Preparing my gaming and education class for spring 2024

Next month I’m starting one of my favorite classes, and I wanted to share the draft syllabus with you all.  It’s the gaming and higher education seminar for Georgetown University’s Learning, Design, and Technology program and I’m very excited about it.

The focus is, as you might expect, on the productive intersection of gaming with colleges and universities.  The semester explores this connection through a range of gaming types, including tabletop, role playing, and digital games.  I encourage each student to bring their individual and professional interests to the class, applying them to shape research and a final project.

Structurally, the seminar is a mix of discussion, mini-lectures, and hands-on work during sessions, plus scholarly readings, Canvas writing, and project work in between classes. Every week students play at least one game, read and discuss scholarly writing, and try their hand at making some gaming for education content.

Historical games, seen at the Strong National Museum of Play

An exhibit at the Strong National Museum of Play

Students play a major role in cocreating the seminar, as with most of my classes. Discussion is key, of course, since its a seminar. Their experience of playing games is important material for learning. They get to determine one week’s topic. And I’ll shape presentations and lead discussions with an eye towards their individual interests.

I have some questions about refining this class design over the next month:

  • Is the amount of reading too much?  I usually err on the side of too much reading.
  • Which tabletop game or games should we use? I’ve tried Terraforming Mars in the past, but it seemed a bit much for the class, either the science fiction theme or the complexity. I’d like something which shows some tabletop mechanics and also fits the educational theme.  Perhaps CO2?
  • Which version of Twine is best for taking the branching narrative game further than Storyboard: Chapbook, Harlowe, Snowman, or SugarCube?
  • I’m thinking of having each student present a game to the class, reflecting on its educational potential. Would this overload them?


Winter break reading: James Paul Gee, “Learning about learning from a video game: Rise of nations”. (Feel free to find a free demo of the game online or buy the full game on Steam.)

January 16, 2024 – Introductions and into the magic circle

  • The idea and practice of the class
  • Our individual experiences with gaming
  • History of gaming
  • Game: The Thing From the Future
  • Technology: download and install Steam
  • writing in Canvas:
    1. student self-description character sheets
    2. what is your game persona’s D&D alignment? (This quiz might help.)
    3. starting to explore our shared keywords document (Google Doc)

January 23, 2024 – Tabletop gaming

January 30, 2024 – Role Playing Games

  • Canvas discussion writing
  • Introductory presentation
  • Readings: Fuist, “The Agentic Imagination – Tabletop Role-playing Games as a Cultural Tool”; Garcia, “Privilege, Power, and D&D” 
  • Games: so1um or Year Zero (copy this character sheet)
  • Design exercise: RPG for a higher education class

February 6, 2024 – Computer Gaming, I

February 13, 2024 – Computer Gaming, II

(analysis of one game due February 20; no class )

February 27, 2024 – Education and Gaming, I

(Spring break March 5, 2024)

March 12, 2024- Education and Gaming, II

  • Canvas discussion writing
  • Reading: James Paul Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (71-219).
  • Games:
    1. Computer games, science and humanities: BondbreakerWaterworks!
    2. Role playing games: Reacting to the Past

March 19, 2024 – Gamification

March 26, 2024 – Design for gaming and education, I

March 29 – Plan for final project due

April 2, 2024 – Design for gaming and education, II

April 9, 2024 – Storytelling and games

  • Canvas discussion writing
  • Storytelling introduction (on Slideshare)
  • Readings:  Gordon Civic Creativity and Role-Playing Games in Deliberative Process; Alexander, “Gaming: Storytelling on a Small Scale” and “Gaming: Storytelling on a Large Scale”, from The New Digital Storytelling, pp 97-127
  • Games: The Thing From the Future September 7th, 2020
  • Quick survey: which generative AI tools have you used, and how?

April 16, 2024 – AI, gaming, and education

April 23, 2024 – students determine topic

  • Canvas discussion writing
  • Readings: TBA
  • Games: TBA

April 30, 2024 – final project presentations

  • Invite us to play and garner feedback
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2 Responses to Preparing my gaming and education class for spring 2024

  1. John Mayer says:

    This is a topic very near and dear to me. I have been working on ideas around educational games and gamification. You should at least introduce your students to Yukai Chou’s work (he wrote the book Actionable Gamification) and has many videos. Best start at his TED talk –

    I found him more technical and detailed than McGonigal.

    An early effort at an educational game is here –

    Free to play.

    The goal was to teach law students about important cases, laws and people by having them put them in historical order. It was not very popular, but I believe we can re-work the mechanics to make it something awesome. I am thinking we can create a tournament version where students play against each other or against faculty or create a “bracketology” tournament where schools play against each other.

    Finally, don’t dismiss was are called “casual games”. Often people don’t have time to invest hours into a game, but they do have minutes-at-a-time and can play a little bit here and a little bit there. Think Candy Crush or AngryBirds, but with some educational element.

    I will be looking at your readings to learn more. Happy to chat sometime.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Greetings, John, and thank you for this enormously kind post.

      CALI Time Trial looks splendid. How much legal intro will students need to play it?

      Yukai Chou’s Actionable Gamification looks terrific – but 500+ pages might be overwhelming. Do you know of any shorter works, or if I could assign chunks of AG?

      Agreed on casual games. Some of the ones I shared are examples of those, like CivHero.

      Delighted to connect with you.

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