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Game Jams in the Classroom

I was a recent guest on The Brainwaves video series, which are short clips about rethinking the classroom.  I did a video about using a tabletop game jam in the classroom:



We Came Out and Played!

On July 19th, we presented a game at the Come Out and Play festival in Governor's Island in New York City. This was a juried festival where about 20 large-scale games were presented for people to play for free.  On July 18th on Friday night, there were games involving screens and lights.  

For example, there was Light Fight, where teams of players moved around a maze of boxes trying to capture their opponents' feet in the beam of their hand-held flashlight:


The game that we offered up was called Prey, where 5 players would attempt to wrap each other in rope without being wrapped up in rope.

The idea for the game came from wanting to create a game that gave you the physical sense of losing as you were losing the game.  In this case, as you got further wrapped in the rope, you knew you were losing.  The game ended when one or more people were wrapped in the rope.



One of the reasons I went was that I wanted to see how this kind of open play festival runs so that I could facilitate one myself.  I learned a few lessons about games that were more successful:


  • Be a spectacle.  My game had nothing but a 60-foot piece of marked rope, so there wasn't much to see when the game wasn't being played.  On the other hand, I felt good about developing a new game using nothing more than a piece of rope.
  • Handle a variety of player numbers.  Games that could bring in a bunch of players created an "event" when those players were engaged with the game.  My game ended up creating an event because the players were unpredictable as to which way they would move, so we had to watch for spectators.
  • Have a quick explanation.  One of the comments I consistently got with my game is that it was very easy to learn.  A game that was too complex would frustrate players and require significant facilitation.
  • Be in a boundaried space.  Since our game was next to other games, and had no "out of bounds", we had to watch the players and keep them from colliding into the next game.
  • Don't hurt players.  One of the problems with PREY was that people could fall down, as they were being tied quickly with rope.  One rule was that the round ended if anyone fell, but players didn't always see the other players.  I tried to be quick on the whistle if I saw this happening, but a few times, someone ended up taking a surprise fall or being drug across the grass.



I'll close this post with a funny video where the videographer, Ai-Ling Loo, didn't realize the game was heading her way!


Next Game Designers' Guild meeting: June 6

On Friday, June 6th, we'll have our next Game Designers' Guild meeting, open to all.

We will meet in Hinds Hall, room 011, at Syracuse University.
5:30-6pm:   Icebreaker game
6-7pm:  Brainstorming with SU's information security group about making a security game
7pm-9pm:  Playtesting of YOUR games and open play (bring games!)
There won't be refreshments (although there are vending machines nearby), so eat before you come.
Scott Nicholson



Seeking feedback on a convention idea for transformative tabletop games

I've been thinking about starting a small convention for those of us working with transformative tabletop games (meaning educational games, games for social good, and other games designed to make a difference in the lives of the players).

Modeled after open gaming conventions like BGG.con and the open play spaces at gaming events, the primary attraction would be open space for playing and sharing games.

There would be few formal sessions.  Instead, the reason why people would come would be to play many different types of games.  The transformative game overlay would encourage people to bring games that they have used in an educational or transofmative setting (even if they are recreational games).   You could also bring prototypes or games you have created, and I would reach out to publishers of these games.

You would spend your days trying games that others have brought, with the goal of helping you find game ideas that you can bring back to your classrooms or workplaces.

This is an activity that runs alongside many game studies conferences, but the goal of this would be to focus on that space and to focus on tabletop game experiences.  Discussions about how a game could be used in different settings would be encouraged and welcomed (as compared to frowned upon by someone who "just wants to play the game").

If you are someone who works in transformative games, I would appreciate your feedback on what you would find valuable at such an event.  Focus on big picture things, like what types of activities or events would be useful, instead of things like date and location.   You can post here or can send me a mail at  


Next Game Designers' Guild meeting: April 11 - Playtest-o-Rama

Join us on April 11 for the next Game Designers' Guild meeting.


We will meet in Hinds Hall 011 on the Syracuse University campus.  


From 5:30-6pm, we'll have an informal activity.

Starting at 6pm, we'll talk about Playtesting, and then will open the floor up to playtests.  I know many of my students from my Designing Serious Games class will be on hand to test the games they have worked on all semester!