Down the Rabbit Hole: How To Turn Your Class into an Alternate Reality Game

Re-posted from Ludic Learning : By Paul Darvasi

the_rabbit_hole_by_blargofdoom-d6i6w0pAre you Ready to Ascend to Epic Awesomeness?

Have you lost sleep wondering how to turn your class into the most epic adventure of all time? Can you imagine your students climbing over each others backs to get to your class and collectively groaning when it’s over? If you think you’re ready to ascend to a whole new level of awesomeness, brace yourself. Today begins your initiation to learn the ancient and jealously guarded secret of how to turn your class into an alternate reality game (ARG for short). You’ve never heard of alternate reality games, or you’re not quite sure what they’re all about? Leave your doubts and hesitations at the door and enter – all will be explained and the path will become clear(-ish). All mysteries will be demystified, and all secrets will be, well, unsecreted.

An Alternate Reality Collaboration


This tale begins two years ago, when John Fallon and I met at the Games in Education Symposium in Upstate New York, where we were presenting on the ARGs we’d designed for our classes. We quickly discovered a shared appreciation for games, books and secret societies and forged an instant friendship. It wasn’t long before talks turned to designing a game to be played between our two schools. Undaunted by the international border that separated us, we Skyped, Googled, Facetimed, Facebooked, Instagrammed, Tweeted and Retweeted, until Blind Protocol was born. What ensued was an immersive 30-day game that pit our two classes in the US and Canada in a mock-cyberwarfare simulation. By the time it was over, our students were well versed in the pitfalls of privacy, surveillance and online security. And they had fun. Yes, fun. Yes, in school.

This past summer, we were lucky enough to present on our work at the International Boys School Conference (IBSC) in Cape Town, South Africa and the Games in Education Symposium (GIE) in Albany, NY. One of the many promises that were made to the session participants was that we would publish a one-stop-shop resource to help ease them down the ARG rabbit hole. So here you have it – the recipe to channel the transformative power that will let you run your class as an immersive alternate reality game.

This first post will ground you in an overview of ARGs and their uses in education, and the next post will provide all the resources you need to get started.

Continue the complete blog post by Paul Darvasi HERE.


Center for Games & Learning

CGL_Logo_Web2Site: Center for Games and Learning: text from the site

The Center for Games & Learning at MNU’s Mabee Library sponsors game design and game research for use in educational settings.

Effective learning for 21st century leadership demands expertise in skills such as communication, collaboration, problem solving, flexibility, creativity, and innovation.  Tabletop games can function as powerful learning engines, requiring players to practice these 21st century skills.

As educators learn how to use—and even design—games as learning systems, they engage learners with cultural relevance.  To this end, the Center for Games & Learning at MNU:

  • Curates an extensive game collection
  • Disseminates cutting-edge research on games and learning
  • Help educators adapt games for educational purposes
  • Seeks renewal within P-12, homeschool, and post-secondary classrooms
  • Trains librarians seeking to support their communities through gameplay

While you are here, please explore our up-to-date interactive games collection list.

We believe that today’s learners want to explore new ideas socially and playfully. And if you agree, then please let us know! We are always looking for conversation partners who share our interest in game design for learning. When time allows, please come by the MNU Mabee Library in person to check out our game collection, to meet up with other educators or game designers, or just to try out a new game with friends!

Link to site: Center for Games & Learning

Reacting to the Past

ReactingtothePastFrom the Site @ Banard
“Reacting was completely unique in my college experience…. The words of Gandhi, Socrates, and other historical figures became mine, transcending the academic distance to which I had grown accustomed… Their thoughts, their histories, their biographies are real and alive in my mind.”
—Amanda Houle, Barnard College alumna

Reacting to the Past (RTTP) consists of elaborate games, set in the past, in which students are assigned roles informed by classic texts in the history of ideas. Class sessions are run entirely by students; instructors advise and guide students and grade their oral and written work. It seeks to draw students into the past, promote engagement with big ideas, and improve intellectual and academic skills. Reacting to the Past was honored with the 2004 Theodore Hesburgh Award (TIAA-CREF) for outstanding innovation in higher education.

Pioneered by historian Mark C. Carnes, Reacting to the Past (RTTP) has been implemented at over 300 colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad. The initiative is sustained by the Reacting Consortium, an alliance of colleges and universities that promotes imagination, inquiry, and engagement as foundational features of teaching and learning in higher education. The Consortium provides programs for faculty development and curricular change, including a regular series of conferences and workshops, online instructor resources, and consulting services.


This text is taken directly from the Reacting to the Past site at Barnard College

An Alternate Reality Online Class

Re-posted from Center for Game & Simulation Based Learning
Posted in
Blog, Featured By David Seelow, PhD. On February 17, 2016

This past Fall I taught one of the first ever, if not the very first, 100% online class as an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). As a pilot, the course ended a solid success and I am revising it for the summer session. Secrets: A Cyberculture Mystery Game is an upper level Humanities course that focuses on the rise of cyberculture and its impact on changing ideas of personal identity. The game was designed by my trusted colleague, Lee Sheldon, an expert game designer and Professor – at the time from nearby Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), and now somewThe Collective Logohat further away at Worchester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). The game/course illustrates the principles outlined in Lee’s path-breaking book The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game (Cengage, 2012). Secrets is not gamification. It is a game.

The heart of the game is a science fiction mystery story about the Internet that starts with Professor Grey (that’s me or whomever teaches the course) being contacted from the future (the rabbit hole of an ARG) by an organization called The Collective. As the story unfolds, The Collective promotes a new belief in “primal empathy,” a utopian form of bioengineering. They are opposed by a freedom fighting resistance group or counter force called Fortress Nine. As the course progresses a humanitarian group, The CareHart Foundation, comes into play and later a more nefarious corporate entity called Chromogen. The unfolding layers of mystery keep the students engaged and motivated in striving to solve the mystery. They also identify with the characters and the ideas these characters represent. Videos convey the story to the players/students. The characters are played by amateur actors just as I play the role of Professor Grey. I created a fictional bio and Facebook page for the professor. Each episode’s class forum or discussion board requires players/students to respond to the story’s events.

The course makes use of an ARG’s key elements beginning with the rabbit hole mentioned above. Each organization has their own fictional website (requires a domain purchase and IT help) and email contacts so that players/students can contact the organization directly and those emails get routed to my game center email. When I respond to the player/student, I respond as if from that organization maintaining the illusion of the 4th wall. Drama includes the course (a Blackboard site) being hacked (when players/students log in that day their grades have disappeared and assignments are scrambled), a riddle solved by the class, and a final arrest! …….

Read the rest at: Center for Simulation & Game Based Learning


The Ultimate Education for Video Game Lovers

tabletHeadRe-posted from TechRadar  By , January 17, 2016 Gaming

Apparently – and excuse me as I adjust my Grumpy Old Man hat – you can now play video games as part of a school curriculum.

Sure, that school is in Norway, where they are progressive and cooler than actual snow (of which they have plenty), but it’s a sign that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, even though things like global warming and Donald Trump are infinitely more indicative of that. Let’s all just keep getting angry at video games, much like cavemen were scared of fire back when that was all the rage.

Okay, time to take off the Grumpy Old Man hat. It makes me cranky.

One pioneering Norwegian high school has introduced an elective eSports course as part of its curriculum. But I ask: why stop there? Imagine a future where children are educated solely by video games.

But what would the curriculum look like? If we are going to teach through games, we’d better do it right. So, here I present my plan for the world’s first video game school.


There is no greater maths professor in the real or virtual world than Doctor Kawashima from Nintendo’s Brain Training. Not only is he someone that makes maths fun – mostly by judging your brain to be that of a middle-aged dog rather than a 15-year-old kid – but he’s also an assist trophy in Smash Bros, which means he can take you out if you don’t do your homework. And he will.


So long as you don’t care too much about actual, factual history and you’re okay with learning about how one bunch of people were responsible for basically everything good in history, then you’ll love the Assassin’s Creed History module. Remember, pupils: if you always put “it was all the Templar’s fault” then you’re almost certain to ace your exams.

Religious Studies

All that boring New Testament stuff tends to weigh you down after a while. It’s all so… nice. You liked the Old Testament way more, with bits about God’s Wrath and fire raining down from the skies. Vengeful God was much more Hollywood. Well, good news: your RE teacher has been replaced with Bayonetta. She’s tall, scary, and she beats up Old Testament angels for a living. That’s what I go to school for.


Everyone hates PE, but everyone loves Wii Fit! All you need is your gym kit, extra socks, a towel, a Wii, a balance board, and one Wii remote per person. Easy, right? But if you do still loathe PE as much as ever… well, now you have more things to conveniently “forget”.


Where’s the fun in learning grammar if you can’t go out and use it in the real world to make dinosaurs appear out of thin air? There is none, so that’s why English would be about playing Scribblenauts. Students would learn how to use verbs, nouns and adjectives as they mine Scribblenauts’ impressively vast dictionary in order to solve the series of puzzles. It’s the only time in their lives where they’ll be rewarded for writing rude words.


When it comes to physics, who better to teach it than Portal’s no-nonsense GLaDOS? Not only is she ridiculously intelligent, her sarcastic wit is a class apart – and for those reasons I would prescribe Portal 2 for all science students. It’s also a good game for teaching children how to work together and, more importantly, how people will inevitably let them down.

I’d also recommend Spore for educating children about evolution and, again, how life is full of disappointments.

Food Tech

Speaking from experience, my Food Tech lessons always seemed to be less “let’s make something cool, ambitious and actually worth eating” and more “make a cake, or whatever, I don’t care”. Cooking Mama would never let you down in such a way. She’s perky, encouraging, and does everything step-by-step so you never get lost. You might actually learn something from her.


There aren’t many games where you can learn geography without subsequently declaring it as yours, but Civilisation is a game that takes it one step further: You discover land and other tribes, and then re-create it as your own weird, messed up version of Earth where a hyper-aggressive Gandhi was the world’s first superpower. Learning is fun!

And there you have it. If you are on some kind of school board and you would like to buy my ideas off me for lots of money, please contact my editor.

Re-posted from TechRadar  By , January 17, 2016 Gaming

Is the Educational Games Industry Falling Into the Same Trap It Did 20 Years Ago?

half_size_Venus_Flytrap-1454843751By Blake Montgomery (2/7/2016).  Re-posted from Edsurge

Carmen Sandiego has reappeared.

Last November, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt released “Carmen Sandiego Returns,” the first iPad and iPhone version of the classic game in which players use their geography knowledge to track Carmen and her goons across the world.

Her re-emergence coincides with a resurgence in the popularity of educational games. The Apple App Store, for instance, boasts 80,000 apps in its “Educational” category. Teachers increasingly blog and write about using game-based learning in their classrooms. And the market for educational games may be worth $2.3 billion by next year.

Carmen may be in plain sight now, but things aren’t the same as when she last appeared. Once an icon of the educational gaming software in the mid-90’s—also known as the “edutainment” era—Carmen hasn’t been hiding as much as trying to claw her way back from obscurity. Her disappearance was less intentional and more reflective of the collapse of the edutainment industry.

Aftershocks of the collapse of the edutainment industry still trouble today’s teeming edtech market. Many of the key players from back then see history repeating itself: A crowded market doomed the majority of edutainment companies, just as the App Store’s . What can today’s educational game developers learn from that boom-and-bust period?

The Heyday of Edutainment

To many, the embodiment of the edutainment industry was The Learning Company, the maker of such classics as “Reader Rabbit,” “Zoombinis,” “The Oregon Trail” and “Carmen Sandiego,” and several others that were popular in classrooms in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The company exploded soon after its inception. Sales reached $1 million in 1983, the first year it incorporated, and doubled each subsequent year, according to founder Ann McCormick’s blog. She and her team built a number of acclaimed titles in their early years like Rocky’s Boots, which won Software of the Year awards from several magazines. IBM contracted the company to create games for the PCjr. The games came prepackaged with Apple II computers as the desktop soared in popularity in schools.

The Learning Company was not without its troubles, though; it cycled through a number of executives between 1980 and 1985, with McCormick leaving in 1985. Nevertheless, the company continued to…

Continue article at original site: Edsurge

A Review On The Benefits of Video Games in Education

Re-posted from Gamification Co of 1/14/2016

gamesinclassResources and Further Readings on the Benefits of Video Games in Education

Many recent articles have been critical of the computer games industry siting evidence of the negative effects of computer games on learning and even on physical and mental health. These studies raise the alarm about how video games lead to addictions, violent behavior, sexism, lack of physical exercise and other terrible consequences in children.

However, some recent study reviews have suggested that those evaluations are short-sighted. A review by Professor Gerald Mattingly found that the consensus of research confirms how playing video games (both violent and non-violent types) improves visual attention as well as spatial-motor skills.

Educational video games and simulators can teach educational skills such as algebra, biology, photography, computer programming, and flight training. Studies also suggest that appropriate simulation games can improve a child’s sense of self esteem and even improve socialization skills, leadership skills, and team building.  Continue the article here…

Megagame Society

megagameSocietyAbout The MegaGame Society

The MegaGame Society is a collection of game designers, graphic artists, and megagame enthusiasts that are all committed to designing, developing, and running high quality 20+ person games. We currently are devoted to developing this genre and bringing these games to everyone! Based in NYC, we work with groups across the US, Canada and the world to help them setup their own local Megagame groups and run games of their own.

WatchTheSkiesLogoCurrent MegaGame: Watch the Skies

Part RPG and part board game, our flagship fame “Watch the Skies” brings together 60 players who will play on teams as various nations, news reporters, corporate factions and the alien visitors.

Watch the Skies takes place in a near future Earth very much like our own… but aliens have arrived on the planet. Around 60 players will play on teams as nations, news reporters, and, of course, the aliens, while Earth struggles to figure out what is going on and if they can do it before civilization dissolves into chaos. Nations are represented by players acting as Heads of State, Deputy Heads of State, Chief Scientists, Military Commanders, and Foreign Ministers. Expect exciting battles, research on alien artifacts, espionage, and a version of the United Nations that’s a lot more fun than the one you modeled in high school. There’s also plenty of mysterious alien intrigue and scrappy press that can make or break the game.

Go to MegaGame Society Website


Lifelong Kindergarten

llk_logoLifelong Kindergarten Web Site

The Lifelong Kindergarten group is fortunate to be located within the MIT Media Lab, a hotbed of creative activity. In one corner of the Media Lab, students are designing new musical instruments. In another corner, students are designing new social-networking software. This type of activity makes the Media Lab not just a good research lab, but a good place for learning, since people learn a great deal when they are actively engaged in designing, creating, and inventing things.

Unfortunately, most children don’t get the opportunity to engage in these types of creative activities. In school, they learn specific facts and skills, but rarely get the opportunity to design things — or to learn about the process of designing things. Outside school, they interact with electronic toys and games, but they don’t learn how to invent new ones.

In the Lifelong Kindergarten group, we’re trying to change that. We believe that it is critically important for all children, from all backgrounds, to grow up knowing how to design, create, and express themselves. We are inspired by the ways children learn in kindergarten: when they create pictures with finger paint, they learn how colors mix together; when they create castles with wooden blocks, they learn about structures and stability. We want to extend this kindergarten style of learning, so that learners of all ages continue to learn through a process of designing, creating, experimenting, and exploring.

Our ultimate goal is a world full of playfully creative people who are constantly inventing new opportunities for themselves and their communities.

Lifelong Kindergarten Web Site


Games for Educators

GamesForEducators PicFrom the Games for Educators Website

What’s the big deal about games in education?

One of the things we’ve learned over the years is that the brain is like a muscle. The more it exercises, the more it can do. In fact, in this study, researchers found that playing board games twice a week increased the brain speed scores of elementary students by a staggering 27 – 32%!

Does this mean that playing games will turn your students into geniuses? Probably not, but as an educator, those numbers are tough to discount.

To make matters more interesting, two studies in the journal Cognition (one from MIT and the other from UC-Berkeley) indicate that in some situations direct teaching is actually inferior to experiential learning. Outrageous, right? It turns out that children who are playing develop a stronger sense of creativity and inquisitiveness, exactly the things we need our students to have. Here’s the Slate article all about those studies.

Play isn’t just for elementary school, either. Take a moment to watch this TED Talks presentation, where Dr. Stuart Brown does a great job of showing us that play is for all ages, that it does a lot more than just help us exercise our brains.

Those benefits often come in surprising ways. For example, here’s a research-based artiicle by Dr. Sarah Itzhaki about shyness and how playing can help a student break through into a world of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Study after study has confirmed it: play is good for everyone. From preschools all the way up through nursing homes, educators and caregivers are using play to engage the mind and fire the imagination.

Our Mission

The Games for Educators web site and newsletter are dedicated to supporting the use of games and toys in education. We want to help educators of all types fully engage the minds of children, and take advantage of all the benefits that play brings.

Games for Educators Website