The first in a series of “Game Night” programs I’ve organized took place on Saturday January 14. I’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and brain power planning these programs. I truly believe that gaming is a great way to engage students, and meet many of the educational goals student affairs professionals are typically trying to achieve. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts, building an argument for gaming as a learning experience, giving some advice on how to get a good gaming program started on your campus, and, hopefully, starting a dialogue with other like minded(or not so like minded) educators.
In this post, I just wanted to share a few quick observations of student interaction at, and since the initial program on Saturday. I’m not sure I’m ready to draw any conclusions yet, but I just want to get some things down on paper (or on screen as the case may be) before I forget about them.
First of all, I was excited, and perhaps even a bit surprised by the turn-out. Despite the long weekend (which meant many students went home or out of town), competing campus events (there was a lot going on that day all over campus), and late arrival of advertisements (our posters only went up around 10pm the night before), over 40 students came and participated for at least part of the event.
The engagement level and length of the program also bodes well. We advertised the program for 2-6pm, but I told students I’d be glad to stay as long as they wanted. The last students left around 10pm after helping me clean up and re-arrange the furniture (which almost never happens unless those few remaining students are student staff members – these were not).
Another encouraging anecdote, one I did not predict (although in hind-sight I should have seen this sort of thing coming), between games I had some great opportunities to have developmental conversations with students. One in particular sticks out in my memory. A freshman ROTC student was telling me that he is worried, because ROTC has 26 scholarships this year for about 50 freshman – this news was new to the freshman ROTC students and has many of them concerned that they will not be able to afford an education. I was able to ask him some questions about how the scholarships were determined, and if there were other ways – through the GI bill and National Guard service for example, that he may be able to get his education paid for. Later I heard him comment to another cadet that he isn’t worried so much any more and that after talking with me he feels like he knows what he might do.
On the Tuesday after the program, I observed one more encouraging sign. In the university center food-court I noticed 2 participants from the program greet one-another and chat for a few minutes. I feel confident that they hadn’t met one another before the event on Saturday.
During a game of 7 Wonders, a student asked the question – “So it’s conceivable that all of the guild cards could end up together at the bottom of the deck?” Which turned into a discussion about how likely something like that would be given that the cards are randomized (shuffled). Students really starting talking about this. I think this has some implications given that my department (and most student affairs professionals) consider “application of academic course material to novel, real life situations” – or some similar idea a goal of programmatic efforts.
All of these anecdotes, seem to indicate that this program has struck a chord. Students are developing relationships, engaging with me (a university official) and with one another, and learning something new (namely some games from around the world). Please comment with your thoughts.
Our next session will be on Thursday the 26th. I’m excited to see where all of this goes.