All posts by Maura A. Smale

Maura Smale is Chief Librarian at City Tech (New York City College of Technology), CUNY.

Roleplaying History with The Atlanta Compromise

Lots of faculty, staff, and grad students across CUNY and in all disciplines use games in their teaching and learning. With so much going on we at the CUNY Games Network thought it might be fun to spotlight some of our terrific members and the work that they’re doing.

Prof. Iris Finkel is Reference and Instruction/Web Librarian, Visiting Lecturer at Hunter College. At the end of the American Literature, American Learning couse at the CUNY Graduate Center in Spring 2016, Iris and her fellow students published Structuring Equality: A Handbook for Student-Centered Learning and Teaching Practices. The book is available to download in its entirety on the HASTAC website, including Iris’s chapter The Atlanta Compromise, Reacting to the Past.

I recently had a chance to chat with Iris about developing her game as well as plans for the future.

Maura: Your game, The Atlanta Compromise Game, is modeled on the Reacting to the Past games. How were you first exposed to RTTP? How did you decide to use RTTP as a model for your game?

Iris: I attended a session at a CUNY Games conference a few years ago and learned about the RTTP games there. I love the idea of having students play a role in a historical event as a way of studying history. I wrote the game as my final project in a class I took with Cathy Davidson at the Graduate Center. It was a great way for me to learn something new in a way that could be useful for others.

Maura: Can you briefly describe the gameplay of The Atlanta Compromise Game? What courses are the best fit for this game, and how many students can play simultaneously? How much time does the gameplay take?

Iris: The Atlanta Compromise Game is based on a period in history when progress towards equality of black and white people in the South was halted. The outcome of the Plessy v Ferguson case reinforced the acceptance of separate but equal. This was only about eight months after Booker T. Washington’s conciliatory speech at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition. I thought creating a game where students could be actors in these events would offer an opportunity for them to make connections to issues that we are still struggling through over one hundred years later.

I designed the game with high school seniors and first year college history classes in mind. I also think that it could work in a Library 100 class (an information literacy course taught at Hunter) and hope that I will be able to use it, or interest other librarians who teach the class to use it. Currently, roles are written for 15 students, but fewer students can play or more roles can be added. Students can take part in the process of creating more roles. The game is played over four class sessions with homework assignments to support in class role playing.

Maura: Let’s talk a bit about your process of creating and play testing your game. Did you make any significant changes during playtesting? Were there any student reactions or situations during gameplay that you hadn’t anticipated?

Iris: I discussed the prospect of play testing the game with my daughters’ history teacher and although he was interested, he didn’t have time to fit it into his curriculum. At that time, I was encouraged by others at my daughters’ school to contact a teacher who moved to another high school in New York City who might be interested in using it in his classes. Your interest in writing about the game now is inspiring me to pursue that option. But, as of now the game has not been play tested.

Maura: What are your plans moving forward with The Atlanta Compromise Game? Will you continue to use it as-is, or develop it further?

Iris: I would like to see the game actually played so I will continue to try to make that happen. Reaching out to History faculty at Hunter, or fellow GC students who teach in Hunter’s History department, is next on my list.

Maura: What are your future plans with game-based learning more generally? Is designing another game in the works for you?

Iris: I don’t have any immediate or future plans for game-based learning, though I continue to look for inspiration for a game to use in the classroom as well one that I can develop on my own.

Many thanks, Iris, for sharing your game with us (and indulging my questions). If you’re a CUNY Games Network member or a CUNY faculty, staff, or graduate student who’d like to talk with us about the games you’ve created, drop us a line and let us know, we’d love to learn more about and showcase your work!

Photo by Chris Humphrey.

Consuming My (Reading) Feed

I’m on a fellowship leave this semester and, while I’ve got a long list of research and writing to accomplish, there’s no denying that sabbatical has opened up more time in my schedule for reading. I admit I’ve been slacking somewhat on my games reading, and it’s been great to have a chance to catch up on game-based learning and game studies blogs and books.

Before I was a librarian I was an archaeologist, and I’m always interested in reading about gaming and archaeology or history. Play the Past is a group blog “dedicated to thoughtfully exploring and discussing the intersection of cultural heritage (very broadly defined) and games/meaningful play (equally broadly defined).” I’ve read the Play the Past blog intermittently for several years now and I’ve enjoyed the range of topics the blog team covers. The most recent post by Angela R. Cox tackles the challenges of studying and preserving games and play that is ephemeral, and should be of interest to historians, librarians, archaeologists, and museum studies folks, among others.

More recently I’ve stumbled upon the Archaeogaming blog, which covers “the archaeology both of and in video games (console, computer, mobile, etc.).” Archaeogaming is primarily written and maintained by Andrew Reinhard, though guest posts are also welcomed on the site, and posts have ranged from analysis of archaeological components of specific digital games, to discussions about video games at archaeology (and other cultural heritage) conferences, to the excavation of the “Atari Dump Site” in New Mexico a few years ago. This year Andrew has been blogging his PhD thesis research at the University of York, including sharing his bibliography and other preliminary notes.

I’m also a big fan of Not Your Mama’s Gamer, a group blog that aims to “combine feminist interrogation of games with the games community.” The NYMG bloggers discuss both physical and digital games, which fits well with our interests here at the CUNY Games Network and with my own interests, too. Posts cover a range of topics from those that are more analytical games studies pieces to discussions of game-based learning. I especially like the posts in the play with your kids category — they’re typically useful and thought-provoking both from the perspective of a parent/gamer and an educator/gamer. The blog is fairly high volume and I’m still working through my RSS backlog, I confess, but I’m glad to have more time to dig in here this semester.

What game-related blogs, books, and articles are you reading, either for yourself or for your courses (or for your students to read!)? Leave a comment and let us know!

Image by Ed Mitchell

Serious Games for Serious Issues

As I expect is true of many folks, I am for sure still processing the results of our recent presidential election. As I work toward my own next steps I appreciate this post over on the Prof Hacker blog by good friend of the CUNY Games Network Anastasia Salter, which reviews several games about the election, politics, and more. Check it out over on Prof Hacker:

6 Games for Talking about the Election, by Anastasia Salter