Reflecting on a Gamely Semester

I am standing at the door of Cox Computing 230A. There is a small door handle. 

>open door

Opening the door revealed a classroom filled with eager but apprehensive students. 

>take a seat in the back row so the professor doesn’t call on me on the first day

I take a seat. 

>the clock strikes 10 am. Class begins. 

When I entered the “Play Make Write Think” classroom for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I wondered: Would we be coding to create games? Because I do not know how to. I was so apprehensive, I almost switched into a different writing seminar because technology is not my strong suit. But after attending the first class and learning how we would analyze games as a literary text, I had a newfound sparked interest. In most of the English classes I took in the past, we always analyzed written texts. Beginning this class I was excited to explore a new medium to “read” critically and have engaging conversations with my peers. When Professor Morgen first showed us the website he created for the course, I felt energized by the instruction manual-like instructions for reading the course description. I had never been presented with a syllabus in this manner before, and I could not wait to start exploring the website and all of its nuances. 

From the first assignment when we were instructed to create an avatar that represented ourselves and post it to a website we created, I engaged in digital citizenship/identity learning objective. I thought about how to use technology appropriately and engage responsibly in online spaces when I formatted my website and carefully crafted my first side quest. Every week throughout the semester, Professor Morgen assigned us miscellaneous tasks–“side quests”–that challenged our thinking and provoked critical analysis of games and other online mechanisms. Each student in the class posted their avatar to their website and they appeared on our shared course site for all the students in the class to see. When creating my first side quest, I felt uncomfortable sharing my work with the rest of the class. I was accustomed to writing for my professor’s eyes only, and I feared judgement from my classmates. To my surprise, looking at my classmates’ posts on this shared online space prompted inspiration for many of my assignments. When I had trouble thinking of an idea, I looked at my classmates’ work, which I used as a jumping off point for my own work. I grew to enjoy scrolling through this shared space, and I felt a sense of digital responsibility to produce great work for my classmates to also learn from me. I accomplished this learning objective by understanding the symbiosis of the internet: users serve as both students and teachers by constantly bouncing ideas off each other through posting on media platforms. I gained a newfound knowledge that the content I post on the internet is public, and that I must always be careful what I put into the world but also take risks within reason. 

Posting our work to this shared platform also helped me meet the collaboration learning objective. Although the students in the class were not directly working together, we helped each other develop ideas and discussed each other’s work in class discussions. For the “What’s in my bag” assignment, I learned a lot about my classmates and their passions. In my response to the assignment in which we took a photo of the contents of our backpack, I wrote: “I believe this image is very representative of me as a person since I enjoy learning, reading, and writing.” Sharing my interests with my peers helped me open up and lead to deeper discussions since we grew more comfortable with each other and shared a mutual understanding of one another. Another source of collaboration was through the podcast series. For every episode, each member of the group took on a unique role and we learned to work together as a group by playing on each member’s strengths and working on our weaknesses. For instance, I took a heavy writing and researching role in the first podcast, but did not feel comfortable with the editing and recording aspect. I played on my writing strength by helping develop the script, but I also learned new skills: how to use the recording equipment and edit the recordings together. Giovanni taught me how to use the equipment, and this collaboration gave me a better understanding of these important tools that I plan to use in future projects. My group worked really well together, as we all assumed an equally important role in producing the podcast episode regardless of our assigned roles for each episode. When the episodes came together into a final product, our collaborative effort shone: each group member assumed a key role in the production process, we taught each other skills, and this resulted in podcast episodes we all felt proud of.

When producing the podcast series, I fulfilled the writing as a process learning objective for the course. When writing the scripts for the podcast series, I learned effective research strategies and wrote multiple drafts to produce a finished product and also improved throughout the episodes. As the Main Producer for the third podcast, my group talked about the card game Gin Rummy, which I believe was very successful due to growth over the episodes. When producing this episode, we considered what worked and what did not work from past episodes. After producing the first episode about Risk, my group spoke about how we could improve for the next episode. We realized we discussed the technicalities of the game too much and did not focus enough on analysis, building our argument, and making the script entertaining for listeners. Therefore, for our next podcast about Chess, we spent less time explaining the rules and focused more on a clear argument that ran throughout the script. And for our final podcast, we added more dialogue, which helped frame the argument and lighten the mood while threading a clear argument throughout the podcast. Something I focused heavily on as the Producer for the Gin Rummy podcast was using personal anecdotes to exemplify our argument. In past episodes, we relied too heavily on directly stating the argument, but for the third episode, I focused on using the Pathos rhetorical technique to captivate the audience’s emotion by listening to a sentimental story about the game. This technique also played to the Ethos rhetorical technique because our audience could trust our words since this was a personal story. Throughout the production of this podcast episode, I learned effective leadership skills and thoughtful writing techniques to produce a convincing and entertaining podcast. 

Another way I wrote as a process was through the home tasking assignments, in which we completed weekly tasks posted to Twitter that tested our creative and gameful mind. Although these were not technically writing, these tasks helped develop my writing as a process skills because I took many takes of each video. For instance, for my “Yoga Throw” task, I took six takes of the video until I had a final product I felt satisfied with. I tried different ways to throw the ball, and multiple poses from which I could throw the ball into the trash can. Furthermore, for my home task when we were assigned to “do something spectacular with a pair of trousers,” I thought of many ideas before deciding to put the pants on a pair of crutches and dress them up like a mannequin. Additionally, having a creative assignment to complete amidst the current global crisis helped me feel like I had more purpose and control during this time. By building off of my classmates’ work and ideas, I felt less alone during this isolating time since we all engaged in this process together. Completing these assignments one-by-one was a process in and of itself. Each side quest, home task, podcast episode, and game reflection built upon themselves as I critiqued what worked and what needed improvement from one assignment to the next. For instance, for the “What’s in my bag” side quest, I wrote my reflection in one long paragraph. But after looking at how my classmates structured their writing in an organized list, I used that technique for multiple assignments going forward. The assignments we completed this semester probed my revising skills, as I learned that it is impossible to do something perfectly on the first try.

I accomplished the critical thinking and reading resulting in writing learning outcome by analyzing games and Jane McGonigal’s book Superbetter. When I played the role-playing game Fiasco, I embodied my new identity and analyzed the game through the lens of the character I had taken on. In my Fiasco reflection essay, I wrote “With this new identity, I felt a new sense of control. I have a clean slate and I can make whatever I want to happen try to happen.” Throughout the game, I did not think, “What would Sadie?” but rather “What would the Sadie the gambler and bookie do?” By embodying this new persona, I discovered underlying characteristics about myself. When there was conflict in the game, I took a neutral stance and helped the other players solve their problems instead of creating more. I wrote, “I think that is a valuable asset because I am not a very contentious person but rather like to help others work out their problems.” Although I played the game as a different person, my non-contentious personality still shone through as I thought critically about how to solve the problems the other players had created. As I played, I played off the ideas of my peers. Additionally, when reading Superbetter, I employed critical thinking to incorporate and apply McGonigal’s thoughts into my own life. Although the strategies she discussed to live a more gamely life often related to people I had no similarities to, I integrated her ideas to fit my own circumstances. For instance, when she described a man who taught a college class with the goal of each student running a marathon, I realized that I can accomplish difficult tasks by making them into a game that I have to win. 

The learning I completed in this class not only helped me with the specific tasks of the course but also with other classes this semester. For instance, in my Financial Accounting class, my professor assigned two group projects. Usually, I take a fairly passive role in group projects and stick to the tasks I have been assigned to complete, but after taking on a leadership role in the podcast series, I contributed tremendously to my accounting group project by delegating tasks to each member, setting up Zoom meetings to work together, and making sure we successfully executed the final product. I also learned a valuable lesson about writing as a process. I am accustomed to writing one draft without heavy editing, but this course taught me to write multiple drafts and learn from each assignment. I applied this knowledge to my art history class. For my first paper, I wrote it quickly and did not spend a lot of time editing, but throughout the semester, I fine-tuned my patience and editing skills and progressed from paper to paper by studying how I can improve between each assignment. These learning outcomes have not only improved my writing throughout this class but in other rhetorical areas of my studies. 

Our last side quest was to creatively map out our thoughts to argue we met the learning outcomes. I chose to draw my newly developed gameful brain that held the five learning outcomes with thought bubbles leading to which aspects of the course helped me meet each outcome. Although each thought does not relate directly to one another, I connected each thought together because I believe the thoughts provoked through the learning outcomes each influence each other. In a game, each move and choice leads to another, even if the player does not realize this while they are playing. This class taught me that if I utilize the skills we learned to think “gamefully,” each of life’s experiences teaches a different part of my brain a new lesson. These moments are all interconnected, and they form who I am. ENG101 has helped me realize this life-changing concept.  

Gin Rummy: Reflecting on the Third Podcast Episode

As the lead producer of the third podcast about the card game Gin Rummy, I took on a new leadership role by organizing the script and overall production process of the podcast. I chose this game because it is often misconceived as a boring card game played by the elderly, and I wanted to shed light on this misconception. In writing the script, I aimed to provide a clear explanation of how to play the game while also emphasizing personal anecdotes to play on viewers’ emotions and provide greater entertainment. My group began work on the podcast by researching the game’s rules and history, which we discovered was fairly recent. We divided up the tasks accordingly: As the Producer, I developed the majority of the script, as Assistant Producer, Giovanni compiled the audio and music into a cohesive audio file, and as Line Producer, Will helped edit the script and audio. When producing this episode, we also considered what worked and what did not work from past episodes. For the first episode about Risk, we realized we discussed the technicalities of the game too much and did not focus enough on analysis, building our argument, and making the script entertaining for listeners. For the Chess podcast, we spent less time explaining the rules and focused more on a clear argument that ran throughout the script. And for our final podcast, we added more dialogue, which helped frame the argument and lighten the mood while threading a clear argument throughout the podcast.

The obvious challenge we faced when producing this episode was not being physically together to work on it. However, we optimized the capacity of the internet by using the video chat platform Zoom to discuss our plans for the episode. And instead of recording it all together using a microphone, we each recorded audio files and sent them to Giovanni, who compiled them. Overall, we managed to produce even better podcasts than we made when we were in person despite the lack of in-person interaction. If we had more resources available for our episode, the audio would likely have been clearer by using high-tech microphones, but I do not think this was a major issue. Something else we could have incorporated was interviews with family members about their experiences playing Gin Rummy, but this also would have been difficult since we could not meet in person. 

Producing this podcast helped me meet the composing texts in multiple genres learning objectives by writing for the aural genre rather than an audience who reads my work. I achieved the analysis learning outcome by writing a script that had a clear argument throughout. I wrote as a process by undergoing multiple drafts and really thinking through each word I wrote. I demonstrated visual thinking strategies by arranging my thoughts in a way that made sense to the audience and flowed in a sensical way. Lastly, I employed technology appropriately by making sure everything was appropriate for the wide internet audience and making sure to credit all the sources. 

I learned a lot by producing this podcast. I learned leadership skills by organizing a group effort and outcome we were proud of. I learned to choose music that reflected our overall argument: by using music that did not typically align with the podcast mindset, we argued that the game Gin Rummy is more upbeat than most people think. I also learned how to produce good work in a short time span. I am confident that I can produce a successful podcast or any aural work in the future, and I believe this skill will take me far. 

My Brain

To represent the ENG101 class about gamely thinking, I drew my brain and the thoughts provoked from the class’ learning outcomes. Each learning outcome led to specific lessons I learned, and through each of these lessons, I learned more techniques and devices to channel my newfound gamely mind. Although each thought is not directly related to one another, I connected each thought together because I believe the thoughts provoked through the learning outcomes each influence each other, even if I do not realize it at the time. In a game, each move and choice leads to another, even if the player does not realize this while they are playing. This class taught me that if I utilize the skills we learned to think “gamefully,” each of life’s experiences teaches a different part of my brain a new lesson. These moments are all interconnected, and they form who I am. ENG101 has helped me realize this concept.

The Parent Trap Handshake

An iconic childhood movie is The Parent Trap, starring Lindsay Lohan. In multiple parts of the movie, main characters Hallie, Annie, and her butler do a fun handshake to say good-bye to each other, or just for fun! For my entire life, I’ve wanted to learn this handshake, but I never got around to actually learning it. For this hometask, I finally taught myself the handshake (and my brother too)! Although it’s not perfect, I hope you recognize this from The Parent Trap and hopefully you can teach it you your family too for a fun quarantine dance!

Here you can watch my video!

Make-your-own Mannequin

When thinking about how to do something spectacular with a pair of trousers, nothing that sounded especially spectacular popped into my mind. But then I had another thought: What if the spectacular aspect is making the trousers appear in their normal setting, but through a different medium? I walked around my apartment, searching for ways to portray my trousers, when I came across my brother’s crutches. I put the crutches into the legs of the pants, added a white blouse, a tie, and a jacket, and topped it off with a cap and sunglasses. Although it’s apparent there isn’t a physical human inside the pants, they still look seemingly normal-and that’s the spectacular part! I created a new normal. I added some build-up music from the Rocky Balboa theme song to create dramatic effect. Here, you can watch my spectacular creation!

Goal!

Using tupperware as a goals, I decided to turn my kitchen into a soccer/tennis arena. I used a tennis racket to hit some of my dog’s balls into my makeshift goals… and I actually scored a few! I’ll need to work on my aim and maybe finding some sturdier goals, but I am definitely making strides to becomes the player I’ve always hoped to be! Here you can watch my video. Enjoy!

White-out

I have worn the same white sweatshirt every day of quarantine, so I knew it had to be incorporated into my camouflage. I concealed myself with a beige scarf and white bag to blend in. Then, I stood inside my white closet and revealed myself amidst the white background, just like a ghost. Boo!

Here is my movie!

Welcome to the Quaranclub

For my bathroom nightclub, I took a creative spin on it by incorporating some common coronavirus qualms into the storyline. I wrote a sign on the door that said “Welcome to the Coronaclub” and handed the bouncer my ID. However, he did not accept it and pushed me out of the way so I came back with purell. Even though he didn’t accept my ID, he still let me into the nightclub in exchange for a squirt of coveted purell. Once I entered, the music was blaring and I handed the bartender cash to buy a drink. He did not accept the cash and only accepted toilet paper! This video shows what it would be like to attend a nightclub in today’s world. People would not accept money but only scarce items. This bathroom remodel was a lot of fun to create, and I really enjoyed finding various items in my home to incorporate that I never thought would fit in with the theme. For instance, I used blue and yellow wires as decorations as well as a red exercise band. 

Here is a link to my video!

Yoga Throw

My throw is spectacular because I swiftly incorporated it into my yoga practice. During quarantine, I’ve taken up yoga, which has helped me calm down amidst the chaos happening in the world. Watching my peers’ throws, I noticed a pattern of students taking very drastic measures to throw the piece of paper into a trash bin. I wanted to find a way to throw that fit right into my daily routine. While many of the other throws are creative, my throw is spectacular because I demonstrate how small tasks can be incorporated into every aspect of daily life. Quarantining has forced us all to help out more around the house, which includes taking out the trash more often. While many people might complain about taking out the trash more often, my throw illustrates how people can easily incorporate these chores into their lifestyle without it disrupting their flow of life. 

Link to video: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vTxUlFtKu9hTMd0GuetEV1xfBUNbRW4m/view?usp=sharing

Reflecting on “Risky Business”

When creating “Risky Business: A Deep Dive Into The Game of Risk,” my group first met with Professor Morgen to brainstorm potential angles to explore, and then we “deep dove” into those topics. We researched game strategy, the history of the game, different scenarios that a player could encounter, and the game’s real-world applications to the Cold War and beyond. We researched by reading articles, instruction manuals, history accounts, timelines, and discussing our own knowledge of the game. As co-Assistant Producers, Giovanni and I focused more on the research aspect and Will, the Producer, focused on developing our research into a flowing, cohesive, and entertaining script. I organized a space to record and gathered the recording materials, and Giovanni edited the audio after recording. We derived inspiration from podcasts that came before ours by listening to them and extracting some aspects we liked. Some of these tactics included having short conversations with each other throughout various moments of the podcast as well as talking through some specific scenarios during game-play. 

Our primary goals in our podcast were to examine Risk’s history, it’s association with the Cold War, and how the game’s medium and rules provide understanding about Cold War-era thinking. To achieve these goals, we described the premise of game-play and the historical context of when it was created and initially played. We executed this goal by creating an interactive dialogue that kept the reader engaged and interested. We knew it would be easy to slip into the dangerous waters of making a podcast that mimicked a Cold War history lesson. Thus, we worked hard to incorporate comedic breaks and conversations between players. We also carefully chose background music that fit with the game’s theme: serious to an extent but also mysterious and creative. Some areas I wish we had time to further explore are the moral implication of Risk on the modern player. We examined the Cold War-era implications but I feel there were more connections we could have made for how Risk encourages a higher moral standard and strategic way of thinking through daily tasks. 

My work on the podcast episode helped me achieve the learning outcomes for the semester by composing texts in multiple genres using the written and aural modes. I am accustomed to writing just for a reader’s eye, but for the podcast, we had to think about writing for a speaker. This was a more crafty type of writing that required oral experimentation to see how the tone felt and if our words made sense when spoken out loud. I also practiced writing as a process, recursively implementing strategies of research, drafting, revision, editing, and reflection. When creating the podcast, we composed many drafts of our script, re-recorded countless segments, and rethought the structure multiple times after we’d already finished recording. Creating this podcast taught me the importance of fine-tuning and revising to create a successful end product.

Through creating this podcast, I have learned that my strengths include compiling information, organizing a group, and being receptive to others’ ideas. Some areas I could improve upon are mastering the technological aspects, such as editing sound and recording audio. I can apply the skills I used in crafting this podcast episode to future writing projects by carefully revising all of my work and taking input from my peers into consideration. 

Link to audio: https://eng101s20.davidmorgen.org/ready-set-game/risky-business-a-deep-dive-into-the-game-of-risk/