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Inspired: My new game highlights the value of compassion, empathy, and cooperation

I’ve played an insane amount of Candy Land with my nieces while on vacation. They get an endless amount of joy from choosing a card and cruising along the colored path in hopes of reaching King Candy before everyone else.

Simultaneously, I’ve been watching the news out of Gaza and the Ukraine, researching climate change, and reading John Lewis’s story about his dedication to the Civil Rights Movement. And I am afraid for my nieces and the world we are leaving them; Candy Land it is not. How do we teach compassion, empathy, and cooperation, the qualities we need in spades, in a world that sometimes seems devoid of them? The answer – we make a game out of it.

One of my new projects is a game that highlights the value of these qualities through a series of stories, challenges, and choices based on current real-world situations. I’m now doing a lot of research and working on the design of a prototype. Want to take a peek and provide feedback when it’s ready? Let me know. With the complex world we’re leaving to our kids, candy isn’t going to cut it.

Inspired: Make Work Play

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

“Life is more fun if you play games.” -Roald Dahl

We often defeat ourselves with our attitude. Something troubles us and we see it as a burden. If you’ve got a problem, make it a game. Bend, mold, twist, and turn it in your favor. And have fun. The best part of life is figuring it out.

Beautiful: The Launch of the National STEM Video Game Challenge

5367881478-1I’m excited to announce that the National STEM Video Game Challenge, the project that I work on at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, is now open and accepting submissions. The deadline to enter is April 24th and we will hold a culminating awards event in June. It is free to enter and students can work on their own or in teams.

The STEM Challenge is a youth video game making competition that encourages kids in grades 5 -12 to submit playable video games. Last year, the Challenge attracted almost 4,000 submissions. All the of details about the Challenge, a listing of free game making workshops happening across the country, and a host of resources to help kids, as well as their teachers, parents, and mentors, create games are available at the STEM Challenge website: If you are interested in being a judge, are a game making professional, or are interested in doing outreach for the Challenge, I would love to hear from you!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’ll be glad to answer them. I can’t wait to see what you create. Let the games begin!

Step 214: A Review of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers

For several weeks, I’ve been combing my bookshelves for activities to incorporate into my LIM College class on social media marketing. I wanted games to drive home the information in unconventional, interactive ways. I went to my theatre books, my business books, and my books filled with writing exercises. Nothing seemed quite right. And then O’Reilly Media sent me Gamestorming. It felt like a gift out of the sky. My anxiety about the class diminished a bit more with every page.

Gamestorming details games that engage groups, both large and small, in learning and discovery. They work in corporations and in schools, and I’d like to add that they are a valuable tool for navigating just about any decision and complication in life. I found myself noting in nearly every margin how to use each game. The clear, concise description, depictions, and plan for each took a great deal of thought and care from the authors.

The metaphor of life as a game is well worked over. The trouble with the game of life is that there are no rules. You don’t make them and neither does anyone else. They change from moment to moment, and the rule that seemed to work today may never be useful again. We are forced in every situation to think on our feet. Gamestorming gives us more confidence and empowers us to take our futures in our own hands. Get it here.

My Year of Hopefulness – Playing Games

I woke up this morning to rainy skies and a little knot in my stomach. This is the week that I begin my verbal review for the GRE, and I’m having some anxiety over it. My friend, Allan, made me stop beating myself up over my seemingly large deficiency in vocabulary. Honestly, I don’t recognize half of the words on the GRE as English. Allan clued me in to the fact that no one recognizes these words as English because no one actually ever uses them. I felt mildly better. No matter – they’re showing up on the test, and I have to learn them.

When I was little, I used to play the dictionary game with my mom. I’d open the dictionary to any word, and she would give the definition of the word. I never, ever stumped her. She knew every word, no matter how archaic it was. I couldn’t understand it. How did she know all of these words? And how come I didn’t know any of them? Why do I still feel like I don’t know any of them now?

Begrudgingly, I went to my 3 inch thick GRE prep book, and started making my flashcards with a heavy heart. And then I decided I had better get with it. I had better make a game out of this or I am doomed to not do well. And I can’t afford a low score. I just can’t – PhD programs are competitive and every piece of an application counts.

The GRE book is full of helpful hints, and as I learned each hint I saw puzzle pieces falling into place. Now I know how my mom could figure out all of those words. She took many years of Latin, requiring her to learn a variety of roots, suffixes, and prefixes. Our language is largely made of little pieces that are recombined again and again in different ways. For example, “mal-” means bad, so words beginning with “mal-” likely have a negative meaning. It also means bad in Spanish, so knowing a foreign language helps enormously when deciphering new vocabulary words because English is largely a language of other languages. My mother speaks French and Latin, so it’s no wonder the size of her English vocabulary is through the roof!

As my GRE studying progressed, I found myself getting more and more excited about it. I found myself finally, finally understanding pieces of our language I never knew before. Studying for the GRE isn’t just to gain entrance to a program; it’s actually beneficial for my life and for my writing. Now when I read, I have an eye on roots and suffixes and prefixes. I see arguments being pieced together with new insights that I never saw before. I see polygons and parallel lines and acute and obtuse angles everywhere I turn. The basis of the GRE is all around us. And while I’ve seen all of these things before, I’m now noticing them with new eyes and a new found curiosity.

My learning took a great leap forward today. It’s so easy, and more than a little tempting, to get lost in our books and studies. The real power of our studies is when we can pick our eyes up from our books, look out into the world, and see that opportunities for learning, and application of our learning, is all around us. Or better yet, our learning helps us to see what could be out in the world, and gives us the tools and the resolve to go make it happen. Whoever said games were only for kids?

McDonald’s attempts to answer the age-old question:

I love that companies are getting on the gaming bandwagon. I’m tired of company websites that don’t make an effort to entertain me while I’m there. I was a huge fan of the Elf Yourself Christmas card from Office Max this past holiday season – I sent my elffed-self tap, tap, tapping along to everyone I know. These kinds of things can seriously amuse me for hours.

Now McDonald’s has come out with a new and improved version of the elf game through it’s website Concepted and designed by Steve Baer and the cool folks over at The Game Agency, the site lets you choose which side you’d like to be (chicken or egg), and then lets you put your face into the character, select the theme of the dance off, the genre of music, and then a series of five dance moves. “You” then face off with the character from the other side, and are scored by the computer. At the very top of the screen, you’ll see a total collection of points for everyone who’s made themselves a chicken or an egg, allowing you to unite with fellow debaters of this timeless question. Think of it as Dancing with the Stars for fast food. Thank you McDonald’s for filling the elf void in my life! badabababa, I’m lovin’ it!

Build your own sequence, and enjoy a litte boogie time courtesy of McDonald’s. You deserve a break today.

GEL2008: Werewolf – the best party game ever

My first activity for the GEL conference was learning and playing the game Werewolf. I m now obsessed and planning my first “Werewolf” party. It’s a game of trickery, deceit, and cunning. It’s also tough to imagine walking away from it. I learned it from Charlie Todd, a comedian and creator of ImprovEverywhere, and his team of highly skilled players.

What you’ll need:
a deck of cards with two aces, a king, a queen, a jack, and as many numbered cards as needed to have a card for everyone playing
at least 8 people

The moderator (no card)
Two Aces – werewolves
King – doctor
Queen – fortune teller
Jack – hunter
Number cards – townspeople

Object of the game:
For the werewolves: to kill all the townspeople
For the townspeople: to kill the werewolves

There are two cycles to the game:
Night: everyone is asleep. at the moderator’s command, each werewolf wakes up separately and silently points to choose someone to kill. (They must choose the same person in order for that person to die and be out of the game.) The fortune teller wakes up and may silently point to ask the moderator if any one person is a werewolf. The doctor wakes up and chooses someone to save – if that person has been chosen by both werewolves, the person survives.

Day: everyone’s eyes are open and discussion along with accusations of werewolves may be made and voted on. The moderator will let the group know if anyone has died in the night. (If someone dies in the night, they do not reveal their card so the group does not know their role. The group discusses who may be a werewolf. Accusations are made. An accusation must be seconded and then is voted on by the group after the accused takes 10 seconds to defend their position and why they shouldn’t be killed. Majority wins. If the person is voted to be killed, they reveal their role by showing their card. If the person holds the jack card, they are allowed to take another person out with them.

So while it may sound rather gruesome, the game is an absolute blast. Even with a group of strangers, it took one round and everyone was hooked.

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