I’m posting about this week’s reading because I think posting today still counts for this week?
As I was reading the Chess and Booth article, “Lessons down a Rabbit Hole” in relationship to the Flanagan piece, I started wondering where the “this is not a game” aesthetic fit into a classroom ARG.
Chess and Booth mention that a good way to start teaching ARG creation is to, of course, have a lesson regarding what an ARG is before starting to play one. Admittedly, this kind of class was meant to learn what an ARG is, so wouldn’t the “this is not a game” aesthetic disappear altogether? Even the “this is a game” sense of fun seems difficult to find in such a scenario, as the game is the subject on which you’re learning about. In other words, wouldn’t it feel more like a lesson than a fun game? More like a requirement than a voluntary adventure?
Let me try to break down my thoughts a little more.
It seems to me that playing an ARG in an ARG-creation class, while likely very helpful in getting to know the medium, is not an embedded game and thus likely to cause the mental defensiveness to learning that Flanagan mentions.
An ARG in a non-ARG-focused class, where either the “this is not a game” aesthetic is held true (perhaps by making clues/the game occur outside of class and having the game basically be a secondary way of learning) or where the “this is very much a game” aesthetic creates a fun/non-traditional atmosphere (like in the McGonigal book) would be two ways that I can see an ARG in a classroom working to better students’ learning.
Then, this semi-conclusion of mine got me thinking – while the “this is not a game” aesthetic seems inherent to Flanagan’s description of embedded games, I think a strong and careful “this is very much a game” aesthetic could work as well, and I think that was seen in the McGonigal reading about the schools that were based on games or even about Chore Wars. The concepts of intermixing and obfuscating would certainly be powerful tools in a “this is very much a game” structure, though there would be other elements that would allow for a lesson to be a fun game without having to cloak it in too much or even any misdirection. For instance, for some lessons, simply the element of wonder is enough to make a lesson fun and disable mental defensiveness, such as those high school chemistry teachers who dress up as wizards on the day they’ll be teaching about color and light, turning flames green with a copper penny and such. Or, as in the chore wars example, perhaps simply giving a lesson a familiar or nostalgic structure is enough to make it fun. Another example could be those addicting typing games that we used to play in elementary school computer lab class.
I feel like there are more elements to how the “this is very much a game” aesthetic can create “embedded” (or perhaps a better word is “interwoven”) games to advance student learning. Let me know if you think of any or if you disagree entirely (and why!).