If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that I spent a little time in France in 2017, in retreat with a group of Artivists through Nomadways. We spent our days looking at story and how it relates to identity, connection, and youth work.
It was amazing. The experience, relationships, and connections made there are things I think about almost every day. If you ever have an opportunity like this, I urge you to take it. The sheer volume of ideas and projects generated then has kept me busy ever since.
I recorded a couple of ideas in a post here in 2017. I never really expected that I’d be able to make either of those ideas come to life due to the scope of each of the projects. I’m so thrilled to announce that collection 2: games is currently becoming.
Three years ago I wrote:
“I’d love to create a multi- and cross-cultural collection of games. I have an idea about creating ways to play together so that language is not a barrier. If we can play together, we can learn together. Some of the games I played with others in France were new to me, some were familiar to us all. You might be surprised to learn that you could probably walk on to a school yard in Portugal and play hopscotch without uttering a word in Portuguese.”
Last fall, like many people, I was watching the world and the local stages with wide-open heart. The Black Lives Matter movement had me asking what I could do on a personal level to make change. I had the tremendous opportunity to participate in a day of learning that began with a keynote by Desmond Cole and included a wide variety of workshops and activities to broaden participants thinking and capacity when it comes to the complexity of living in a culturally pluralistic society. At the same time, I was preparing to enter the final phase of my Masters Degree, trying to make a decision as to what my exit pathway was going to look like.
Up it bubbled:
collection 2: games.
The idea has transformed considerably from when it was first conceived. Originally I thought it would be a book with a variety of games from different places, something that could live in school libraries and be the focus of some local workshops. Revisiting this idea, it has far more potential than to spend most of its life on a library shelf.
Most people are familiar with the ‘iceburg’ analogy for culture – that things on the top, the visible parts of culture are the things that we’re most familiar with. They include things like food, clothing, language, arts, and (yes) games.
Under the surface of all of these things are the deeper aspects of culture – the factors that have shaped those surface items. Our understanding of gender roles and expectations, along with our notions of self and our religious beliefs (deep culture facets) will shape our choices in clothing and the roles we take on in enacting cultural celebrations (surface culture facets).
Games are informed by deep cultural facets – proxemics, power distance, chronemics, construction of rules, social etiquette, social status, high/low context, and so very much more. We can understand more about a culture by the games that are played within it. I find this utterly fascinating, enough that I’ve shifted my Masters exit path to take this seed and grow it into a pilot-ready Open Education Resource.
If such things interest you, one of the papers I’ve come back to over and over again was written in 1959, by John Roberts, Malcolm Arth, and Robert Bush. It’s simply called Games in Culture and digs into the ethnography of games. These fellas identified the definition of and categories of games that endure to this day. There has been work done to expand theirs, but as far as I can tell, this is a seminal work.
Learning about all of this has let me wander around in Huizinga’s Homo Ludens (1938) through Ruckenstein (1991), Abt’s Serious Games (1970), and of course, the ideas of Piaget and Vygotsky.
Some of the most powerful connections for me have come out of the growing understanding of the power of place-based learning (particularly by reading Gruenewald and Smith, 2014), and how these two ideas (games as cultural referents and place-based learning) could intersect. I’m exploring this more in my degree writing, but intend to write about it here sometime, too.
So, I’m getting going. Launching, in fact. The hard work part has begun, and the anticipated completion point is mid-June. My hope is to poke my nose in here from time to time, to share progress. (Oh – and all this is also to share that I’m not taking on any new contracts until this project is completed.)
Abt, C. C. (1970). Serious games. Viking Compass.
Gruenewald, D. A., & Smith, G. A. (Eds.). (2014). Place-based education in the global age: Local diversity. Routledge.
Roberts, J. M., Arth, M. J., & Bush, R. R. (1959). Games in culture. American anthropologist, 61(4), 597-605.
Ruckenstein, M. (1991). Homo ludens: a study of the play element in culture. Leisure and Ethics, 237.