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Developmental Writing, the RPG

Students in Frank Crocco’s Developmental Writing class know that they’d better show up, and on-time, lest they run out of hit points and fail the adventure that is English 095.

Frank has created a D&D-style student-progress sheet that he has experimented with in a few iterations of his Developmental Writing course. We’re going to get him to blog about his thought about gaming up writing using the tools of role-playing in a future post, but for now, we offer up the following tantalizing tidbit: the “player” sheet he gave to all of his students. Enjoy!

Frank Crocco’s Experience Point Sheet

Science Fiction, The Game

The CUNY Games Network’s own Joe Bisz offered up this photograph of his students playing the Battlestar Galactica Board Game (known affectionately by its fans as “BSG”) at the end of his course in Science Fiction literature. To my mind, science fiction instruction could never be complete without including games, for two reasons: 1) Science Fiction is a genre that is devoted to the idea of world-building–that is, system building–and watching those worlds develop and play out; 2) Science Fiction is among the top genres that games use to skin their mechanics (with perhaps only Fantasy topping it).

Extra Lives by Tom Bissell: Gaming, with Occasional Cocaine

Extra Lives is in many ways the book about video games I have been waiting for. Forget Bogost’s procedurality or Gee’s 36 theses about why they matter. What Bissel does is articulate — exactly — a fact about video games that I have always found to be a great contradiction for me. I know the writing is almost always terrible; I know the games’ maturity level are lucky to reach even the sophomoric; I know video games have decades, maybe centuries to go before they mature as an art form. Yet right now, as they are, I love them. I am drawn to them compulsively. I crave them.┬áBut with all the ways in which they fail as art, why?

Tom Bissel’s book provides one answer, an answer I find extremely compelling. There is absolutely no underestimating the immersive value of games, their ability to allow players to embody their experience in an alternate world. That single fact trumps, at least for Bissel and me, almost every other aesthetic principle that has existed heretofore. In other words, I would prefer to be in a game world than almost anywhere else.

(Review to be continued later.)