TRACY ROBERTS: Welcome to this final episode of the BCcampus Mixtape for 2022. We’ve had a lot of fun remixing this podcast for you from previously recorded BCcampus offerings such like the Lunchable Learning Radio Show and Open Knowledge Spectrums. And speaking of fun, that’s the topic of this last episode! You’ll hear me, Tracy Roberts, as I chat with Venecia Williams, Jason Toal and BCcampus’ own Selina McGinnis about what it means to have fun in the work that they do and in their everyday lives.
You’ll also hear Selina McGinnis chatting with Clint Lalonde about learning with VIDEO GAMES. This excerpt is originally from Selina’s own Anarchy podcast and is for gamers and non-gamers alike!
TRACY: Hi, I’m Tracy Roberts. I live, work and record this on the lands of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations of the Lekwungen ancestors and families. I’m also the director of Learning and Teaching at BCcampus.
Welcome to the fun show, where I talk to colleagues in B.C. higher ed about fun. Because my hunch is that fun is the method, the vibe, the ultimate engagement strategy we need right now to help us get more connected and engage with each other and with our work. I also ask them to pick us a fun song.
Here with me today is Venecia Williams, who is a colleague from the B.C. higher ed sector who is no stranger to the BCcampus audio adventures having recently come to Lunchable learning to talk about UDL (Universal Design for Learning) EDI (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion). And today she’s here to talk about F-U-N. Will you introduce yourself to the people in whatever way you like? And then we’ll dive into the topic of fun.
VENECIA: Hello, everyone. It’s so great to be here to talk about fun. This is a topic I never really think about for myself, although I feel like I’m having fun in my job, but I never really think about how much fun I’m having or definitely when I’m doing course design (LAUGHS). I don’t design for fun for myself, for my students yes for me, no. So I’m happy to be here. Thank you for having me.
TRACY: Right. OK, well, let’s dive into your job. We’ll start there. Yeah. So what is fun about your job or what parts of your job feel like fun when they’re happening?
VENECIA: So it’s interesting when the pandemic started and you know, for lots of instructors, everything just got turned upside down, especially if you weren’t teaching online before. For me, that became a real opportunity because at VCC where I work, there was this new position created for online developers to help instructors who were with Moodle, or just to give a hand to the online aspect of things that we had to quickly transition to. And for me that’s really interesting. I really like to learn about technology, but it was a great opportunity. I feel like as an instructor, I don’t always have time to learn. And then the second year, because, you know, Tracy, we’ve been in this pandemic for a while.
TRACY: It has been a while. Yeah.
VENECIA: It has been a while. I started working with my colleague Heidi and we work with instructors where we make videos about universal design for learning, UDL, and it’s been really fun sitting with her and talking to her and coming up with ideas, writing the script, doing the editing, because that’s a side that I really like. I, you know, I like to make movies, but I rarely (LAUGHS) will go and do something like that. So this has given me a really, really great opportunity to have some fun in my job.
TRACY: So it sounds like if you’re learning something new that feels like fun.
VENECIA: It does. I think if I’m learning something new that I know will benefit students, then it’s fun, even if it’s challenging, which it sometimes is, but it’s fun. I just get to, again ,learn something new and it’s really rewarding, especially if it’s challenging and I figure it out. Then I’m (LAUGHS) really happy.
TRACY: It feels like a win.
VENECIA: Yeah, it does.
TRACY: Yeah. OK, well, what about outside of work? What kind of things do you like to get up to for fun outside of work?
VENECIA: Reading. But I rarely have time for that. So one fun thing I do is dance. So, again, we’re talking about the pandemic. At the beginning of the pandemic, I reached out to a few parents from my daughter’s school, and I said, you know, do you want to get together and exercise? Because we weren’t able to go to the gym and I was eating (LAUGHS) a lot like everyone.
TRACY: Yes, absolutely.
VENECIA: So we got this group together and we would share videos on YouTube and we would workout together and I would try to find a dance. And they found most of the dance out there very difficult. And so I said to them, well, do you want me to choreograph something? Oh, yeah, I know! So side story: I used to live in Japan and I used to teach dance in a club in Japan ages ago. And so I started putting something together and I really love to dance. So it was just really great for me. And then the December of that first year, my husband gave me a gift. It was for a Zumba instructor training. And so (LAUGHS) and so I did that. I don’t know if I’ll ever go and teach anyone else, but I do teach my friends and we have just an amazing time (LAUGHS).
TRACY: That’s so fun. It sounds like. So fun. Yeah. So the music is a big piece of it. Hey, I noticed that for myself too. It just I can be doing something very mundane, but somehow if I had music to it, it….
VENECIA: Oh, definitely. And sometimes people ask me about the kind of music that I like, and it really depends on the mood when I need energy, I’m just really tired and I need to get to the end of the day. I put some music on, I sing, I dance, and I just kind of get through the rest of what I have to do. So yeah, music is, is wonderful for me. It’s really great for my mental health.
TRACY: OK. Well, thinking then, about what you’ve told me so far, what do you think are the elements of fun? What has to come together to make fun occur?
VENECIA: You need some kind of motivation right? I think you have to be interested in it and not think about it too much. Just try to be there within the moment and enjoy it. And I think the same about reading for me when I, I have time and I sit and I read, I just kind of I get lost. If it’s a book I’m interested in (LAUGHS).
TRACY: Right. So there’s an engagement piece.
VENECIA: There is engagement. I think it’s with everything. If you’re not motivated to do something or if it’s not engaging for you, then it’s not fun.
TRACY: Yeah, it isn’t. And, well, if I think about the opposite. Right? To me, the opposite of fun. What do you think?
VENECIA: The opposite of fun for me is boredom. (CROSSTALK) Just boring boredom.
TRACY: Yeah. So that is like no engagement, right? You’re very disengaged, so. Yeah, there’s something there about the engagement.
Anything else you’d like to say about fun?
VENECIA: I just think it’s important. I know it’s really difficult. Even I was saying to you, today has been just a really long day, but I looked forward to having this opportunity to talk about fun because it just allows me to pause a little bit and reflect on fun. And so I think that’s really important. I know, especially as instructors, a lot of us are really busy designing curriculum or, teaching or doing research, but just making the time even, I don’t know, ten, 15 minutes to do something that we like that’s engaging to us. I think it is really helpful and I know for sure when I feel happy, I step into the class happier, but also more determined to make my students feel happy or engaged. I want to share this joy or this fun feeling with them. And I try to put that into my lesson. So it really and of course my interactions with everyone. Right. You know, sometimes I’m grumpy and I feel like, OK you need to either sit down or read a book (LAUGHS) or you need to go dance (CROSSTALK) or something.
TRACY: Well, it’s probably generative, right? When you walk in or with a fun way, it invites you to (CROSSTALK). Yeah. Show up in that way.
VENECIA: And students respond to that. So you know I always try when I can, I normally try to start my class with some music or I’ll ask them what kind of music they like and they will share something. I teach a lot of international students, or sometimes they share something from their culture and they get energetic and they immediately start smiling. And then it really sets the tone for a great class.
TRACY: Nice, speaking of music, did you pick a song?
VENECIA: I will dance to anything from the Supremes that just puts me in a great mood. I’m thinking about my Zumba playlist. I have a lot of reggaeton on it, lots of anything that’s like an afro beat, anything with drums. So it’s really hard (LAUGHS)… I think that’s a very long way of saying it’s hard to pick one. I just, I respond to beats.
TRACY: Love the Supremes. Thanks so much to Venecia for that. Next up is someone I always have fun collaborating with and talking with. He is an educational media expert, learning experience designer, visual artist, facilitator, felter, consultant, DJ, extreme doodler Jason Toal.
Welcome and please introduce yourself in whatever way you like.
Well, thanks so much, Tracy. It’s hard to top that introduction, actually. Thank you for having me on. As you mentioned, my name is Jason Toal and I’m a newly minted Educational Consultant with UBC Okanagan in the Centre for Teaching and Learning there. My area is Technology Projects and Strategy. So, it is proving to be a lot of fun, even though it’s been just a few short weeks.
TRACY: Oh, that’s good to hear.
TRACY : Well, let’s get into it. Tell me just like what about it is fun? What is fun about the work or when you’re there does it feel like fun?
JASON: Well, I do even though it’s been a few short weeks at my current gig. It’s been quite a few years that I’ve been doing similar types of work, basically working with educational technology and the employment of it by instructors and faculty in post-secondary. So, I do have some experience to draw from. Just to sum it up in two words: It’s the creative process. Yes. And I found that a technology, let’s say a challenge can often lead to, I don’t want to say the “I” word, but I’ll just say a discovery. A spark. (LAUGHTER) Something that is sort of new and fresh. And so that inevitably will unleash some sort of a design process. I think you mentioned I do like working in visual practice, working with folks that are drawing or using drawing as a means to teach or to learn. And also in the area of audio, if you’re producing a podcast, let’s say, it sort of, to me, that is the fun part.
TRACY: Can I just ask a little more about that. So, I have now got three of these shows in the can, I am starting to notice a theme about problems and the solving thereof. And I’m wondering for you with the work that you do, which I’m imagining is very often in partnership with an educator is do you think it’s for you about helping them to solve the problem? Or is there something that you are solving? Or does it even matter who owns the problem?
JASON: That’s a good question. For me, it is about helping, I can definitely… I’m consistently the helper bee. It sort of ties back in, I think, about my high school years. And I had a lot of friends that were in drama, “dr-ah-ma”..
JASON: The “theater”. Yes. And I was not involved in the drama club at all. I did end up helping with a lot of the backstage purely for fun. Working on the lights, working on the smoke is particularly fun (LAUGHTER).
TRACY: I bet. I bet.
JASON: Yeah. To answer your question. I definitely think the helping of faculty and instructors that are teaching classes is a big part of it.
TRACY: OK. Well, let’s leave the workspace for a moment and just talk about the wild open spaces outside of that. What do you get up to for fun when you’re not at work?
JASON: Well, I liked the phrasing of your question actually, in the notes. The key word being: outside. And, you know, never has this become more prominent in my head, that fun and being outdoors are connected. And for me that could be working in the garden.
JASON: If I am lucky enough to have a place to dig and plant things. But also, in terms of sports. You know, we’re big outdoor enthusiasts for winter sports. Mostly skiing downhill, and Nordic skiing. That’s what we sort of tried to design our lives around. How can we ski more?
Nice, nice (LAUGHTER). Nice. So, literally playing outside is a big part of…
JASON: Absolutely, yes. I mean, we were sort of chatting about this earlier, there used to be a time when maybe watching movies inside or going through my music library on iTunes was considered fun. Gaming. These things are less fun to me these days, simply because they involve more screen time.
TRACY: Right? Right. Yeah. Right. Yeah, that makes total sense. OK, so maybe just thinking about everything we’ve talked about so far. What is essential about fun, or what conditions have to be in place for fun to occur, what comes to mind for you?
JASON: Something about spontaneity and or, you know, the unexpected. We always frame our trips as adventures. So, you potentially have a destination, a goal, some kind of project, we’re going to this location or we’re traveling this route, but then unexpected things will inevitably occur along the way. Sometimes they’re not pleasant, dealing with those navigating around them enjoying our time along the way.
TRACY: I’m hearing that problem thing again. There’s something about (LAUGHTER) solving problems, that you know, there’s some fun….
JASON: Oh my goodness moving to that. Yeah.
TRACY: Something to that. Yeah.
JASON: Which I do not like. I’m more of a chill seeker, if you may have heard and so avoiding potential stress is my where I like to go.
TRACY: Yeah, I hear you the spontaneity thing. I love when a plan happens without a plan. You know, somebody just shows up at your door rather than like spending weeks trying to nail down details. Yeah, that I love. There’s something fun about that for me.
JASON: Yeah, agreed.
TRACY: Alright, well, um, you were invited to pick a song that for you in some way conjures fun or is fun. How about bring some of that DJ magic to the fun show and set us up with your fun song.
JASON: Alrighty. Well, this was… I hummed and hawed for like, five seconds. And then I it was immediately obvious what song I would have to contribute. So, when I’m on my adventures, and I said, we, by we, I meant my wife, Jenny and I. And so the song that I’ve picked is a bit of a love song. And it was our first dance, both at our wedding and in the living room. It’s a fun party song. That’s really all I need to say. Except I need to say what it is.
TRACY: Oh, yeah, say what it is.
JASON: So, the song is ‘Lady You Bring Me Up’ by the Commodores.
TRACY: Awesome, thanks Jason for that song suggestion and for reminding us all to get outside. Now it’s time to chat with Selina McGinnis who is a colleague of mine at BCcampus and definitely a person I associate with fun and games. Selina, would you please introduce yourself to the good people in whatever way you like before we dive into the topic of fun.
SELINA: Yes, absolutely. So like you said, my name is Selina and I am a user experience designer at BCcampus. And I am honored to be associated with fun and I am situated on W̱SÁNEĆ territory and happy to be coming to you from there.
Great. Thanks so much. Talk a little bit about fun at work. What is fun at work when it feels like fun?
SELINA: Yeah. So I appreciate this question because it made me reflect on why that is that I have fun because I do have a lot of fun at work. And I didn’t really think about the key ingredients until you asked this question. So I kind of narrowed it down to I have kind of two kinds of fun at work. And the first type of fun is the kind of fun I have or I have a lot of this type of fun in my life, which comes from challenge or tension and collaboration, whereas the second comes from kind of like unwinding and letting loose. So for the sort of the challenge type of fun, that is basically my job. So it’s the same kind of feeling I get from playing rugby where, you know, there’s a tangible goal or challenge and a bunch of work to get done to get there. You can score, you can win any way you like, but you have to figure out the successful way to do it, given the people you have, the weather conditions, the team you’re facing. And it’s the same with our projects. So I have the awesome job of basically just trying to solve problems with my teammates and there’s just this huge amount of satisfaction and I would say fun that comes from that grind and then success at the end, you know.
TRACY: So can I ask is the… yeah. Is the fun associated with the grind part or is it once it’s the grind is ground and you’ve won in whatever way. Is that when it’s fun or is it fun the whole time?
SELINA: Oh, man. OK. So yeah, that’s a great question. So across the board with rugby or hiking, it is not fun while you’re doing it. I mean, there are moments of fun for sure, but it’s hard work like there’s no rugby game where I’m like, Oh, I wish it would go longer. It’s always like, How many minutes are left?
SELINA: But I think it’s that grind that makes the end so fun. I guess like when you have that success. For me anyways, I mean, it’s always fun to score tries, it’s always fun to get wins at work in terms of, you know, someone says they like the design that you made, but like when you see people using it, then you’re like, yes, it made all of that work worth it.
TRACY: Nice. So what’s fun for you outside of work? Could be indoors, but outside of work.
SELINA: It doesn’t have to be outside.
TRACY: It does not. It does not have to be outside.
SELINA: Well, I do a lot of stuff outside of work. And again, as I’m trying to reflect on this and be like, how can I seem really fun in my life? I participate in search and rescue and I spend a lot of time like taking on hobbies and like personal interest courses. But then I was like, what the heck do I do to unwind? Which is that other kind of fun I was talking about. And so in the post or start of pandemic, post-pandemic period, henceforth known as PPP, I learned to play and now I look forward to doing this every week or so is Dungeons and Dragons.
TRACY: No, really? Tell me everything.
SELINA: Yes. Oh, man. OK, so I reconnected with one of my high school friends recently. I guess not recently, a couple of years now. And we had like these Zoom calls and it was so awkward because he would say, like, what’s new, which is great for the first zoom call?
SELINA: But then, you know, you’ve been in isolation. The next time you say what’s new, it’s…
Right. (CROSSTALK). Yeah. My sourdough is coming along.
SELINA: Yeah. Yeah. Oh. Or not. Oh, yeah. I was making cider back then. That’s right. And I wasn’t sure if it was going to end up being cider. But, yeah, so they are like, well, why don’t we. One of them was like, hey, I play Dungeons and Dragons. And of course, I was like, Oh, I want to play. And, you know, I had this image in my mind of a bunch of people in a dark basement.
SELINA: Possibly in hoods.
TRACY ROBERTS: Yeah.
SELINA: Around some candles.
SELINA: Playing the game. But it was, we just got online in Zoom and basically it’s storytelling with your friends, and there’s some dice involved to make it interesting.
TRACY: Sounds fun.
SELINA: Yeah, it was fun. And it kind of gave us this thing to laugh about. You know, you have these events in life, and then it gives you something to talk about later. Like, remember that time or you tease each other. Now you have these moments that even though they were like fictional, you have these things to draw on and it’s and it’s just like being in real life. I think we’ve only met a handful of times, but that was super fun, mostly because we laughed a lot and it was something new. Solved mysteries in the most ridiculous way possible.
TRACY: OK, so. If you think about these and other things. What do you think is essential for fun? Like what are the conditions that have to be in place for fun to happen?
SELINA: Yeah, I think that’s a really hard question because I can find so many things that are fun that don’t fit this. But I think for me, really important, these moments of fun where maybe there’s no agenda in the moment, even at work, you know, you have an ultimate goal for your project. But the times that I have the most fun is when we’re like iterating on something. Like, what are your wildest ideas? Let’s just there’s no constraints and you know, it’s satisfying and still fun to come up with the thing that satisfies those requirements for the people you’re building something for. But, you know, they came from this moment of chaos almost. And, you know, same with, I think some of the best movies or the best stories. You know, there’s not necessarily a moral to it. It’s just, you know, it’s just a story. It’s just something you’ve created. And yeah. And then sharable. So something you can either work through with somebody else or some friends or can share with others. So I can have lots of fun of my own making music or whatever, but at the end it is just kind of nice to either laugh about how terrible it was or enjoy how amazing it is.
TRACY: Right. Right, right. So sharing and also this sense of spontaneity or unplanned, that’s like…
TRACY: OK. Anything else you’d like to say about fun conditions?
SELINA: No, I don’t. I’m really curious to hear what other people have said.
TRACY ROBERTS: Me too. Yeah.
SELINA: Because actually, you know, when I was thinking about this, I was thinking about Wordle and like, that was really fun. And some people play this every day. And for me, one thing I didn’t mention is that variety is really important. Like, I find like that newness of something or it’s got some risk that I can be bad at it. That’s really fun. And so, you know, I quit playing Wordle after a while because I’m like, Oh yeah, this is cool. I got it. But I’m really interested to see for maybe some people, if it’s consistent, if that’s important to them.
TRACY: I think for the little bit of reading that I have done. There is this sense of, like, liberation is how some people describe and like a sense of, there’s a sense of freedom which makes, you know, that feels like that unplanned, unconstrained thing that you’re talking about. There’s something there’s a freedom to it. Which I think is why we need it now, because it has felt constrained lately.
SELINA: Yeah. Well, like actual constraints, like limitations on where you can go.
SELINA: What you can do, who you can see like probably the most amount of constraint I’ve had in my adulthood anyway.
TRACY: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I want to thank you very much for being here with me. And I would like to invite you to set up the fun song that you have chosen for us. Who’s the artist? Why did you pick it?
SELINA: I get to say that?
SELINA: Yes, (CROSSTALK).
TRACY: So fun.
SELINA: Oh, no pressure. OK.
TRACY: You didn’t know that. And so it’s spontaneous therefore fun.
SELINA: There’s a real risk effect. I love it. OK. So the song that is fun is You Shook Me All Night Long, which people might know by AC/DC. But this is the Scary Pocket’s cover featuring Judith Hill, who I love their voice. And I chose this song because music is an important part of my life. And to me, there’s nothing more fun than funk and R&B and jamming with friends, kind of like in that spontaneous way. And this is also a bit of a shout-out to my daughter Ry, who loves AC/DC.
SELINA: Thunderstruck and is a huge inspiration for fun in my life and spicing up the old into something new.
TRACY: Thanks Selina for that chat and for being spontaneous with me. For the last part of this episode, we’ll listen to Selina talking with our own Clint Lalonde about what software and education influencers can learn from video game design.
SELINA: 5,000,000. That’s how many video games there are in the world. And while there may be video games that you play for a day, a week. There are people who’ve played video games their whole lives, and they keep coming back. Today I’m going to talk with someone who says that they keep coming back to video games because of the social aspects, because of the stories, and to kind of just see what happens and discover. And if you’re one for nostalgia we will fittingly start this series with someone who was around when video games really started. Yeah, that’s right, pinball and pong. They’re also an educational technologist that you’re bound to be familiar with if you’ve been around BCcampus for any amount of time. And if you’re not sure, I’ll give you a little intro song to give you time to figure out who it is.
[Video game style music plays]
CLINT LALONDE: I started, you know I was an early adopter of video games. I mean, it was kind of my first foray into technology, and even before that we always had games around our house when I was growing up and my dad was a huge lover of pinball.
SELINA: Yep, that’s Clint Lalonde self-proclaimed lifelong gamer.
CLINT: And so you know, the first game that we had in our – other than board games – the first sort of electronic game that we had in our house when I was growing up was a pinball machine that it..
SELINA: You had one in your house?
CLINT: Yeah, yeah it was. It was super fun yeah. And then yeah, from there you know when, uh, TV based video games first came out? My dad jumped on it and bought a console for us in like 1978 or 79. Like really early days. Yeah, I’ve been playing video games ever since, and I’m also of the generation too that grew up in video arcades. Video games were just kind of coming to the to the mainstream with, you know Space invaders and those kinds of things in the early 80s, and so that’s when I kind of was entering my teen years and spent a lot of time and a lot of money at video arcades so.
I’ve sort of a long history with gaming.
SELINA: What was sort of the sentiment around gaming in your home?
CLINT: There was no limits really put on to, you know video games and you know the amount of time that I spent. You know, playing games and the amount of times that I spent playing games with my siblings. You know, for one thing, I mean most of it was really social. So I was spending time with my family. We would play board games like we would have like game nights at our home where we would spend time with families. I mean my mom was not crazy about me spending a lot of time in an arcade. I mean, at that time I grew up in a small town in northern Alberta and the video games were also in the pool hall and the pool halls were, you know, shady places in small towns, so.
CLINT: But that’s where the video games were, so my mom wasn’t crazy about me going out and doing that, but it was also very social too because it was like that’s where my friends were. I would spend, I played Dungeons and Dragons when I was a kid too, and we played a lot of strategy games with my friends. So every Friday night we would have like a standing game night so you know it wasn’t frowned upon to play games, mostly because of the social aspect of it.
SELINA: Hmm, that’s really interesting. Uh, I just picked up Dungeons and Dragons. In the pandemic? Uh, yeah. I’ve been missing out this whole time.
CLINT: It was fun, you know. I mean, at the time we were the weird kids, right? So it wasn’t…It was kind of a bunch of outcasts that you know we weren’t necessarily hugely into sports and it was a small town. We didn’t have a lot of outlets, and it was kind of creative and fun and different. And yeah, it was certainly yeah, certainly fun to grow up with that. And you know, haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons now for years, but a couple of years ago I bought a starter set.
[Dramatic music plays]
SELINA: Ohh yeah. If possible, Clint LaLonde just got so much cooler in my mind, but nothing was cooler than the picture he sent me.
CLINT: That is my mom and I having a great time. I was probably, I don’t know 11 years old. I had mentioned my dad was kind of a, you know into gaming and so he bought a really early game console which was a combination of pong and then there was like kind of a shooting game that came along with it but you hooked it up to your television and played it, so the picture is my mom and myself we’re playing pong in the basement of our house, probably circa 1978 or 79, and just having a great old time.
SELINA: You both look so happy and what is that, like what’s the console called?
CLINT: Oh, I can’t even remember what the console was called.
SELINA: You know it’s a really simple. Game of two paddles moving back and forth, like how long can you play a game? Like that?
CLINT: Ohh man, we would play forever. [Laughter] Well and I remember it did have a couple of customization features of it. So right, you got the two paddles one on each side of the screen and it’s like tennis, right? It’s virtual tennis and then you’re hitting the ball back and forth, but there were a couple of mechanics in the game that kind of changed it up. So for one, you could flip a switch and have two paddles on either side, so you’d be controlling 2 paddles, a forward paddle and a back like playing doubles, tennis, right? And so if you wanted to kind of switch things up…
CLINT: …A Little bit you could do that. And then the other mechanic piece was the ball would speed up, so the longer you play, the more it would speed up and then, so that, you know, added new challenges that you were playing and then you could also really adjust the angle of how your shot would go.
SELINA: Oh yeah.
CLINT: So if you hit it right on the edge of your paddle, you could make it fly off at a crazy angle, which would make it really tough for the other person to return. So there were, there was, I mean, it was more than just hitting a ball back and forth. There were ways that you could kind of interact with the game that change the dynamics of the game. Which is one of the great things around, you know when we start looking at learning principles associated with gaming, this ability to be able to impact the game and that interactivity that you can have to kind of change the dynamics of the game is what helps to make it really compelling, right? So the challenge then becomes: How do I position my paddle in such a way that I’m going to get this really crazy angle coming off of it? That’s going to, you know, mess with my opponent and so that becomes the challenge and you’re trying to do that every time, every time. And you’re trying to constantly perfect and practice on how to do that one little move until you get it just right to make like the trick shots.
CLINT: Right, yeah, like how did you learn it was it? Was there a tutorial that said if you hit the ball on this angle or you know was this something self-discovered?
CLINT: Yeah, there wasn’t a tutorial and so you know as you’re playing the game, you kind of fluke into these things where it’s like, ooh, I just caught it on the edge and ohh I’d sent it out at a weird angle. I wonder if I can do that intentionally, right? So something happened in the game, you notice it, and then you adjust to try to make that happen again. So yeah, no tutorial to do it, which is another great, you know, learning principle. One that I saw actually that reflected this idea of tutorials and how to learn things was the rise of Minecraft. My son was huge into Minecraft when he was really young. And the really cool thing about Minecraft -not only was it like a really creative game and kind of an expansive game where you can create.. you know it’s very, very open. But there was no rule book and there was no tutorials that came with Minecraft in the early days. Now that Microsoft owns it, they’ve come up with like tutorials and how-to’s and you have built that into it. But in the original Minecraft, that was never there, and so what the community became around Minecraft was people who were teaching others how to do things in Minecraft. And so there is a really educational piece there where you have people who learn something and then immediately want to tell the world on how to do this right? So they create these video tutorials and this is early days sort of pre-Twitch times where you’d start seeing the rise of gamers on YouTube sharing tutorials on how to do this and it became like this…
CLINT: Huge community of gamers that were sharing tips and secrets and how to do things. And, you know, Minecraft never created any kind of tutorials to go along with Minecraft. It was just gamers teaching gamers. And so you know the educational aspect of being able to learn how to communicate to others, something that you have learned becomes a really powerful learning tool to be able to explain things to others in the community that they can do it as well. That was always one of the really cool things about Minecraft that I thought.
SELINA: I could see that being a really cool sense of achievement almost like, “hey I discovered this thing”. And sharing that achievement would be such a huge motivator, and I’ve seen tutorials for games that I’ve played. And people are just like “thank you for posting this.” or “This has changed the way that I play” or, you know, “I was stuck” and yeah, and it almost means more coming from a peer than you know a hint or tutorial.
CLINT: Yeah, and it you know there’s something about that too. That’s that next step in learning, right? You, the person who’s creating the tutorial is not just like a passive recipient of knowledge that, you know, sometimes traditional schools can be, where you know you have this person in authority that’s delivering a message and you’re this kind of receptacle that’s meant to take this all in and it really changes the dynamic because you’ve self-taught yourself something. Or maybe you’ve picked up things from other tutorials and then you want to share it with somebody else to be able to teach them how to do that. It really does sort of shift the dynamic of the teaching-learning relationship to now become this community learning environment where everybody is learning from everybody else and it becomes a very, very social kind of environment to be able to to see that in action. And to see kids doing that, just with no, I mean even the fact that you know a lot of kids at the time would just learn how to use YouTube so that they could share tutorials, right? And so it’s not “I’ve learned the game”. “I’ve learned this mechanic in the game, and now I want to learn a way to communicate that I’ve learned this mechanic in the game, so I teach myself how to do YouTube videos”. So it just becomes this huge, huge learning cycle all the way through.
SELINA: Now I wonder, from the moment that you essentially end up playing Pong, how did your relationship with games evolve until today? Because you say you’re a lifelong gamer, like what other kinds of games have you played, and maybe what drew you to those kinds of games?
CLINT: You know, I’ve always well, I’ve always had technology, I mean buying my first computer, gaming was one of my huge motivations for getting my first computer, which was like a TRS-80 color computer back in the 80s, right? So that I could play some more high-end games that you couldn’t do, that that weren’t really easy to do on the gaming consoles at the time. So, that was really kind of my first motivation and ever since I’ve had computers, I’ve always played video games. I’m drawn to simulation games. I like games where you have these kind of expansive worlds. So like there’s a game called Civilization where you…I love that game and have played that game for many, many years. There was another game I played for a long time called Railroad Tycoon, where you, you know, had the world and you tried to, you know, become a railroad baron, but you had a lot of variables that you could kind of play with as you created this world so you know do I I increase taxes on my people or lower, like SIM city too? You know that was another game that I played a lot. These simulation games, so I really I kind of got into that. The sort of God-mode kind of games where you control the world and you can change the variables and certain things happen in it so I’ve always, you know, been drawn to those games. Also been drawn to games that kind of build on that Dungeons and Dragons tradition. I was a big – and still am- play World of Warcraft. And I love that for the social aspect of it. I mean, there’s a lot of people that play that massive like the first really massive worldwide video game where you could have a group of people come together, work together, and you had to work together in large groups to get over some of the big bosses and some of the big mobs. So you needed to really be able to coordinate with other people. And build those kinds of kills to learn. And it’s massively complex, right? So as you get into it…Which is another thing that I love about games is, you know, the ones that can kind of lead you through…You start off, it’s that another connection to learning here where you have this kind of scaffolded learning piece where games will often start you off at a lower level you know and you start working on some basic skills that will come back later on. That you’ll need to use in these bigger scenarios or situations that you find yourself in. So being able to kind of build on that and start small. Well, games do a great job of kind of doing that, which is something I think we need to do more and educate and good educators do this right? You scaffold the knowledge of what you learn in this little piece here, you’ll bring it back later on in some other context to kind of reinforce the learning so it’s another connection to gaming and learning that I like. And then you know, I’m a big soccer fan, so I like sports simulation games. I’ve played FIFA for many years and I love that. The mode that I love the mode that is not necessarily playing the actual soccer game, it’s the manager mode. [SELINA: So interesting.] Again, getting back to that kind of creative mode where you know you’ve got to develop players and you have training plans for players, or you trade for players and you kind of build the team and you put the formations together. The playing piece is fun, but I’m, I mean I much prefer the actual trying to build the perfect team and I often, you know, would start from scratch. You know, with like nothing and I still do this, I’ll just like blow off whatever I’ve done before and just start at like Ground Zero with like a team in like the 5th Division in England or something and try to get them up to the Champions League just by, you know, over the course of like 10 seasons or something so.
SELINA: So interesting, I didn’t know that was a thing and this is my experience: So I was exposed to video games as a kid and…but you know, I thought of things like first person shooters, things like FIFA, which you know were fun. You could play a match or two and it was fun. But when I came back, games have seemed to have changed a lot since, just like first person shooter and, you know, kind of one-on-one competition to what you’re kind of describing, something more complex. or maybe that’s just what I was exposed to, just, you know, because of what was in my house… Have you seen something like that as well?
CLINT: Yeah, yeah, they’ve become incredibly complex and some of them with really compelling narratives, right? I mean, I’ve never been a first person shooter gamer. I’m.. I get kind of bored with those, you know those pieces. I do like the kind of more expansive ones but you know when you look at some of the games now… I play this game called Red Dead Redemption and it’s a western and there’s a little bit of like you know, shooting and you know first person shooter in that, but that’s really not it. It’s got this huge, complex narrative with all of these different characters and storylines that you kind of follow through. And you know, that’s something that is just was not really possible, you know many, many years ago you would start to have some of them, but you could, you know, run the narrative out pretty quickly, but you know compelling narratives. I mean, the Red Dead Redemption is just like it’s a great piece of cinema. You know, I think of it like a great film or something, or a great novel or something with the stories that it tells and the characters that develop along as they as they go along. So you know, that’s where you can get into, you know, I can spend hours and hours and hours playing that game just because I’m following the narrative.
SELINA: Right? Sonic the Hedgehog clicks coins. That’s, that’s the narrative in my day. [Laughter] Yeah, that’s so true, yeah.
CLINT: Well, and even if you think of something like, yeah, like Mario brothers or you know the early, early games and that. Mario Brothers was quite revolutionary because it took this idea of like a little bit of – and this is a little game history- but like Donkey Kong, like Mario brothers were just like a couple of characters in Donkey Kong. And Donkey Kong, it’s very much like action-oriented, the game, but then Mario brothers when it came along, it did have that action, but it started to build out this narrative of like saving the Princess. And you know all of these other kinds of pieces. And so then all of a sudden they became characters and you followed the exploits of these characters. And part of that was very compelling to the whole experience as well as like now these characters are fun.
SELINA: Right, that’s really interesting. Yeah, because you’re going from Pong and Tetris where you know there’s a definite goal, and that maybe is sort of the end of it. But there’s now this emotional piece where if you don’t get to Princess Peach, then you know in theory, I don’t know, Boweser’s going to throw her off the tower or something.
CLINT: Yeah, well, you’re invested in it. Right? Yeah, it’s like I’ve gotta, I’ve gotta do this.
[Video game music with coins clinking]
SELINA: Now, since you’ve played lots of games. And you kind of touched on parts of games that you know, hold your interest and really help you progress and you talk about the social aspects of things that really keep you motivated and engaging with the games. What parts of games have you experienced that you wouldn’t want to bring to education? Cause I know that there’s this, there’s “gamification”.
CLINT: Yeah, well and I prefer the term game-based learning as opposed to gamification in education because as soon as you say gamification, people start thinking about, you know, levels and points and you know. That piece of it, which is not, you know, I think that’s probably the worst part of gaming that we could bring into education, because we already have, like grading systems that are kind of flawed as they are. And I don’t know, maybe some people. I guess some people do get motivated by ,you know, seeing how many points they have, but… It’s really kind of an artificial motivation. I’m a huge fan of people knowing how they’re progressing and you know, are they achieving a goal? But I don’t know if grades and numbers are necessarily the best way to do that. And the other thing that I really don’t like, and so there’s a guy who named James Gee, who’s written a lot about game-based learning and has come up with some principles for game-based learning and has made a lot of connections between video games and education. And you know the mechanics of why games could be good, what we could learn from video games around education, and he talks about a principle of, you know, these are safe, safe spaces – and by safe spaces he means you know there’s low risk involved – in real world simulations so you get to practice things. And you know one of the things that I’m starting to see… So in education, I think one of the things we could learn is to make as many of those low stakes environments as possible for students. And so you know, eliminating that the high that the tests are being able to practice things over and over again. That’s another concept that he talks about practicing in sandboxes. Or being able to put things into practice where there’s not a lot of pressure on the person who’s doing it. Not a lot of real world consequences, and I think in education there are a lot of real world or at least students feel like there’s a lot of real world consequences if they don’t do well on this test. That’s going to impact this, and it’s, you know, you know my son’s in grade 10 now and starting to think well, if I don’t do well in a test, I’m not gonna get into university and I’m like, no don’t think that way, right? It’s just like just enjoy the challenge of you know, learning the content and interacting with the content and being able to understand it and don’t worry so much about the grade attached to it, yeah?
SELINA: Yeah, because you know, like we want people to be engaged in learning but them participating doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re engaged or that they’re learning. For example, and you just reminded me of this. I recently took a design and innovation course. I was just auditing it so I had no stake, like no grades were on the line for me. But my peers, they were just… I… we did all the learning. We got to the project which was, in theory, supposed to implement all that learning and it just went out the window because they’re like “We need to get an A and this is how we’re going to get it.” We didn’t get to practice anything because it was so focused on the outcome rather than the process, which was a bit of a bummer. But you know, I can’t blame them. I was in that boat at one time too.
CLINT: Yeah, and that’s exactly it. Like the as soon as you attach like this high stakes grade to it, it becomes about getting the grade and not necessarily about the learning and it, you miss the process right? Because you’re just so focused on that end result you miss all of the learning that happens to get you to that end result. You know one other piece of game mechanics that I think education could learn from and that is sort of the individualized you know patterns of progression for different people. You know our education system is set up is. Just because you’re the same age you end up in the same grade like you know at the K to 12 system like all 8 year olds are treated exactly the same. You know they’re all in the same grade, all in the same spot. That’s not the case in video games like you said, I mean you can play with twenty different people in World of Warcraft and everybody is at kind of a different level and has gone through a different progression path to get where they’re at, so they’ve all had this individualized.. Even though we’re all having a collective experience and playing the same game. Everybody’s had an individual path to kind of get where they want to go in the game. And so that’s something I think that can be really powerful in education. If we kind of switch our mindset that just because these people are the same age that we’re dealing with, and you know I’m talking K-12 system now. But just because they’re at the same age doesn’t necessarily mean they’re gonna be at the same stage. Trying to create those individual paths for people is something that I think education can learn from gaming.
[Video game music]
SELINA: So there’s a lot that we can learn from game design as Clint points out. And at least these are the things that he as a gamer, find engaging. But have you heard of one of James Gee’s principles for game-based learning called pleasantly frustrating? No? Well, it’s about to be the catch phrase for this episode.
CLINT: You know he talks about things being pleasantly frustrating. I think you know when you talk about things being pleasantly challenging, you want things that will challenge people but not frustrate them. And so I think that’s a really important game dynamic that we can bring into education too. To be able to help people get to that pleasantly frustrating piece where it’s like, “Oh. You know that kind of twigs”, it’s like “I can solve this. I can figure this out. I know how to do this”. “This is a challenge, but I know how to do this. I’ve got some skills already to help me figure this piece out”, so I think that’s kind of one piece that’s important.
SELINA: Right? I love that. Pleasantly frustrating, I’m going to use that, probably in the wrong sense, but yeah, I totally get that, yeah. [Laughter]
CLINT: Well and Vigodsky talks about, you know the importance of having this “more knowledgeable other”, and that’s the role of the teacher and doesn’t have to be like a traditional teacher, but somebody else that can help you get to that zone or through that zone of proximal development, so that’s kind of like the social aspect of it too, so that would be another piece I would say to bring into it. The more we can bring teamwork and social interactions into the learning process and have people help each other through the learning process. And that’s also another a good mechanic that I think would be useful to have.
SELINA: Thank you, I really appreciate it.
CLINT: Alright and I hope I haven’t banged my microphone too many times I..
SELINA: Oh no.
CLINT: Got a little animated there.
SELINA: You’re very passionate.
CLINT: Yeah, apparently.
SELINA: Frustratingly passionate.
CLINT: Apparently, I really wanted to talk about this stuff.
SELINA: It’s so fun. It makes me want to play video games with people at BCcampus too. I feel really excited about this topic, so I appreciate you sharing all your gaming knowledge.
TRACY: Well that is a wrap! Thanks to everyone who made this podcast possible and thank you, our listeners, for listening to this final episode. If you liked this content, please let us know. You can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn under @BCcampus and on Instagram @bccampus.ca.
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