TITLE: FrameGames! AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: October 30, 2004 11:44 AM DESC: These little game frameworks are a great way to introduce some fun into a learning situation without the teacher having to do too much work. ----- BODY: Steve Metsker and Bill Wake led a fun games session at the Educators Symposium last week. Not only did we play four games, but Steve and Bill taught us a way to generate more games of the same sort. The games we played were instantiations of what they call frames, which work a lot like frameworks in object-oriented programming. Each frame is a partially-defined game, with the primary control rules built into the frame. To create a new game, you simply fill in the missing content on which the rules act. You can, of course, specialize or override one or more of the rules if that best suits your context. As an example, consider the first frame we learned, Best Fit, which is adapted from the game Apples to Apples. Apparently, Apples to Apples has been a popular party game in recent years, though I hadn't heard of it. In Best Fit, the game master sets up the game by creating a set of five adjectives, say, "confusing", "underrated", "specialized", "inspiring", and "weird". Players break off into groups of five or so. They create twenty noun cards, say, the names of twenty famous computer scientists. (Can you name 20? That seemed to be a challenge for some folks at the symposium!) The name cards are shuffled and dealt to the players. Play proceeds as a sequence of 'tricks' in which one of the adjective cards is revealed and each player plays the card from his or her hand that best fits the adjective. Players take turns sitting out of tricks and acting as judge -- which player has played the noun that best fits the adjective in play? Variations include allowing lobbying or not and disqualifying the last card played from judging (in order to encourage rapid recognition and a little excitement, I presume). Winning and losing the game is less important than the thinking that goes into playing nouns and judging fit. Though we didn't discuss debriefing the game, I imagine that doing so would give the class as a whole a chance to explore the content of the game at a deeper level. From the teacher's perspective, the idea behind the frame is that the adjectives and nouns can be just about anything. We played a second instance in which the nouns were algorithms and the adjectives were big-oh classes and other characterizations of of algorithms. Creating a new game is as easy as choosing suitable nouns and adjectives from any area of study. The second frame we learned is Envelopes, attribute to a fellow named Thiagi. In this game, three groups of five players or so each compete to produce the best answer to a question written on the outside of an envelope. The game master prepares three envelopes, each with a different question on the outside. In round one, each team is given an envelope, drafts an answer to its question, writes it on an index card or sheet of paper, and stuffs it into the envelope. For the second round, each team passes its envelope to another group, which does the same thing the first team did, without looking inside the envelope. In the third round, the envelopes are again passed to the group that has not yet seen the question. Instead of answering the question, this time the group takes the two answers from the envelope and judges which one is better. Teams score points for having their answers selected as the winner. The game can consist of any number of rounds. Again, debriefing may well add learning value, as players explore why one answer was judged better than another or what the nuances in the question are. And, again from the teacher's perspective, creating new instances of Envelopes is as easy as drafting three questions that require some thought and that can lead to useful discussion of course material. Heck, three good midterm questions might do the job just fine. Maybe I will break the tension of one of my classes later this semester with an instance of one of these games. Bill said that he will post the slides of their presentation to us on his XPlorations web site soon. -----