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Introduction to Systems Thinking: Game Design and Learning

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

How do people learn, and how do games help people learn? In this workshop-based seminar, we will explore these questions by designing, reflecting upon, and critiquing our own games.

Solving the complex problems of the 21st-century requires systems thinking- the “art of seeing the forest and the trees.” Yet, learning systems thinking as a decontextualized theory problematizes a person’s ability to apply it in real world scenarios. In this workshop-based course, we employ an alternate mode of learning: we will use the fields of game design and learning theories as entry points to systems thinking and problem-solving.

Specifically, we will explore how games serve as models of interactive systems that afford the analysis, design, and implementation of functional solutions. We'll discuss theory and research from the fields of Cognitive Science, Systems Thinking, Situated Learning, Game-based Learning, New Media, and Design. We’ll use these readings to better understand how games are "designed experiences" that can aid understanding, evoke empathy, and promote values. Finally, we will apply these ideas throughout the course as we create, reflect upon, and critique our own games that model real-world phenomena or issues.

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Design their own playable games through an iterative creative process.
  • Articulate how games instantiate particular theories of learning.
  • Imagine how games might transform designed learning systems.

There are no hard prerequisites for this course. A familiarity with game mechanics is helpful (if you've ever played a game, you've encountered game mechanics! They are the rules, feedback mechanisms, randomization techniques, etc.). Be prepared for collaborative, hands-on design work for most of each class. Game making materials will be provided, but students are encouraged to bring their own if desired. Materials might include blank playing cards, gaming tokens and pieces, blank game boards, markers, stickers, various dice.

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