In the fall of 2012, when Jesse Stommel and I were invited by Adeline Koh to give a talk on digital pedagogy to the Greater Than Games and PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge Initiatives at Duke University, we knew that we had to do something unique. With Adeline, we settled on the title “Digital Pedagogy, Play, and Mass Collaboration” for the lecture, and we set to work coming up with an engaging way to talk about our work as pedagogues and scholars over the previous two years. The result was a collaborative social media game that we called Twitter vs. Zombies. With over 150 players, we developed, played, and processed the game with over a hundred players between Nov. 9-12, and we walked into our presentation at Duke that afternoon ready to talk through something fresh and exciting — an immersive digital story that engaged players and that focused on increasing network knowledge and digital literacies for players.
Over the next two years the game was formally renamed (#TvsZ), played five more times, and forked into a new narrative. Along with five colleagues, Andrea Rhen and I recently presented a mini-version of the game in a “learnshop” format at Educause’s annual ELI meeting, and we’re reorganizing to present on a full game again at this year’s Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Conference sponsored by Online Learning Consortium.
That’s a lot of backstory to a game that began as a simple adaptation of Humans vs. Zombies and has become a flexible pedagogical framework for introducing individuals and groups to the joys of digital collaboration, storytelling, and play. As Maha Bali, Janine DeBaise, Lizzie Finnegan, Christina Hendricks, JR Dingwall, Andrea Rehn, and I virtually prepared for last week’s presentation, we continued to run-up against a new challenge: how do you run a game in 45 minutes that normally takes place over an entire weekend? We had to boil the game down to its most basic mechanic (tag) and its most important thematic element (collaborative storytelling). Inasmuch our feedback reveals, the presentation was successful, introducing around 50 new players to the game and hopefully beginning conversations about learning, connectivity, collaboration, and play in some new corners. Thanks to Leisha Jones at Penn State who dragged her class into the game, Rolin Moe for his encouraging comments after the session, and Derek Bruff whose awesome notes from the session are featured above, and special thanks to the collaborative admin team members with whom it’s been a pleasure to work for the last six months!
We’ve been asked to turn our learnshop presentation into a submission to the University of Central Florida’s Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository which has inspired a conversation about whether the current #TsvZ admin group should also prepare for a larger publishing project on the game. Between submitting to TOPR, building and promoting a new 3-day game for April, and preparing for a the ET4Online presentation, we’ve got lots of work to do — let’s remember, everyone on this “team” is also working away at their own university jobs. All of us have other academic projects running simultaneously. But if we’re always working to expand the overlap of what we must do and what we enjoy doing, #TvsZ will continue to evolve in the directions best suited for its audience. Facilitating and critically reflecting on that evolution have brought me a lot of joy, so I’m in. I hope that you’ll join us.