Having a blast at Playful Learning 2019

Playful Learning ’19 Attendees – Photograph ©Colin Brooks, Playful Learning 2019, CC BY-NC-SA

Each year I’m blown away by the thoughtful creative playfulness and engagement of organisers, presenters, and attendees at the Playful Learning conference. And oh my gosh I learn so much! I’ve taken a ridiculous amount of notes and scribbled ideas home with me and look forward to bringing as much of it into my own practice and sharing.

This year’s conference game was an Olympics style challenge with everyone sorted into team colours and then provided with challenges or tasks, or encouraged to challenge others in order to win gold, silver, or bronze medals.  As it became apparent that the leaders were constellations ahead of my own point score I began to disengage from the challenges. I wasn’t the only one and this led to some interesting discussions on extrinsic, intrinsic, competitive playfulness, gamification, and where those lines shift for many of us.

I’m a huge introvert and, as with many others, I often find myself needing to take some quiet time out at conferences in order to recharge. This year there were spaces set aside with boardgames and instructions on how to play. It was a great way to take that time out while also interacting in a safe set manner with others. Enabling conversations and networking within a structured, safe, and playful setting.

The tiddlywinks of teaching – a playful way for learning game developers to think about accessibility and inclusivity –  Chrysanthi Tseloudi, Suzi Wells

For me this was the stand-out workshop I attended this conference. Chrysanthi and Suzi have developed a playful activity for potential game developers to engage with inclusivity and accessibility in the conception stage of game design. Inspired by the Tarot Cards of Tech, these cards have been designed to provoke thought on the many different accessibility and inclusivity positions that a player of a game might experience. Each card represents one potential player character and is loosely based around fairy and folk tale characters. For example:

Candy House Owner

  1. Cis woman, she/her
  2. Black British African
  3. Lesbian
  4. Age: 46 – Lives with her partner and foster children. Part time employed.
  5. She has anxiety, often feels on edge, restless and stressed. She suffers from binge eating, is often described as fat and has difficult body image issues.
  6. She is extroverted, nurturing and readily offers candy to friends. She can use the most common apps but is not very comfortable with new technologies. She has experience playing games with small children and teenagers.
©Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, 2019

The activity involves laying out the cards in a grid and then using a tiddlywinks action (Flicking a counter somewhere on the grid) in order to select one of the cards. Participants act as either developers or challengers, with the challengers questioning the developers on how this player character may find different aspects of the play, design, mechanics, and content of the game.

Chrysanthi and Suzi shared their cards with us and have released their first draft of the materials under a CC BY licence. You can find their materials on their blog here: Tiddlywinks of teaching – materials from Playful Learning 19

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