This is actually a good idea because you don't have to use any other instruments to record your audio projects. You upload them to SoundCloud and voila, the only thing you wait is the review of your teacher. Thus, your classmates can review too! Also, SoundCloud uses modern technologies that enhances the clarity and quality of your audio. On the other dimension, know how to get SoundCloud followers to ensure your image to improve and uploaded tracks will be played and listened! Easy pizzy, no hassle or waiting in vain! ;)
I really appreciate your thoughtful response. I hope I am able to answer your concerns in a way that you find satisfactory.
First off, the 'Play culture' idea you referred to from Montola is actually one of the problems that I think House Rules are meant to solve. These kinds of rules, the unspoken tweaks and interpretations of rules become part of the word-of-mouth rules. A codified house rules should, in an ideal world, put these sorts of things into a single place, so that an outsider (a visiting player, a new player, etc.) isn't at a disadvantage simply for not having an established place within the culture of the game.
Similarly, your second definition presents difficulties, in particular with the idea of 'precedent.' A GM may need to make rules calls dynamically, as you said, but if those calls are not then recorded, we run back into those 'invisible rules.'
When I talk about house rules, I am speaking of something that would come to solve both of the issues that you bring up. Something that will be codified as an addendum or revision of the codified rules. There will still be 'invisible rules,' and there will still be 'dynamic rulings,' but when these things are identified, they should be added to the house rules as soon as possible. To my interpretation, house rules are meant to make sure that everyone is on an even playing field in terms of how the world they are taking part in works.
I have particular issues with precedence, and you have hit the reasoning very clearly. You wrote "they may have been settled at the level of the player using "rules lawyering" to advocate for an advantageous position for him/herself and his/her character." That is exactly the problem; when the two players come to get arbitration from the GM, there is a chance (even likelihood) that the on-the-spot decision will not be entirely fair. If precedent is a common practice, then these unfair rules will continue to compound one another. But that is an issue for another discussion.
Now, as for the distinction of recreational larps v edularps and goals beyond entertainment. I have to be clear that while I believe the goals of recreational larps are focused around entertainment, they are not the only achievements possible. Within the game there are always a set of goals (become the prince, defeat the wyrm, win the battle, etc.) that exist within the game world. But a player may come to the game with the intent of getting more than simple entertainment out of the game. A player may come with the intent (conscious or not) of learning public speaking, or conflict resolution. Or maybe the goal is simply to engage in a social community. In my own experiences with larps, there are always social circles that develop and easy friendships for those who share this interest. A player may come with the goal of understanding how politics works, or for training for the rock-paper-scissors championship, or even to gain a better ability to think on one's feet.
But those other goals, while important, are not the focused goals of the game itself. But I think you make an important point: saying that the goal of recreational larps is just entertainment is unfair. Better, perhaps, to consider it the primary goal.
The edularp's primary goal is education. Entertainment is a part of the technique, and any number of other sub goals may be achieved, but I think each type is defined by their primary (but not exclusive) goals.
I understand the umbrage you take to my view of language and clarity. I am not suggesting that clear wording will solve all problems. I am suggesting that the clearer the wording, the easier it will be to ensure that everyone involved in the game has the same understanding. They are more likely to be able to identify (in the sense of Kenneth Burke) with one another. Certainly, language has a multivalence of meanings, as Derrida, Wittgenstein, and (to an extent) Merleau-Ponty suggest. And certainly, there are moments of learning the rules and tactics of the game (in the sense of deCerteau). But my point in this context is that it will be easier for those involved in that particular game to agree to be bound to a set of rules when those rules are written as clearly as possible.
As you point out, the negotiation of meaning between different audiences does pose a problem for a generally positivistic view of language. And one set of house rules, if given to an entirely different game with a separate gaming culture, may have different meanings. But the situation I am presenting is one where the audience is well known and well represented. The negotiation of audience has already been completed before the house rules are written; this is part of the first step, developing the culture of the game. One the rules are being codified, the unique situationality of the audience has already been handled.
That said, I'm not sure it's possible to ever design 'perfect' rules. As the game grows and changes, gaining new players, losing old players, etc., the audience of the game moves away from the audience that the rules were originally written for. In this case, revision is called for, and a renegotiation to ensure, as you suggest, that the players still have agency. I agree; no two games are (or should be) the same. And I would take it further to agree that the same game over time is not the same game, nor should it be considered as such. Heriklitus was not talking about gaming when he told us we can't step in the same river twice. But it's a valid point nonetheless.
I hope this helps clarify things for you.
Once again, thank you for your great comment.
Thanks for the links. I'm still amazed that so many people are willing to look at these interactions through academic lenses.
I'm in the a small area of California a little south of Modesto. I've found some groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento, but as of yet no one nearby.
As for the pejoration of RPGs in the U.S. I hope that we'll see a significant bettering to this in our lifetime. I'm sometimes amazed at how well events like ComiCon and other "nerd" conventions are doing in the public domain. We still don't see a lot of positive coverage, but it's not as forgotten and shunned as it used to be.
I love that people are as willing to talk about this as has been shown through their comments and posts. It's fantastic. In regards to age groups for RPGs in the classroom, I know that I wasn't able to get it into my original post very well, but I was thinking that you would start around the fourth grade mark. These would be the games where you might focus very much on the role-playing aspect of discussions with very little dice-rolling and some of the other elements of gameplay. As students progress into more complicated forms of math and enter into secondary education, I would suspect that this might be the "sweet spot" for these games. This is all theory at this point, and it is mostly based on my childhood memories and experiences as a substitute in a Middle School that contained 5th-8th grade students. I agree that this would be a much more effective method of teaching history than has been previously in vogue. Instead of names, locations, and dates, the kind of edu-larp and table-top RPG that focuses on history would really be able to find a willing audience. For high school students, I would think that constructing their own games would be sufficiently challenging for them, as well as allow them to experiment with culture, math and logic, and other elements of gameplay. Perhaps, I would start off with it being a suggestion for a semester long project?
After seeing the documentary on edu-larps in Europe, I think role-playing social issues might be one of the most important opportunities teachers of the Humanities could have. English and History teachers seem to often double as instructors in social justice and current events, something RPGs could instruct in a more realistic and complete experience. Still, I think that gathering the resources, especially time, would be difficult unless you can convince parents, administrators, and other instructors of the viability of this form of instruction. These strategies would definitely create students of whom Quintillion might be proud, but perhaps not do as well in testing.
Creating guilds and parties who would work together on multiple assignments or on a semester long series of games would be interesting to say the least. Especially in cases where students would reenact history. Cooperation and constructed knowledge could determine the success of their projects. I hope this answers some of your main points.
If you're interested in reading more about edu-larp, check out my lit review in the Wyrd Con Companion Book 2014. I am also in the final stages of completing a peer reviewed paper on a case study we conducted on edu-larp in a middle school science classroom, which hopefully will become available through the International Journal of Role-playing in the next couple of months.
Where do you live? I may know some people in your area with whom you can connect. Also, I suggest checking out Larp Haven on Facebook if you have an account there. You can usually post a general question about larps in your area and people will offer suggestions.
I agree that gaming — and specifically role-playing — has pejorative connotations in the U.S., not just from religious groups, but also from society at large. I believe that part of the socialization process is to "quit" playing pretend and instead to frantically search for your niche in society, which is of course a role-playing process in its own right under another name. This societal pressure is also used to funnel creativity into money-making or "societally valuable" products. One of the goals of our research is to demonstrate that role-playing games do have societal value and are, in fact, a unique art form with pedagogical potential.
Thanks for your perspective on barriers and benefits to gaming in education. I'm curious about what age groups you are referring to in your initial post. I'm assuming it may be elementary-aged students, based on the cross-disciplinary focus you bring up: learn history and learn about probability and logic. It seems to me that some of the issues you bring up vary with the age of the students who would be playing the games, as well as the curricular content being presented or the educational objectives in play.
I agree with you that it is high-time that we broaden our focus of games in the classroom beyond digital games and re/consider the benefits of analog games such as tabletop games, role-playing games, and larps. I also believe that educators, scholars, and game-players themselves (particularly RPG'ers and larpers) need to do a better job articulating these benefits and to push back against some of the latent stigma still associated with RPGs in the United States. Games based in history and in educational objectives, rather than the fantastical worlds of D&D, Pathfinder, or Vampire: the Masquerade, would go a long way in making such a distinction.
History, in particular, can become a lived experience through a game. History is not, as we so often study it, a series of facts and dates that unfolded in a neat narrative. Historians know this. Students do not experience this, though. They experience memorization of timelines and the names and biographies of certain people who have been deemed as important to the particular narrative being told, usually one of hegemonic economic power and military might. History is, however, a series of contingencies, decisions made based on incomplete information and dealing with the often unpredictable effects of those decisions. Games reeanact the dynamism of these contingencies and offer structures to control the dissemination of information (and misinformation). Mechanics can both replicate historical advantages and disadvantages such as economic power, size of army, leadership, and even terrain and weather constraints. But the fun of playing a game is playing against history — counter-factually. Seeing the "what if?" possibility. Games put students in the role of actor/agent, making the decisions and dealing with the fall-out, not as a passive observer to a planned-out and inevitable conclusion. In terms of learning objectives for how history (or science, for that matter) is made, games afford a way to experience "being there" and "controlling the action" in ways that other types of learning do not. THAT is powerful pedagogy.
Have you seen Memoir '44? Train? There are two tabletop games that engage with history in powerful ways. Memoir '44 is also easily moddable — an interesting assignment for students.
I completely agree with you that the process of character building as one goes through with an RPG is an exercise that can be adapted well for educational purposes in a variety of contexts. What did you have in mind?
Also, the idea of a party (in RPG) and a guild (in MMORPGs) is another interesting model for collaborative learning. Any thoughts there?
I appreciate the global perspective and the list of all the Scandinavian schools that incorporate edu-larps. As someone who shares your interest in edu-larps as well as the Scandinavian style of education that focuses more on play, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration, and less on testing, homework, and competition, I am excited about the connections you make to so many disciplines and educational learning outcomes, both cognitive and affective.
I'm curious about the distinction between role-playing (which has been researched as a type of experiential learning) and role-playing games. The difference seems to be structure: rules, mechanics, boundaries, planned for contingencies, win-conditions, and a delineation of time and space. I'm interested in exploring the distinction between an edu-larp, and structures such as Model United Nations, Model Congress, students cosplaying literary characters, or teachers re-enacting a scene from the Civil Rights movement with their students.
I'm also interested in how edu-larps align with the Flipped Classroom movement of giving agency to students by using class time for creative, kinesthetic, collaborative problem solving — active learning— and having students prepare for these interactive sessions by reading and mastering ore content ahead of time. Presented as a game, with objectives and with a character to recreate may incite the kind of engagement with course material that allows flipping the classroom, as students must come to class sessions fully prepared for it to work. It seems that considering the teacher as a Game Master (GM) who creates quests for students and arbitrates as they attempt to solve them is a model for a flipped classroom. In addition, edu-larps seem the perfect venue to explore all three educational domains: cognitive, affective, and kinesthetic. Larps, with their embodied nature, possess the potential for the kinesthetic learning that bringing video games or table-top games into the classroom do not.
There has been a lot of recent attention to videogames in learning; I am looking forward to more attention to analog games in learning, and edu-larps in particular.
I enjoyed reading your perspective on House Rules in live action role-playing and how they might translate to the role of the teacher in edu-larps. I'm left wondering how you define house rules, and where they fit into the multi-layered rule systems of role-playing games: endogenous and exogenous, explicit and implicit, diegetic or non-diegetic. I can think of what you might be calling "house rules" in two different ways:
As the implicit rules that are not necessarily codified in the rules set, the ones that Sarah refers to as a "play culture" or what Markus Montola (2009) refers to as the "invisible rules" in level two of the system he outlines in his article, "The Invisible Rules of Role-Playing: The Social Framework of Role-Playing Process." These would be additions to, or tweaks of, codified rule systems in use in the community. They might be written somewhere, or they might just be understood by the players, and new members of the community would learn them through mentorship or by breaking them and being corrected.
As the emergent rules that happen as a result of game play. These would be the rulings by Game Masters (GMs) made dynamically when an interpretation of a rule must be made or when two or more players have varying views regarding a rule and seek arbitration from the GM. Once a GM makes a ruling about the game's existing rule system, it becomes law and other rulings are based on it as precedent. Another group of players or play community may interpret the codified rule differently, thus resulting in different "house rules." These are rules at the level of diegesis, and affect character goals and play, even though they may have been settled at the level of the player using "rules lawyering" to advocate for an advantageous position for him/herself and his/her character.
Without this distinction of your definition of House Rules, I'm not sure how to consider the rest of your assertions.
In addition, I would like to question your distinction that edu-larps have goals beyond entertainment, while leisure-based larps do not. While edu-larps may be engaging with specific educational content, I would offer that all larps engage with specific content that must be mastered (and the more mastery, the more possibilities for play) and that all larps also have goals — both in-game/in-character and out-of-game/out-of-character. Indeed many larps are created with quite specific goals to engage in content that will provoke thoughts, emotions, and learning that can be carried beyond the game. I'm not sure I buy into "just a game" for leisure-based larps.
Lastly, you make this statement: "The clearer the wording, the easier the rules will be to understand, and to enforce." This is quite a positivistic view of language. While I am certainly an advocate of clear writing, I don't subscribe to the idea that a universally understood and enforceable rules-set can be written. I believe this based on more post-modern rhetorical principles as advocated by Hall, Biesecker, Foucault, Barthes, Bakhtin, and others, who state that meaning is made by negotiation between unique, diverse, historically and contextually situated audiences and the speaker/text, not transmitted or conveyed passively from the text to an imagined audience. I also believe one should not strive for a perfect and enforceably consistent rules-set because that is counter to the dynamism and co-creative properties of the role-playing game genre, which seeks to give agency to the players (students in an edu-larp) and less control to the game designer or manager. The rules-system and all the paratexts that codify a game are not the game itself. They are the beginning point for a unique instantiation of what becomes the game, an ephemeral act that is wholly dependent upon the dynamics of the particular players and the interpretations of that place, space and time. No two games are the same, nor indeed, should they be.
In education, "House Rules" (depending on your definition) could refer to classroom culture or teacher philosophy, as no two sections of the same course would be the same, even if they both operated from the same textbook, standards, learning outcomes, or scope and sequence (this is why the educational accountability reforms are so flawed, but that is another discussion). No two games or game communities will be the same, even with the same rules-system, mechanics, materials, etc. This difference, however, is part of the art of teaching, the magic of education, and the appeal of larping. Certainly House Rules (and explicit rules-systems and the enactment of the game itself) are rhetorical acts, as is teaching. There is much to theorize here. But to do so, I believe we need to agree on some basic definitions that will allow us to clarify the conversation.
Your post is also excellent. I'd be interested in the research you've found in primary, secondary, and maybe even post-secondary edu-larps.
I can agree that children are more willing to pretend and engage in social role-playing. Part of the problem with adult learners is all of the reticence built up with pejorative connections with gaming and the "others." I would hope that young adults would be without some of the inhibitions that would discourage adult learners. I also think that if role-playing gaming pedagogy is to advance it needs to move past the infantile association with games. We may have to start smaller with lower social stakes games in the classroom.
Despite all of the above, I think the primary obstacle to edu-larps and other kinds of gaming pedagogy in the classroom stems from perceived inadequacies or the fear of a non-normative pedagogy, especially from more traditional communities who may still worry that D&D leads children to commune with the Devil.
I've played a few d20 games like D&D and Pathfinder as well as Shadowrun, a d6 game. I feel like I don't get to play enough and I would love to do a LARP, but it's very difficult to find any group in my area, especially since I've only been here for a few months.
I was referring to leisure based LARPs. Edu-larps are somewhat of a new phenomenon (for me, that is), and the vast amount of my experience comes from more formalizes leisure RPGs. Having started this sort of gaming in college, it has remained an important part of my life, and so naturally I found myself applying my studies towards it. I have often had ideas for running a larp in a classroom, but was unaware that such things were already so extant.
I need to look more into RPG theory. RPGs have been a part of my life for about 25 years, and knowing that there is an academic community around it is gratifying.
I absolutely agree with you about "rules lawyering." In any situation, be it educational or casual, such activities take away from both the immersive escapism of LARP and the value of such a situation. However, there is a time and place for such things. It seems, with leisure LARPs, there are often two separate but concurrent games: one that is actually about role play, and one that is about rules and mechanics. Both can be enjoyable, though often times people prefer one over the other. Rules Lawyering mid-game is bad, but arguing and debating rules outside of the game can be a very entertaining way to waste several dozen hours.
But you are absolutely right: this sort of debate needs to be done outside of the game setting, and should certainly be done before the edu-larp actually begins.