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Reflection Letter

Reflecting on a Gamely Semester

I am standing at the door of Cox Computing 230A. There is a small door handle. 

>open door

Opening the door revealed a classroom filled with eager but apprehensive students. 

>take a seat in the back row so the professor doesn’t call on me on the first day

I take a seat. 

>the clock strikes 10 am. Class begins. 

When I entered the “Play Make Write Think” classroom for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. I wondered: Would we be coding to create games? Because I do not know how to. I was so apprehensive, I almost switched into a different writing seminar because technology is not my strong suit. But after attending the first class and learning how we would analyze games as a literary text, I had a newfound sparked interest. In most of the English classes I took in the past, we always analyzed written texts. Beginning this class I was excited to explore a new medium to “read” critically and have engaging conversations with my peers. When Professor Morgen first showed us the website he created for the course, I felt energized by the instruction manual-like instructions for reading the course description. I had never been presented with a syllabus in this manner before, and I could not wait to start exploring the website and all of its nuances. 

From the first assignment when we were instructed to create an avatar that represented ourselves and post it to a website we created, I engaged in digital citizenship/identity learning objective. I thought about how to use technology appropriately and engage responsibly in online spaces when I formatted my website and carefully crafted my first side quest. Every week throughout the semester, Professor Morgen assigned us miscellaneous tasks–“side quests”–that challenged our thinking and provoked critical analysis of games and other online mechanisms. Each student in the class posted their avatar to their website and they appeared on our shared course site for all the students in the class to see. When creating my first side quest, I felt uncomfortable sharing my work with the rest of the class. I was accustomed to writing for my professor’s eyes only, and I feared judgement from my classmates. To my surprise, looking at my classmates’ posts on this shared online space prompted inspiration for many of my assignments. When I had trouble thinking of an idea, I looked at my classmates’ work, which I used as a jumping off point for my own work. I grew to enjoy scrolling through this shared space, and I felt a sense of digital responsibility to produce great work for my classmates to also learn from me. I accomplished this learning objective by understanding the symbiosis of the internet: users serve as both students and teachers by constantly bouncing ideas off each other through posting on media platforms. I gained a newfound knowledge that the content I post on the internet is public, and that I must always be careful what I put into the world but also take risks within reason. 

Posting our work to this shared platform also helped me meet the collaboration learning objective. Although the students in the class were not directly working together, we helped each other develop ideas and discussed each other’s work in class discussions. For the “What’s in my bag” assignment, I learned a lot about my classmates and their passions. In my response to the assignment in which we took a photo of the contents of our backpack, I wrote: “I believe this image is very representative of me as a person since I enjoy learning, reading, and writing.” Sharing my interests with my peers helped me open up and lead to deeper discussions since we grew more comfortable with each other and shared a mutual understanding of one another. Another source of collaboration was through the podcast series. For every episode, each member of the group took on a unique role and we learned to work together as a group by playing on each member’s strengths and working on our weaknesses. For instance, I took a heavy writing and researching role in the first podcast, but did not feel comfortable with the editing and recording aspect. I played on my writing strength by helping develop the script, but I also learned new skills: how to use the recording equipment and edit the recordings together. Giovanni taught me how to use the equipment, and this collaboration gave me a better understanding of these important tools that I plan to use in future projects. My group worked really well together, as we all assumed an equally important role in producing the podcast episode regardless of our assigned roles for each episode. When the episodes came together into a final product, our collaborative effort shone: each group member assumed a key role in the production process, we taught each other skills, and this resulted in podcast episodes we all felt proud of.

When producing the podcast series, I fulfilled the writing as a process learning objective for the course. When writing the scripts for the podcast series, I learned effective research strategies and wrote multiple drafts to produce a finished product and also improved throughout the episodes. As the Main Producer for the third podcast, my group talked about the card game Gin Rummy, which I believe was very successful due to growth over the episodes. When producing this episode, we considered what worked and what did not work from past episodes. After producing the first episode about Risk, my group spoke about how we could improve for the next episode. We realized we discussed the technicalities of the game too much and did not focus enough on analysis, building our argument, and making the script entertaining for listeners. Therefore, for our next podcast about Chess, we spent less time explaining the rules and focused more on a clear argument that ran throughout the script. And for our final podcast, we added more dialogue, which helped frame the argument and lighten the mood while threading a clear argument throughout the podcast. Something I focused heavily on as the Producer for the Gin Rummy podcast was using personal anecdotes to exemplify our argument. In past episodes, we relied too heavily on directly stating the argument, but for the third episode, I focused on using the Pathos rhetorical technique to captivate the audience’s emotion by listening to a sentimental story about the game. This technique also played to the Ethos rhetorical technique because our audience could trust our words since this was a personal story. Throughout the production of this podcast episode, I learned effective leadership skills and thoughtful writing techniques to produce a convincing and entertaining podcast. 

Another way I wrote as a process was through the home tasking assignments, in which we completed weekly tasks posted to Twitter that tested our creative and gameful mind. Although these were not technically writing, these tasks helped develop my writing as a process skills because I took many takes of each video. For instance, for my “Yoga Throw” task, I took six takes of the video until I had a final product I felt satisfied with. I tried different ways to throw the ball, and multiple poses from which I could throw the ball into the trash can. Furthermore, for my home task when we were assigned to “do something spectacular with a pair of trousers,” I thought of many ideas before deciding to put the pants on a pair of crutches and dress them up like a mannequin. Additionally, having a creative assignment to complete amidst the current global crisis helped me feel like I had more purpose and control during this time. By building off of my classmates’ work and ideas, I felt less alone during this isolating time since we all engaged in this process together. Completing these assignments one-by-one was a process in and of itself. Each side quest, home task, podcast episode, and game reflection built upon themselves as I critiqued what worked and what needed improvement from one assignment to the next. For instance, for the “What’s in my bag” side quest, I wrote my reflection in one long paragraph. But after looking at how my classmates structured their writing in an organized list, I used that technique for multiple assignments going forward. The assignments we completed this semester probed my revising skills, as I learned that it is impossible to do something perfectly on the first try.

I accomplished the critical thinking and reading resulting in writing learning outcome by analyzing games and Jane McGonigal’s book Superbetter. When I played the role-playing game Fiasco, I embodied my new identity and analyzed the game through the lens of the character I had taken on. In my Fiasco reflection essay, I wrote “With this new identity, I felt a new sense of control. I have a clean slate and I can make whatever I want to happen try to happen.” Throughout the game, I did not think, “What would Sadie?” but rather “What would the Sadie the gambler and bookie do?” By embodying this new persona, I discovered underlying characteristics about myself. When there was conflict in the game, I took a neutral stance and helped the other players solve their problems instead of creating more. I wrote, “I think that is a valuable asset because I am not a very contentious person but rather like to help others work out their problems.” Although I played the game as a different person, my non-contentious personality still shone through as I thought critically about how to solve the problems the other players had created. As I played, I played off the ideas of my peers. Additionally, when reading Superbetter, I employed critical thinking to incorporate and apply McGonigal’s thoughts into my own life. Although the strategies she discussed to live a more gamely life often related to people I had no similarities to, I integrated her ideas to fit my own circumstances. For instance, when she described a man who taught a college class with the goal of each student running a marathon, I realized that I can accomplish difficult tasks by making them into a game that I have to win. 

The learning I completed in this class not only helped me with the specific tasks of the course but also with other classes this semester. For instance, in my Financial Accounting class, my professor assigned two group projects. Usually, I take a fairly passive role in group projects and stick to the tasks I have been assigned to complete, but after taking on a leadership role in the podcast series, I contributed tremendously to my accounting group project by delegating tasks to each member, setting up Zoom meetings to work together, and making sure we successfully executed the final product. I also learned a valuable lesson about writing as a process. I am accustomed to writing one draft without heavy editing, but this course taught me to write multiple drafts and learn from each assignment. I applied this knowledge to my art history class. For my first paper, I wrote it quickly and did not spend a lot of time editing, but throughout the semester, I fine-tuned my patience and editing skills and progressed from paper to paper by studying how I can improve between each assignment. These learning outcomes have not only improved my writing throughout this class but in other rhetorical areas of my studies. 

Our last side quest was to creatively map out our thoughts to argue we met the learning outcomes. I chose to draw my newly developed gameful brain that held the five learning outcomes with thought bubbles leading to which aspects of the course helped me meet each outcome. Although each thought does not relate directly to one another, I connected each thought together because I believe the thoughts provoked through the learning outcomes each influence each other. In a game, each move and choice leads to another, even if the player does not realize this while they are playing. This class taught me that if I utilize the skills we learned to think “gamefully,” each of life’s experiences teaches a different part of my brain a new lesson. These moments are all interconnected, and they form who I am. ENG101 has helped me realize this life-changing concept.