We needed an easier way to get people started in dissecting and unpacking the features of different kinds of games. This is how the “What’s in a game?” card deck was born. We wanted a simple, plain-language card deck that could help people quickly latch onto the huge breadth of possibilities that games can offer. The card deck contains 30 words or phrases that describe different things that different sorts of games can be and do in terms of the player’s experience. (You might notice that many of them could also apply to other media too such as books, films, and television). Without getting bogged down in the complexities of game mechanics, the cards help people to think about games they may already know, and to think about all the different sorts of experiences that various games can offer. The cards can be used to play games – like “guess the game”, and they can be used to help in the design of games, as designers think about what kind of game experience they want their player to have.
Sorting and classifying games from the wall-o-games
Group begins by creating their own “wall-o-games” on post it notes. Then, working in pairs or small groups, each group takes one card. They have to go find at least three games from the wall-o-games that fit the description on their card.
“Guess the game” (Game for a group)
One player thinks of a game - any kind of game. They do not tell the other players what game they have in mind. The other players have to guess the game, but they are only allowed to ask one question at a time, based on drawing cards from the deck and asking “does the game involve.....?”. Each player has a turn drawing from the deck and asking “does the game involve....?”. Each round, each player is allowed to make a guess of what the game is. However, each player is only allowed three “wrong” guesses before they are eliminated from the game.
Name a game that.....
Players form teams of at least two people. Each team takes the card deck for one round. This game requires a timer. The first team picks one player to hold the card deck. They have 30 seconds to get through as many cards as they can. They read out what is on the card - e.g. “Name a game that.....” The other players in their team have to call out the name of a game that fits the description on the card. The team cannot name the same game more than once! When the 30 seconds ends, the team’s score is based on how many games they named. Then the deck is passed to the next team to see if they can beat the first team’s score. For extra challenge, no game can be named twice during the game, that means second team has to think of games that team 1 didn’t already name.
Name a game that.... (2 card version)
In this version of the game, each team has one “base” card per round and one “additional” card per draw. For example, team 1 draws the card “Physical”. This is their “base card” for the round. That means all games named must be physical games in some way. The game proceeds as per the basic version of “name a game that”, by drawing a new card to put next to the “physical” card. E.g.
Name a game that is “Physical” + involves “Time challenge”?
Name a game that is “Physical” + involves “Using maths”?
Name a game that is “Physical” + involves “solving puzzles”?
Games v. life
In this activity, the card deck is used to generate conversation about different game v. non-game situations where the idea on the card happens. For example, the card is “mastering a challenge”. Think of examples of games where this happens. Now think of examples where this happens in non-game situations. Name a time when you have mastered a challenge in a game? Name a time when you have mastered a challenge in your learning?
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