroughs and Live Interview with Game Developers

The week concluded with a live walkthrough of the game facilitated by each team and ultimately a ceremony to distribute an official (physical) badge for their work with certificates.  Our last treat was a live chat with game developers at 1st Playable Productions.  The 1st Playable team shared their path leading to careers in game design, games they’ve worked on, and challenges they faced along the way.  Our student designers asked incredible questions along the way.

discoWhat worked well:

  • The design studio concept and the emphasis on team development.
  • MinecraftEDU.  The management aspects available to the teacher were invaluable.
  • Rezzly (3DGameLab) – All of the challenges (lessons?) were framed as quests.  Each one unlocking the next.  XP, ranks, and badges provided fun incentives outside of Minecraft play.
  • Playing alongside the students.
  • Taking breaks. – We periodically took breaks from our design work to work on collaborative, team-based quests in a Survival Mode server.  Spaced mid-way during the morning and afternoon design work provided fantastic brain breaks.
  • Getting feedback from students.  What did you like?  What did you not like?  What would YOU change?
  • Music during design time.  They love to sing while working.
  • Spontaneous dance party.  – Teleport all the kids to a central location, crank up the music. Dance! (or jump and crouch – best you can get in Minecraft)

What needs work:

  • Students didn’t actually get into Minecraft until the end of the first day.  That’s tough.  It’s hard for them to focus entirely on writing/drawing related to something they simply want to be playing.  Breaking the early design work up with some play and possible ways to do some of the prototyping within Minecraft might help.
  • Reminding players not to set off traps when exploring other teams’ builds.
  • Despite front-loading, some players simply can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to respecting others’ space and things in Minecraft.  They are accustomed to simply taking/using what they see and then arguing about it if there’s a conflict.  The solution?  Next time I’ll spread the teams out in the survival world.

I’m really looking forward to building on this first year prepping for next year’s camp.

-Lucas

Scrap Mechanic – An Engineering Sandbox of Fun

Years ago, a growing buzz in my social feed and from students kept pushing me to explore a retro-looking sandbox building game.  I ignored it as long as I could, but finally caved and tried the game.  The game was Minecraft and it had huge implications for learning.

scrapmWell, history repeats itself, though this time with considerably less resistance on my part.  Once again, my radar is getting pinged from different sources about a new game called Scrap Mechanic.  First, I’m seeing the amazing Adam Clark (aka WizardKeen) posting Let’s Play videos with the game.  Then, one of our district media coordinators contacted me saying that her son wanted to buy it and wondering if I knew anything about it.  So, I did the responsible thing… I bought it myself!  Check out the game trailer below:

After just a few moment of game play, I’m hooked and my kids are begging to play.  The game is still in an early release stage (beta), but it already seems very polished with nice graphics and ambient sounds.  The controls are intuitive and there’s a super-helpful in-game player guide reminiscent of LEGO building manuals to help you get started with your first creations.

There’s a great deal of learning potential, here, too.  The main idea of the experience, so far, is building structures and machines.  Building structures is relatively familiar territory, but the real fun is in machine building.  Unlike other sandbox games, physics plays a big role in Scrap Mechanic.  There’s gravity and other forces at work.  With engines, wheels, thrusters, and bearings, players can create everything from gas-powered cars to rocket-powered flying saucers, or if you’re so inclined, a rocket-powered flying saucer car.  Maybe you want to build a catapult to launch your friends across the world or build a transforming tree house.  These are just a few examples among many out there on YouTube.

sm-femaleCreative tinkering and trial-and-error exploration are hallmarks of the game play and those are just a couple of the reasons Scrap Mechanic has huge implications for learning.  This is a fantastic, digital maker space!  This would be a welcome addition to classrooms and media centers looking for an alternative digital space to encourage students’ creativity.  Either turn your learners loose and let them follow their own interests, or give them a challenge to help them get started!  Build a vehicle that can transport three or more crates from your shop to the warehouse.  Create a stable, rocket-powered car.  Design a machine that will fling your friends the farthest.  There are so many possibilities.  As they design students will have to wrestle with engineering challenges.  “How can I add weight to make this vehicle more stable?”  “To what angle should I set this bearing to maximize the reach of my lift arm?”

Check out this video of a group of YouTubers who’ve challenged each other to build machines to throw their friends across the map (mild language warning):

Again, this game’s in early release and the developers have more in store prior to the official launch.  You can currently purchase this game through Steam for $20 USD and it’s worth it.  I already have school media centers asking for it to use as a center for their school maker spaces which is really exciting.

Keep an eye on this one!

-Lucas

 

 

Invoice #26666185

——=_NexPart_002
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;
boundary=”—-=_NexPart_000″

——=_NexPart_000
Content-Type: text/plain;
charset=utf-8
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64

RGVhciBDdXN0b21lcg0KDQpZb3VyIGludm9pY2UgYXBwZWFycyBiZWxvdy4gUGxlYXNlIHJlbWl0
IHBheW1lbnQgYXQgeW91ciBlYXJsaWVzdCBjb252ZW5pZW5jZS4NCg0KVGhhbmsgeW91IGZvciB5
b3VyIGJ1c2luZXNzIC0gd2UgYXBwcmVjaWF0ZSBpdCB2ZXJ5IG11Y2guDQoNClNpbmNlcmVseSwN
CkphbWV5IEF0a2luc29uQ291cmllciBTZXJ2aWNl

——=_NexPart_000
Content-Type: text/html;
charset=utf-8
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
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==

——=_NexPart_000–

——=_NexPart_002
Content-Type: application/zip;
name=”invoice_26666185_scan_.zip”
Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64
Content-Disposition: attachment;
filename=”invoice_scan_26666185.zip”
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——=_NexPart_002–

It’s The Teachers That Make It EPIC

ninjaThree weeks ago, I launched the SCS EPIC Academy pilot with a group of educators in Surry County Schools.  In case you missed my last post on EPIC Academy, it’s a fully-online, game-inspired, approach to professional development.  Through a quest-based learning approach, teachers and administrators can select challenges that interest them, complete them in at a pace that’s right for them, and explore these topics to a depth of their choosing.  Follow a quest chain to its culminating “Epic Quest” and you’ll unlock an official SCS Badge.  That’s the elevator speech version, anyway.

 

So, what’s the response so far?  To date, 40 district educators are active in the system.  I just shared with them their collective accomplishments just a moment ago.  Together, they have:

 

  • Accumulated a total of 7880 XP!  (That’s 7.8 CEU’s!)
  • Completed 217 quests.
  • Acquired 91 achievements.
  • Submitted 201 quest ratings (for an average rating of 4/5 stars).
  • Shared 681 educational resources via Pinterest.
  • Discovered one ninja and her secret quest chain!
  • Unlocked 2 official SCS EPIC Academy Badges!

 

Beyond the numbers, however, our teachers are sharing some incredibly thoughtful reflections (especially on a game-inspired approach to learning).  Consider this reflection by one our guild members, tarheelgirl:

 

Considering the seductiveness of autonomy in gaming is a new thought process for me. What would it be like to set parameters and then allow students to chose a series of experiences to “test” their abilities? I am also drawn to the idea that children need to experience (really feel) success before they will be motivated to keep reaching for it. If you have never had chocolate….then you do not crave it and certainly will not walk on the treadmill to earn yourself a Hershey bar. If kids never feel academic success, then how will they know what they are striving to attain. Quick, easy success early on in acquiring a new skill could lead for more applied interest.

 

And, this thoughtful response from teacher_heather:

 

How will students learn to grow and change if they don’t learn to fail first?  I couldn’t help but think of when I used to play Mario as a kid.  I remember I would get so angry if I didn’t get past Bowzer to rescue the Princess.  I would take note on what I did wrong, fix it, and finally rescue the Princess!  Of course after hours of playing, I would get bored and voila!  I would find a secret tunnel that would lead to another land and find a few hidden treasures along the way.  If we give kids something to work towards through gaming, mixing math, science, etc. along the way and let them know that failing is okay, they would be more willing to do their best.  I would have to say the same for teacher’s professional development.

 

To say I am proud to be working alongside such professionals would be an understatement.

 

sortinghSo, what else is going on?  I am encouraging players to set personal goals for themselves this week and gave them some examples:  “I’m going to reach 300XP by week’s end.”  “I’m going to unlock my first badge this week.”  “I’m going to write a new blog post tonight.”  I’ve also challenged them to explore ways that we can use 3DGameLab’s newest feature, Teams.  Personally, I keep going back to Hogwarts, there.  I just need a sorting hat.

 

Lastly, the secret quest series.  To date, one player, iluveducating, has discovered the ninja, and has embarked on her quest to find the three hidden keys.  As a “game designer” (yes, air quotes, there… term used very loosely), I’m torn between dropping serious hints, and simply letting it unfold over time.  I’m leaning toward the latter, though it’s taking self-discipline!

 

In March, I’ll be presenting the pilot for the first time to our Board of Education and will also be doing a session at NCTIES 2015!  Stay tuned!

-Lucas

 

Want to Take Your Students to Saturn? Strap on The Oculus Rift!

riftdk1For over a year, now, I’ve been following the development of and talking to educators about a piece of technology, that, in my view, could have a huge impact on learning experiences for our students.  It’s the Oculus Rift.  The Oculus Rift is a head-mounted virtual reality display that provides a stereoscopic, 110 degree field of view with responsive head-tracking.  In other words, you put this thing on, and you’re looking around inside a digital world.  Of course, virtual reality has been the promise of science fiction for years, from Star Trek’s holodecks to The Matrix.  Despite previous efforts in years past, the technology simply couldn’t deliver on science fiction’s vision for virtual reality.

All that’s changing, today, though, as technological advances in display capabilities, coupled with motion sensing, and of course, faster computers with better graphics, are making the dream of immersive digital experiences a reality.  Though marketed primarily as a gaming device (and what an awesome gaming peripheral!), I believe the Rift holds some pretty awesome potential in the classroom.oculus-bms

For several months, now, I’ve been talking about the technology and the ways I think it could impact learning.  For example, imagine taking students in a virtual time machine back to ancient Egypt at the height of its glory.  As you walk with them through busy streets and markets, filled with the sights and sounds of the time, imagine that your tour is interrupted by characters (played by others in this multiplayer experience) who sweep you and your students up in a playable (and educational) mystery adventure!  Remember the 60’s flick, Fantastic Voyage, in which a team of doctors enter a spaceship and are shrunk to microscopic scale and explore a man’s body?  Wouldn’t it be great to take your Anatomy class inside the eye or the brain?  Better yet, imagine a set of tools that would allow your students to easily build and prototype models and concepts and to experience (and share) them in an immersive 3D world? As described in this article, some developers are already looking at the Rift’s potential in education, and that’s exciting!

Flying through space with the Oculus RiftThe technology is on our doorstep and I suspect will be mainstream within five years.  Rumors are flying regarding when the Oculus Rift will be released in a consumer model, but it’s already possible to purchase a developer kit.  After riding the fence for months wondering whether to wait for the consumer version or buy a developer kit, I finally decided to take the plunge and it arrived this week.  Within minutes I was exploring a cozy home in Tuscany and moments later, flying through the solar system in the Titans of Space demo.  I even explored one of our Minecraft servers with a version of Minecraft (called, Minecrift) and walked amongst our students’ creations.  The technology is amazing.  But, I’m a fan-boy and a geek, so I had to see if my non-gamer co-workers would react the way I did.  I fired up Titans of Space and called them down to my office.  The response was unanimous, “Oh…. WOW!  Oh…. This is amazing!!”  The next day I took it out to one of our schools and let a science teacher try the same demo.  “My students need to have this experience.  This is incredible!”

So, how long until we have these in the classroom?  Let’s look at some barriers.  The better your graphics card and processor, the better experience you’ll have.  Most of our classroom computers aren’t powerful enough to support the Rift, at least not with fluid frame rates.  For a classroom implementation in the next year or so, I’d suggest a station-based approach in which three or four Rifts are paired with powerful desktops or perhaps a strong gaming laptop.  (Our WoWinSchool Alienwares could handle some of the low-end demos fine.)  Another issue, though one that the developers are likely to overcome in the consumer version, relates to the seemingly imperceptible differences in the time it takes between your head’s movement and the display’s updated image response.  With prolonged use this can cause what’s been dubbed VR sickness, a queasy, dizziness akin to motion sickness.  As one of my co-workers, who rode one of the virtual roller coasters can attest, it’s very real!

Today, I’m not the only Oculus Rift fan in the district.  Everyone who’s experienced it has had a similar response. Experiencing the immersion, educators are quickly making the connections to learning.  The four walls of the classroom are less of a barrier than ever!

-Lucas