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BoardGameGeek» Forums » Gaming Related » Games in the Classroom

Subject: Helping students define terms rss

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Mr. Boardgame
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How would you teach students at the high school level how to identify a theme in a game (particularly video games)?

Also, my students are confusing conflict with objectives in a game. When I ask them what the conflict in a particular game is they state the challenge (i.e. jumping over spaces). It seems to me the conflict is what the player experiences when pursuing the objectives of the game.
 
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Charles Waterman
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This is very interesting Joe. Are you doing a genre study of games - similar to a genre study of a form of literature? Don't really fully understand the terms I'm using here, but I'm intrigued by your questions.
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Ryan Keane
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Just like the many discussions we have here on BGG, there are conflicting opinions on what is theme in a game, or how a game can be thematic. Is it simply the setting and context, is it how well the mechanisms are integrated with the setting (simulation?), is it how immersive the game is (role playing?), is it how much the game provides narrative arc? I think the best way would be to examine many different types of games (Go, Puerto Rico, Diplomacy, Twilight Struggle, Pandemic, Arkham Horror, War of the Ring, etc., as well as video games) to explore the various ways that theme and thematic elements can be defined and portrayed in game, perhaps with them writing persuasive essays arguing if X or Y game is or is not thematic. I'm pretty sure there are some good texts on board/video game design that talk about theme to use as well - I just don't recall the titles/authors and would need to do some hunting.

Conflict in board games usually refers specifically to players attacking each other. More loosely defined, it can refer to competitive player interaction. I wouldn't refer to it as "what the player experiences when pursuing the objectives of the game;" that's the game play, strategy, and tactics. "Jumping over spaces" is a mechanism. Objectives are the goals of the game, the winning conditions and/or ways you score points.
 
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Mr. Boardgame
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But there is a very gray area between conflict and objectives. When I have asked students to explain the conflict in a game they have told me the objectives. How does one solve that confusion?
 
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Jordan Fraser
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teachergame wrote:
But there is a very gray area between conflict and objectives. When I have asked students to explain the conflict in a game they have told me the objectives. How does one solve that confusion?


The way I view it is the conflict is the thematic problem that needs to be solved, or in other words the overarching story. For instance, save the world from a crisis, defeat the head villain. This would be reflective of a literary definition of conflict where the protagonist is against man, society, etc.

On the other hand, I view objectives as the smaller accomplishments that help lead the player to overcome the thematic conflict.
 
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Charles Waterman
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teachergame wrote:
But there is a very gray area between conflict and objectives. When I have asked students to explain the conflict in a game they have told me the objectives. How does one solve that confusion?


Well, in some cases (speaking in **game** terms here, not literary ones) the objectives ARE the conflict. In other words, Joe, in some games (CRPGs for example) the player doesn't always **know** what the overarching conflict is because she doesn't know who the boss enemy is yet. Reaching the next objective **IS** the conflict for the player at that point in the game.

On the other hand, in a "euro game" like Agricola when dealing with limited resources, the conflict is abstract (building the farm which will score me the most status in my society) and often unclear (many paths to victory), while the immediate objectives are quite concrete (competing with other players to get enough wood and reed to build another room onto my house / collecting enough clay and stone to buy that useful oven to feed my family more efficiently, etc.) I think this causes the casual player to identify more with the objectives as conflicts than the abstract story of the game.

What do you think, Joe?
 
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Brad Neuhauser
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teachergame wrote:
But there is a very gray area between conflict and objectives. When I have asked students to explain the conflict in a game they have told me the objectives. How does one solve that confusion?


Less about the gaming, and more about the pedagogy:

Your post title says "Helping students define terms" but your post is about how the students are not giving correct examples of the conflict and/or objectives. It sounds to me like these terms are not clearly defined enough for the students.

You are the teacher. How have you defined for them what "conflict" and "objective" mean for your study? Have you also given them a couple of examples from games everyone knows. (Uno?) If you haven't taught them this, how are you expecting them to give the answer you expect when given more complex games to analyze?

Alternatively, if you want students to define the terms, you could give examples of conflicts and objectives in a number of games, and they could construct and debate definitions themselves.
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Mr. Boardgame
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Perfect! Thanks.
 
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Mr. Boardgame
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Poserdisposer wrote:
teachergame wrote:
But there is a very gray area between conflict and objectives. When I have asked students to explain the conflict in a game they have told me the objectives. How does one solve that confusion?


The way I view it is the conflict is the thematic problem that needs to be solved, or in other words the overarching story. For instance, save the world from a crisis, defeat the head villain. This would be reflective of a literary definition of conflict where the protagonist is against man, society, etc.

On the other hand, I view objectives as the smaller accomplishments that help lead the player to overcome the thematic conflict.


This one is perfect.
 
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