Posts Tagged ‘writing games


Welcome to new readers and my greatest hits list

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had my blog mentioned on the internet king of all miscellanea, BoingBoing, last week when they published an email I wrote to one of the co-founders. That single mention has brought more readers on the blog, which is always a good thing in my book.

If you’re new or just finding this for the first time, here’s a greatest hits list of some of the most popular posts and among the posts that I am most proud of:

Since one of my jobs is helping students transition from the widely taught five-paragraph essay into a more fluid format, I also constructed a series of posts called “The Five-paragraph Fix.” Here are some of the better posts in that series:

I should also take this time to mention that I’m eager to talk to readers and to develop a community here where others have a voice. If you have specific topics you’d like to seen written about or you have topics that you want to write about, please comment or drop me a line.


Games in the writing classroom: designing and teaching an RPG creative writing class

Anyone who has taught literature has encountered the poetry face. For the uninitiated, the poetry face is somewhere between a pout and a frown and expresses the students displeasure with being asked to read into a poem after the student has already loudly confessed that s/he either “hates poetry” or is “bad at it” or more likely, s/he hates poetry and is bad at it.  Teachers have all sorts of arguments for why the student should learn to like poetry, and occasionally, those work to change the student’s mind. More often than not, the teacher and student reach a sort of detente, and the student suspends animosity for long enough to give the small concession that at least some poetry is not that bad.

A few summers ago, I had a student who refused to even tolerate poetry. I was teaching a three-week creative writing course for gifted middle school students, and whenever any poem came up, this student brought out her poetry face.

By no means was this a student who was incapable of understanding poetry. On the contrary, this was a student who excelled at nearly everything she dedicated herself to, academically and especially athletically. During activity times, she left the rest of her classmates in her wake, outrunning and outstrategizing all of them. In the midst of games, she thrived, her face glowing with joy.

After that summer, I began to wonder if games might be imported into the creative writing classroom to help those students who are adverse to writing and/or reading poetry. Last summer, I gave it a try, designing and implementing a Role Playing Game (RPG) that presented the ultimate quest of becoming a better writer. Continue reading ‘Games in the writing classroom: designing and teaching an RPG creative writing class’


What Mario knows that you don’t: Video games and assignment design

Back when video games came in cartridges and video stores existed, I rented a Nintendo game only to get home and find the instruction booklet was missing. Without that booklet, the game was unplayable. Random button mashing did not result in any productive action from my avatar, and I kept dying on the second screen.

Video games no longer require cartridges, and now it looks like they no longer require printed instruction manuals either. At least that’s the thought of Electronic Arts (EA), the gaming company responsible for many popular games, including the Madden football games. Last month, EA announced that they’d no longer include printed instruction manuals in video games. EA’s decision follows Ubisoft’s strategy who made the same decision to go manual-free last year.

While I’m sure that environmentalists will appreciate the trees that will be saved, this news should have more of an impact on teachers. What the video game industry has provided for us is a referendum on how our students acquire necessary skills and stay engaged in learning.

The lesson of EA and Ubisoft is that we could do a lot better. Continue reading ‘What Mario knows that you don’t: Video games and assignment design’


Staying focused on writing: The High Score Method

A lot of times, learning to write better does not start with changing what you write. Instead, it starts with changing why you write. I know lots of writers who have developed a writing routine that includes rewards to get themselves writing. I’ve tried to replicate many of these approaches, but found only one that really worked for me. I call it The High Score Method.

Towards the end of my grad school career, in the midst of procrastinating away a semester when I was supposed to be studying for comps, I became addicted to online video games. I found myself spending hours on game sites even as I felt lazy and constantly berated myself for doing so.

My ability to focus on sometimes complex games and not focus on even simple writing tasks made no sense to me. I had people tell me that I should set it up so that the games became some sort of reward for getting writing done. That approach must work for someone because it is constantly bandied about. It doesn’t work for me, mostly because I had no will power to deny myself the reward if I didn’t finish a certain amount of writing.

Besides, I already had plenty of reasons to write and not play games. Finishing a PhD was a path to earning more money and getting more respect. Completing an online game gave me only a high score that often failed to register in the top thousand players world wide, many of whom were probably only twelve. Yet I still chose games.

I’ve ruminated on that fact a lot, and it still comes up when I think about trying to write something like this blog, which aspires to share ideas with like minded people in the same way that a career in academia would. Then I learned that stopping that rumination was the key to succeeding, and key to stopping that rumination was finding a way to make writing more like a game. That’s the idea behind The High Score Method.

Here are the rules: Continue reading ‘Staying focused on writing: The High Score Method’

Good Writer, Bad Writer

Good writer, bad writer reflects the philosophy behind the first writing lesson I attempt to teach students. Too many of them come into college believing that their writing abilities are set in stone. The bad writers continue to struggle, and the good writers don't take enough risks in their writing, figuring that any misstep will throw them back into the "bad writer" category.

Good writer, bad writer is my attempt to break the power of that dichotomy. On here, I share the lessons and attitudes that I teach, but I also talk about the attitudes I have towards my own writing since many of those have informed my own teaching. Thanks for visiting.

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