Play Make Write Think

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.  

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:

Risk Podcast Reflection

I, along with Will and Sadie, recently completed a podcast on analyzing the game titled Risk ( Due to the tremendous strategy the game requires in order to win, it has always been a favorite of mine to play. Risk requires a lot of critical thinking, so playing is always a challenge I look forward to. Considering my thorough enjoyment for the game, I thought it would be fun to review it in a podcast. Since we were just a three person group, we collaborated for every part of it.

The theme and style of the background music was something we decided to adapt from previous podcasts. We initially had some trouble determining what style of music would work well with what we were creating. It can be difficult to choose a sound that compliments the voices speaking, but also isn’t distracting. After listening to past podcasts, we realized a calm but playful track would fit well. In addition, only being able to explain concepts verbally caused us some issues. I never realized how reliant I was on visual aid until having to explain Risk without any. For instance, there was a point where we wanted to demonstrate the exponential relationship between the amount of land the player has and their power in the game. A graph or hand motion would have demonstrated this well, but instead we had to put it into words and hope our audience would understand. 

Our primary goal in creating the podcast was to keep the audience engaged. In order to keep it interesting, we attempted at finding the right balance between talking about the history of the game, its relevance and meaning to the world, and strategy within the game itself. We found this balance by making connections within all of our information. For instance, we tried to make the meaning of the game transition and connect to different strategies players could employ. Along with frequent transitions to prevent boring the audience, the connections made the podcast easy to follow and compelling. 

Intuitively, one would think that writing in the form of a conversation between people would come easily since everyone converses. I realized while writing the script that recreating conversation is pretty difficult.  After we finished the script, I noticed that it sounded a lot less like a conversation than I was expecting. This was presumably due to my experience in writing being purely formal or scholarly. When writing my next podcast, I’m going to try to be more conscious of how conversational it sounds in order to make it more engaging for the listener.

Fiasco: Controlled Chaos

Fiasco is an interesting game that requires more creativity than any of the games I’ve played in the past. We got to form a completely original instance of the game through our creative scenes and decisions. We compiled short scenes which fit all the components chosen, and eventually connected the scenes. Part of our fictional story included a hoodlum character, represented by myself, who snuck into a senior center and committed a homicide robbery on an elderly woman. I found myself contemplating sanity due to my made-up decisions when the crime went unsolved causing my character to get away with it. These aren’t the types of thoughts I would ever have, so I was horrified to see the story I had developed. Later I realized that a dark story was inevitable by all the elements I had to incorporate; how is one expected to create a happy fairytale about a man who needs to get rich by the death of an elderly woman? Aside from the overall plot, there was a sense of entertainment that came with the ambiguity of the game outline. Similarly, Fiasco’s spontaneous and creative structure reminded me of the MadLibs I used to fill out as a kid. Just with more room for mature creativity. 

I was impressed by the way we connected everyone’s scenes together. The first few scenes were completely independent of each other, having only overlapping characters in common. In the beginning, I felt hesitant of the success of fusing all the situations together in an interesting, but also logical, way. Situations ranged from two hoodlums killing an old woman with horse tranquilizer, to a married couple getting divorced over money issues. We chose the “In a Nice Southern Town” playset; the person on the right and I were hoodlum partners, and I was the victim of manipulation by the person on my left. The unordinary relationships and detailed specifics between the players is what made Fiasco enjoyable for me. This made it exciting for me, as I was able to be introduced to relationship dynamics which I do not experience with in day to day life. Another exciting aspect of the game was our ability to create it ourselves. In most games, you’re placed in situations where you have to make decisions, and those decisions usually dictate the future situations, regardless of what you want to happen. In Fiasco, we created the situations and made the decisions, so we were in full control of the storyline. I found it more fun when I was designing interesting situations, rather than role-playing as my character. I felt that creating the situations was what really shaped the game, since your options become limited once you find yourself in a particular situation.

In my attempt for success in Fiasco, I strategically set up scenes that would easily allow for me to control the situation so I could accumulate as many white dice as possible. In order to be controlling, players needed to be very convincing. Being assertive, whether that be through manipulation or honesty, was the best strategy. There was a point where I put my success in jeopardy by making a rash decision to ask the nurse at the senior center to put the elderly woman down for me, after being caught in the act. I tried to guilt the nurse, the player whom I had the manipulative relationship with, and tried to make her feel like she owed me a favor after all the times she had exploited me. To say the least, it was a huge failure, and the game went downhill from there. In retrospect, I was under pressure. I was expecting her to give in when there was no way she was going to agree. If I played again, I’d plan out my decisions and conversations more meticulously so that I don’t get stuck in situations where I don’t have ideal options. Overall, I enjoyed the game because of its dynamic and structure. It was like nothing I’d ever seen, and I found it to be extremely engaging.

Random Thoughts

The experience of playing Fiasco brings the memories of Beginning Theater classes back to me. The improvisation games are much simpler then, of course. Every student in the class says one word to a one-minute dialogue, depending on the rules, and together the whole class tells a story. No matter the number of words a student gets to say or the size of the class, the goal remains to keep the story flowing. Those games were much more lighthearted than Fiasco, but the mechanisms of the two resemble each other. The winner in Fiasco does not have to be only the ones who survive and get away with the prize. The entire group of players could win when it narrates a logical and intriguing story together. 

The discussion part of Fiasco makes the storytelling collaborative, so it becomes every player’s duty to consider whether the story flows smoothly. It tends to be challenging to accurately portray a character, especially when he/she is of a different gender. In addition, to truly be able to think and act as another person takes much longer than half an hour. Questions from where did the character grow up to the character’s favorite song could be considered to bring him/her to life. Limited time means players may not have perfectly adapted to the character, so discussion becomes crucial. When a player plans something completely out of character, others could suggest a more logical action. 

In addition to discussion, the acting, or improvised dialogues scenes, are collaborative. As in improvisation theater, “Yes! And?” serves as an important rule. You do not tell your fellow actor “No, that did not happen,” while they act. In Fiasco, you can disagree during the discussion or add in new information to twist the story, so long as it fits in logically. When a player makes a decision during the act, however, the rest of the group follows. They could discuss before the decision is made, but once it sets, it sets. Although the players adopt characters (deterministic laws), each of the players (five in my case) can still act unexpectedly (randomness). You don’t know what other players have in mind. They can give you a dice of the opposite color to the one you had in mind, or add in information that leaves you in an unanticipated situation. Sometimes a decision might subvert the whole plot; yet, if other players halts the course of acting by saying “no,” part of the fun in the game is lost. Also, the design of Fiasco doesn’t ensure a good ending, or winning, of a character even if he/she remains alive at the end of Act II. A dice roll could still lead to a bad ending. 

During our gameplay, I was the one that attempted to subvert the plot. At the beginning of the game, Robert (Kathy) and Easi (that’s me) planned to steal some cargo (2 kilograms of high-tier cocaine) from a source. Then, after the rest of my group planned on obtaining a case with unknown, valuable content from a Mexican restaurant, I revealed that the case they were after was the one already stolen by me the night before. The other players decided to follow my narration, and I became targeted by three players immediately. As the plot unravels, four players began calculating each other to gain the lion’s share of the cocaine. We made plans, and the tilt happened. Surprisingly, it fitted well into the narration. Someone panicked, and someone died. After discussion, we decided that Robert was the most likely to panic, as he was under stress from his family (his mother going through chemotherapy), a debt coming due, haunting memories and hatred towards his thief partner Easi. Joseph (Alan) catalyzed the process by revealing that his goal amidst the chaos was to protect his son Molly (Keita), get rich, while staying clean. This way, him leaking his employee Robert and partner Kylie’s (Ruohan) plan to their target Easi was justified. In the end, Kylie, Easi and Robert all died, and the case with cocaine fell into Joseph’s hands. However, a poisonous snake was set up in the case for whoever took the case from Easi, so the snake killed Joseph, too. 

It is fun to stay alive in Fiasco. However, the equally entertaining part is to tell an engaging and logical story. As in classic noir films, some characters are destined to die. The protagonists are designed incapable of resisting the charm of the femme fatale and the lure of social mobility, while the femme fatale plays to her own downfall. A film may be successful with the protagonist and antagonist both dead, as Fiasco could tell a successful story with no individual victory.

Podcast Reflection

The podcast we produced focused on the game play and real life relations of the game League of Legends. The way I worked with my Assistant Producer is to first talk through the general big points we wanted to include in the podcast; later, we worked together in a shared Google Doc to throw in more details from the game under each big idea to enrich our outline.

Our intention was to make our podcast more like a casual conversation instead of just reading our ideas to the audience; however, this didn’t work out at the end because our voice in the podcast just didn’t sound like a normal, interesting conversation even though we tried to maximize expressing instead of reading during the recording. We found out possible reasons for this phenomenon: 1. we both have anxiety when facing the microphone or when aware that we are being recorded, which caused a lot of stuttering, mispronunciation, pausing; 2. We never practiced or constructed our conversation, therefore it was difficult to control the time and degree of expression of each topic; 3. We were unable to produce smooth transition between topics and draw relations to make our podcast more coherent and easy to engage as a whole. My assistant producer and I are actually pretty well-familiar with each other, and we talk and joke about each other on a daily basis, therefore it’s just a huge let down for us that our voice and conversation sounds not exciting and engaging at all in the podcast.

When thinking about the content for our podcast, we attempted to put emphasis on probing, telescoping, and real life relations. Personally, I did not enjoy how it turned out since all the pieces do not connect to one another; content wise I was not mad about it because I think the components we selected from the game work well with the messages we tried to deliver, however, I feel like we could’ve deleted a couple minor topics to leave some room to elaborate more on the more important aspects.

The only piece I was proud of in the entire podcast was the introduction because the vocal announcer, transition music, and background music just magically blended together and was exactly how I wanted it to turn out. If there’s one thing we could’ve done to improve our podcast, I would say is to practice our conversation about League of Legends more regularly to have a better control over the durations of each topic and the structure and order of our expression, as well as minimizing recording-anxiety by being more prepared for the dialogue.

Learning wise, I definitely learned some editing technique since I am completely new to editing dialogues. We also learned, or at least tried, to use precise language to deliver intended message when only limited time was given. I would say my biggest learning experience did not happen until after the podcast was done, since I figured what our process was lacking and what we could have done to make it better. Very much similar to writing, we learn from our weakness by repeatedly listening to our podcast, and positioning ourselves as the audience of our own podcast, and brainstorm about what will be the audience’s opinions toward our work.

Overall, not satisfied with it, but can definitely do better next time.

A Reflection

Producing this podcast took a considerably longer time than I expected. I roughly estimate that I spent twenty hours on it, from going through the video game again to refining the audio. My two group members (and meeting with my professor and interviewing a friend) have been a source of ideas and of great help to me. Cherie and Kimberly voluntarily agreed on recording together, which took about five hours. Even my line producer readily agreed to refine the audio with me. I am truly grateful for my group members. 

Although I have participated in making a podcast in high school, I, regretfully, did not participate much. As a result, I failed to recognize the importance of a script. Even a seemingly informal chat on a podcast could result from recited and practiced lines. A full script in advance might not be necessary, but talking with nothing in hand is quite stressful. I am prone to stress, and stumbled over words frequently while we recorded without reading. I have a long way to go to achieve fluency in the English language, as I learned this from my imperfect TOEFL scores. Hearing my recording certainly reminded me of the fact once more. The first half of recording without a script became the major reason I spent hours editing the audio. 

Using Audacity gained me a new skill, and I always enjoy acquiring new skills. Another thing I thought of while editing the audio was how I can appeal to the audience. The writing in podcasts differs from traditional school essays. It is less formal. More importantly, the audience is not paid to read pages crowded with words, but someone who seeks for entertainment. I realized a tinge of humor might help. Whether I achieved this purpose I know not, but the experience of attempting to amuse the audience is new for me. 

I value the experience of producing this podcast, and hope someone will enjoy it. After all, I chose this over enolates last week. Finally, a link to the podcast: 

Podcast Reflection

Once you have each completed your podcast episode, the Producer and Assistant Producer should each write separate reflection posts, published to your own sites. Link to the podcast episode post on the course site as part of your reflection.

Your refection should be 250 – 500 words and should be in the form of an essay with complete paragraphs, not as a list of bullet point answers.

Reflection Questions

Include a brief description of your process for developing the podcast. How did you and your co-producer divide up the tasks involved and how did you structure your collaboration? In what ways does your episode respond to the other episodes in the series — in other words, compare your episode to the ones before it, explaining how you gained inspiration from, adapted, or resisted something that your peers did in their episodes.

Please describe your primary goals with the episode that you produced and explain the strategies that you used to achieve them. You’re producing these episodes under a number of time and technological constraints, so it’s likely that there will be some goals that you just cannot accomplish within those constraints — address what challenges arose for you and the choices you made to meet them and/or describe what you would have done differently had you more time/resources available for your episode (in other words, what are some aspirational goals that were perhaps unrealistic given the constraints of the assignment but that you would have liked to have tried to accomplish if circumstances were different?).

How do you see your work on the podcast episode helping you to achieve the learning outcomes for this course? Explain how you met those outcomes with your work on this assignment.

Make sure you address the sets of questions above and then also consider some of the questions below and address them in your reflection (you definitely won’t be able to answer all of these, so go through the list and pick some that seem to be most of interest for you and write about them):

  • Were the strategies, skills and procedures you used effective for this assignment?
  • Do you see any patterns in how you approached your work on this episode? How was producing a podcast similar to or different from writing more traditional essays?
  • What have you learned about your strengths and areas in need of improvement?
  • How are you progressing as a learner?
  • What suggestions do you have for your peers as they go about working on their episodes to come?
  • How can you apply the skills you used in crafting this podcast episode to future writing projects? Where can you use these skills again?
  • What are you most proud of about the episode that you created?