This Breakfast Club blog post is a follow-up to Afterschool Game Jams! which I wrote last August 2016. In it, I described what game jams are, including the "Moveable Game Jam" initiative. Much has happened since then, and I am excited to share it all with the BOOST community!
What Are Game Jams, Anyway?
Game jams typically take place over a weekend, and involve a theme, or specific content area. For example, this spring, NOAA is hosting an Arctic Climate Game Jam, in which participants meet to design games about issues affecting the polar regions of the Earth. Good games can be particularly adept at evoking emotions by putting players in experiences in which they must make meaningful choices. An example is EcoChains: Arctic Crisis, a card game where players build food chains on top of ice cards. If a carbon pollution card is played, you lose ice cards (symbolizing melting ice floes), which can threaten the species cards played. For more, check out this video.
At a game jam, it can be helpful for participants to play games, like EcoChains: Arctic Crisis first. Then give small groups a chance to design their own games. The design and prototyping process is fun, and it teaches 21st-century skills, like design thinking and empathy. After all, when making games, you have to think about the experience you want the player to have! For free resources on game jams, check out this website, and this video.
Moveable Game Jams
This school year I was helped organize a series of game jams for New York City Youth themed around social impact issues. It was supported by a grant from the HIVE Digital Media Learning Fund in The New York Community Trust. I worked with Games for Change, a New York-based nonprofit organization that hosts an annual festival for social impact games each year. The core team was myself, Games for Change's Sara Cornish, and BrainPOP's Kevin Miklasz. The game jams also were linked to Games for Change's Student Challenge, an annual citywide competition.
Moveable Game Jams took place during Saturday afternoons over four different locations. This year, events were hosted at the historic Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx, the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, Brooklyn College Community Partnerships in Brooklyn, and at the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. At each, there were partner organizations that facilitated breakout sessions (more on this soon!). We worked with several digital media learning organizations at each location, including Mouse, Global Kids, Coderdojo NYC, Institute of Play, Spazecraft, and Museum of the Moving Image.
How It Works
Each Moveable Game Jam begins with a warm-up activity. Often, it is a whole group game. The goal is to get kids to be playful. At one event we had participants play the reverse charades party game HedBanz. To play, you have to guess what silly picture is stuck to your forehead. Next, everyone made cards based on that day's theme. Finally, I led the group in a discussion of parts of games.
The second half of the mornings featured guest speakers. We had three major themes for our Moveable Game Jams. The first theme was Future Communities, and it featured experts from Current by GE. The next event was a climate theme, and included educators from NOAA and NASA. The final game jam was themed on Local Stories and Immigrant Voices, and was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as guests from two different New York City historical museums. Click here to find out more about the themes we used.
After everyone learns content from experts, pizza is served! Then, after lunch, afternoon breakout sessions are selected to attend. Typically there are four choices, each running twice, for one-hour each. Participants choose two.
Organizing Your Own Moveable Game Jam
Moveable Game Jams can be planned with a just a small team of organizers. First, select an out-of-school location, like a museum or library space. Then choose themes and community experts to bring in as guests. Finally, look for local partners to run the breakout sessions.
We used a collaborative Google Doc to plan everything. Aside from keeping everyone on-task, it served to ensure that each event had a variety of game jam authoring tools to choose from. For example, we wanted to make sure that there was always a board game remix station.
For more on the Moveable Game Jam activities you can run in your out-of-school program, look for our free Moveable Game Jam Curriculum Guide, coming later this spring!
For breakfast, I had buckwheat pancakes and turkey bacon, with coffee. Lots of coffee!
Join us for Matt's engaging Masterclass: Thursday, April 20, 10:00am - 12:00pm, click here for more information.
Spending more than half of my life in and out of a locker room, one gets very used to sound of competition. Sayings like, "failure is not an option" and "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," were common echoes in my upbringing. From one coach to the next, it was always about winning, getting better, playing your best, minimizing mistakes, practice makes perfect, etc., etc. It's no wonder that I wanted to quit after losing my first soccer game in 4th grade or quitting during the 4th quarter of my first contact football game in 8th grade. I was convinced by others, that if we weren't winning or if I wasn't playing well, we were losers (or I was) and should concede. As I look back, all I remember about my playing days is that every coach I ever played for was obsessed with one thing – winning. That is, except for one. My dad.
Frank Escobar Sr. never officially served as one of my coaches but I'm certainly convinced today, he taught me more about sports than any formal coach I ever had. You see, my dad had what we call growth mindset. A former junior college athlete himself, it wasn't that he lacked competitive drive or a will to win, he simply had perspective. And, that perspective helped me find my balance and competitive spirit for years to come, even today.
I do consider myself competitive, even hyper-competitive at times. The difference is my competitiveness is not tied to winning, rather just competing. I went 0-10 my senior year in college and while most of my teammates (and coaches) were rather embarrassed of our performance, I didn't seem to mind telling friends and family how my last hurrah in college football ended up. You see, I was just happy to have been playing college football. A 5-foot, 100-nothing pound little Mexican kid from Nowhere, California was just lucky to attend a college, let alone convince a college to pay for me to attend. This is how I kept perspective and as a result, didn't allow an 0-10 final season discourage or distort my beliefs about who I was, what I was capable of, or what I should or shouldn't pursue in my future. Call me uncaring, of low expectations, accepting of failure, and I'll call me keeping perspective and exercising an attitude of learn from your mistakes and move forward.
Today, our American culture makes it difficult to accept a loss. After all, we have to be the best at everything don't we? Whether in finance, business, sports or education, America was built on competition, and not just competition but winning that competition. Now we strive to place our children in the best institutions, raise them in the best neighborhoods, give them the best advantages in life so that we can help them live the American dream – to be a winner. It is quite scary how we have become a society consumed with wining at all costs and accepting nothing less. This is all too evident in our material wealth, showroom lifestyles, and obsession with Facebook stalking the reality-show lives of the rich and famous.
I believe if we are to willing to win, we must accept failure as a part of that process. We must also accept that winning is up to one's own interpretation and right to define. Where one may define winning as earning a 4-year college degree and entering their dream career, another not so far away might define winning as a stay-at-home parent committed to their child's upbringing. I wish America, in all it's diversity, would better accept that winning is as diverse in definition as the very social-fabric that clothes it. And where one may define a loss another defines it a win.
I choose to believe that losing is an important, necessary experience in life. And not just for the sake of winning but for the simple sake of living. I also believe that the more we teach our young one's to lose, the more they'll win at whatever it is they define as winning in life. In our after school sports league, RIZE, we constantly tell our coaches they should be hoping for a loss. Obviously, we get lots of blank stares and every now and then a good laugh. But the honesty in it all, is that when our students lose in the after school program, whether in a sports game or a dance competition or on a quiz, our staff "win" the opportunity to develop their grit, resiliency and growth mindset. The social-emotional skills and perspective that will help them deal with the real losses in life that will inevitably challenge them in their years to come.
Today, I couldn't be more proud of my colleagues and our field for the wide embrace that we have given the act of failure. As odd as it may seem and indifferent to how I was raised (in the locker room), I do believe that my losses in life and work, have not only defined me, but have also helped me developed into the person of resiliency and persistence that I am today. For me, I truly believe that losing is the new winning.
For breakfast I had oatmeal, 2 pieces of wheat toast and glass of water.