New news for the new year

A collage of logos related to the news in this post.

Yes, it’s been a while. Six months, to be a little more specific. When last we talked, it was July, the high-point of summer. It was a rare piece of time in which I was able to take time to rest, and to explore some possible new projects.

With August came a resumption of responsibility – designing and teaching classes for One Spark Academy and for ArtCenter. Two schools with very different audiences and very different philosophies, but both with welcome and worthwhile challenges. There were also some health things that needed attending to. All of which is to explain the long silence on this web space.

But do not mistake quiet for inaction! Things were afoot. Even with the responsibilities of fall, Mammoth-type happenings continued. I shall summarize – at length:

Fire Tag evolved into Prairie Tag

A ranger from Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site  (a.k.a. KNRI) contacted me to ask about our work on Fire and Flora and about Fire Tag. They were interested in the possibility of adapting these games to work with other ecosystems. I recommended using Fire Tag as a foundation, and volunteered a small bit of time to help evolve the game into Prairie Tag.

Both Fire Tag and Prairie Tag are field-type games. Both ask players to take on the role of ecosystem agents (fire, rain, plant, etc.). And both games focus on the way that fire can reshape ecosystems. They differ in some modest details, reflecting the different details of these different ecosystems.

Across July and August, Knife River successfully shared Prarie Tag with a number of groups, and you can see a few seconds of one game on this episode of Outside Science (Inside Parks), a web series created by the NPS.

My hope has always been that the quality and playfulness of our ideas would enable them to grow and spread of their own accord, so that I could help bring about positive change in places well beyond my direct reach. Prairie Tag is a clear example of this very happening. I am gratified.

LEG 3 is published

This third volume of the Learning, Education, and Games series is subtitled 100 Games to Use in the Classroom & Beyond. It is exactly what it sounds like.

Way back in 2018, I wrote a proposal for a chapter on Fire Tag. The proposal was accepted, and the published book contains that chapter.

That chapter on Fire Tag is probably the most time consuming 1000 words I have ever written, from a words-per-minute perspective. Each chapter was peer-reviewed by multiple people, then personally reviewed by the book editor, which means every word of every chapter was discussed and agonized over multiple times.

It’s a solid chapter. IMHO.

The book is now officially published. You can download a pdf edition for free from the publisher’s website (here) or purchase a print-on-demand paper copy from Lulu (here).

The MM storefront on TpT is updated

At long last, Teachers-pay-Teachers has added NGSS metadata to their website. So, I took a few minutes to update the TpT listings for Fire Tag (here), Hands-On Botany(here), and Systems and Ecosystems (here). All three listings are now tagged with appropriate NGSS info, and should be more findable by curious teachers.

PCGameIT has published a positive review of Sprout

PCGameIT is a Steam curator. Last month, they reached out to me via email, and asked about reviewing Sprout. I shared a bit of info with them, they played the game, and enjoyed it. You can see their positive review here.

I continue to have enormous respect and appreciation for Jeff Nusz, for Sprout’s amazing art and excellent game design. At the same time, I’m gratified that our technical work on the re-build has allowed Sprout to gain new followers, and to continue advancing the cause of a more beautiful and plant-ful world.

DROMP is the thing. Probably.

While I’m excited about Numerologist (e.g. here), I’m super-excited about DROMP. That cloud game has been on my mind for actual years. I had switched focus to Numerologist, with the specific goal of building something smaller, such that we could get it done and published faster. Time has shown that, while Numerologist probably is a speedier development proposition, the difference in speed isn’t nearly as much as I thought it would be. One of my quiet goals has always been to build rich games, things that invite and reward exploration. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out that it will take significant time to give Numerologist the richness and depth it deserves.

So, I have returned to DROMP. Over the holidays, I re-built some of the core code to be more readable and more expandable. The next goal is a ways away: a playable demo that exhibits all the core features and mechanics in an unbalanced vertical slice. At current speeds, this would most likely happen around the end of summer 2020.

GLLCon 2 is Nigh

Back in 2018, the first Game Level Learn Con (GLLCon) was a modest gathering of quality folks in the games-and-education field. As such, it was a big success (refresher here).

GLLCon 2 will take place this coming Sunday, again in Los Angeles. Once again, I’ll be presenting. This time, I’ll be talking about critical game studies – the art and science of meaning, messaging, and impact in games. To help folks be successful in this venture, and inspired by Jesse Schell’s Deck of Lenses, I have drafted two new cards for the deck: The Lens of Pavlov’s Puppies, and the Lens of the Cognitive Corral.

Thank you

Teaching and learning and making are all challenging tasks. Sometimes, they take focus beyond what is socially acceptable, and quiet happens – as it did here, for the past several months. In that quiet hides the tough, tiring, and un-glamorous work of actually making things happen.

Fortunately, that work is satisfying. Fortunately, that work does not happen in isolation. Fortunately, that work takes place in the company of friends, family, colleagues, strangers, partners, and patrons. Those roles, of course, are not mutually exclusive. And in fact, many people who wear more than one of those hats.

As an extra special thanks to those of you who supported us at the $10/month level and above, I’ll be sending you a physical copy of a draft critical studies lens card.

Thank you,