GAME INSPIRED!: Idea Generation Pod with Mr. Matera

I love reading or listening to creative people talk about how they work. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a MacArthur Genius award winner and incredibly thoughtful writer, is very open about his process. What I am always stuck by when he talks about his writing is how personal the process is. Mr. Coates is very open about how he is writing articles to find answers to his own questions – he wants to learn something for himself. If the readers come along with him that is simply an ancillary benefit. My former pastor had a similar message at the beginning of every sermon when he openly told the congregation in an opening prayer asking that “the words of my mouth and the meditations of my mind be acceptable in thy sight for the teacher has more questions than answers”.

In a slightly different approach Michael Shur, the creator of The Good Place and a head writer on Parks and Rec, described having the ending for first season of The Good Place in his head and then wrote into the ending. When he was asked about season 2 he gave an anecdote from one of his mentors (I can’t remember who) that told him to never be afraid to write yourself into a hole. If you haven’t watched this sitcom stop reading this, go watch it (the post will be here in 8 hours), and marvel at the hole he put his team into. Now go watch the start of season 2 and see how that risk paid off with an explosion of creativity. At some level I am waiting for the wheels to come off but the ride is amazing.

Go Google some quotes about the writing process. One thing you will hear from almost every writer about writing is that it is a miserable experience. My favorite quote is from Hemingway – “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But they all agree that the only way to become a good writer is to read and write. Louis L’Amour – “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” or Steven King – “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”  The writing process can be a transformative for both writer and the reader though. William H Gass once said “The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.”

When I hear these people talk about their process. When I read the quotes from writers about their process I cannot think of a more eloquent way to describe TEACHING!


This Tuesday I was had the immense pleasure to chat with Mr. Michael Matera (@MrMatera) on his Well Played U podcast (http://explorelikeapirate.com/podcast-33-idea-generation-process/). This was my 3rd appearance on his podcast and each time has been a blast, but the time goes by so fast! We took on the topic of what inspires our game design. We had a great time talking about our games and where we get some of our ideas. I love hearing about other people’s games and always learn something I can bring back to my students. Matera’s practice is so interesting; I think we approach classroom design in a very similar way and I am inspired by the amount of energy he is able to put into teaching other teachers how to do gamification. He is an amazing inspiration.

As I lay in bed after the recording I realized that in the half hour discussion there were so many more inspirations that I forgot to bring up in the pod! So I wanted to send out this post along with the podcast. Here are some other inspirations:

  1. #XPLAP, #XPLAPcamp & #Games4ed Community – This is a bit of a cheat. I did mention this in the pod, but there are some specific teachers and leaders that I forgot to mention. Andrew Kozlowsky (@MrKoz31) and his Zombie US History class, Scott Hebert (@MrHebertPE) and his battle boards and overall theme, Tisha Richmond (@tishrich) and the way she uses game design in her culinary class, Melissa Pilakowski (@mpilakowski) and all the work that she does running Games4ed, Jestin VanScoyoc (@jvanscoyoc), DianaLyn Perkins (@PerkyScience). Shannon Bockstahler (@BocksTech), Stephanie Crawford (@MrsCford_tweets), Noa Lahav (@supervxn) who helped me reformat #XPLAPcamp, Carrie Baughcum (@HeckAwesome), Ms. Lama (@MsLama5th), Ms. Spears (@MsSpearsTweets), Matthew Farber (@MatthewFarber) and Steve Isaacs (@mr_isaacs). Man, I am sure that I left many people off this list – I apologize and look forward to talking to all of you soon! Overall, these chats are the best of Twitter Ed. It is a group of people that are supportive and open to trying new techniques and sharing what they have done, warts and all.
  2. My wife and kids – My 2 sons (7 and 4) love playing games, both video games and board games. I love watching them playing our XBOX ONE and then try to understand what is engaging them. In fact, several of my posts have come out of these observations – one in particular is Fun Failure Promotes Healthy Risk Taking which was written after watching my boys repeatedly jump into the Sarlacc Pit in the Star Wars Disney Infinity game. My oldest has also become very interested in playing Chess and Ticket to Ride which involve a lot of strategic thinking. The ability of a 7 year old to strategically plan has really opened up my thinking about what high school students are capable of. Board games are also necessarily social events as well. My 7 year old gets either my wife or myself to play Chess which then leads to my 4 year old being on “mommy’s team”. During this time all cell phones and Kindle’s are put away and we can talk, laugh, and even teach appropriate trash talk!
  3. Disney World – Is there a more amazing example of incorporating theme and narrative? I have been to Disney World a few times over the last few years with my wife and kids and every time I am blown away by the level of detail Disney’s team puts into the theme of each land and each ride. The queue for every ride is full of little in jokes or thematic touches that could easily get overlooked. At Hollywood Studios my sons were literally hopping with joy as they walked under a full sized AT-AT and then were pointing out all the little Star Wars details like droid parts and aliens as we walked through the Fast-Pass line – I wrote about my last experience here Learning Disney’s ABCs. Speaking of the Fast-Pass line, there is a bigger post in this mechanic about personalizing the experience and risk-reward structures.
  4. Zombies, Run – This running app inspired much of my flipped classroom design. In the running app, there is a narrative breaks up the monotony of the run by adding a story line. This inspired me to break up my larger lectures into small 2 minute themed chunks with a narrative interwoven in the content. I am not a Zombie fan, but that app is amazing and highly recommended.
  5. Student Power Card Suggestions – Andrzej Marczewski (@Daverage and another great inspiration) has 6 different player types and my favorite classification is the Disruptor. These players either a) want to break the game for the fun of it or b) want to test the rules of the game to help improve it. Fostering type b) can bring a lot of advantages. I allow my students to propose new powercards in order to turn those disruptors into allies. These power cards sometimes flop but more often then bring some new strategy into the class game play.  Some of the student suggestions can be found below.
  6. Specialty and Polyhedral Dice – I bought some Dungeons and Dragons Dice Sets over the summer and just started trying to find ways to incorporate the different dice types. My favorite is the 20 sided die although a close second is the 4 sided pyramid shaped die. There are so many ways to incorporate the dice! I used dice as a key mechanic in my Boss Battle: Formative Review and A Good Day to (roll) Die: Formative Trick #1 concepts. I also have several power cards that are linked to dice rolls. (below)

The list above is some inspirations that I find outside of the gaming world. My core philosophy is Game Inspired Design and many of the mechanics that I pull into my class come from just playing games and thinking about what makes them so engaging. I also love reading about what game designers are doing and listening to gamer podcasts (a great one is on TheRinger.com called “Achievement Oriented”). But since this is the general focus of this blog there is way too much for a list like this.

I hope you enjoy the Well Played U Pod and I would love to hear where some of you get your inspiration. Be sure to Tweet at me with my Tag @MrPowley!


Some Student Suggested Power Cards

Some Dice Related Power Cards

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