Building the Game-Making Community


How do we play this “making the game” together game?

I see our game-making community as spanning and bridging multiple existing communities of practice or learning networks:


  1. Nonprofit social entrepreneur with an earned income venture
  2. Champion of nonprofit use of Web2.0 technologies
  3. Educator using Web2.0 tools (like wikis and blogs)
  4. Game Player or Game Maker
  5. Promoter of Games for Learning or Games for Social Change
  6. Collaboration devotee using web2.0 tools to share knowledge & get things done

GameMaking CommunityMap4In a sense we are all “newbies.”  In another sense, we are all EXPERTS.  We each know something that the game needs.  We each have expert experience in our respective community of practice.  But working together across our communities is new to all of us.

Making the game is a structure for us to think together with.  Making the game = the game.  I believe the structure of making a game together can itself bridge and span our multiple communities – for the purpose of sharing knowledge and getting things done.  Am I crazy?  But so HOW do we LEARN HOW TO PLAY TOGETHER?

Newbie Apprenticeship 

Constance Steinkuehler eloquently describes the process by which MMO “newbies” are brought into fuller participation in the game.  “Apprenticeship” is a process by which the “teacher” and “learner” engage together to complete a task.  The more experienced player provides just enough information, just in time, for the new player to practice applying that bit of information to the task.  This “practice” – in the context of use – resulting in success or “failure” – followed immediately by feedback — creates the circumstance where new players learn to play the game better and better as they test their new skills in the company of the more experienced player. 

In OUR game-making community — our task is to mentor each other at the same time! 

Each of us is both expert and newbie at the moment of interaction: Nonprofit social entrepreneurs may know nothing about gaming/Gamers may know nothing about nonprofits.   

Asking & Answering

Kathy Sierra (Creating Passionate Users) tells us that “newbies” ask questionsExperts give answers.  Kathy suggests that the sooner folks move from asker to answerer – the faster the community grows, and the higher the engagement will be.  

In OUR game-making community — our task is to BOTH ask and answer throughout the process of making the game.  We shift and trade roles depending upon what the game needs right now.

Mutual Respect

Not hardly new news.  Kathy asks, “How can we motivate askers to become answerers?”   Tom Haskins has a neat answer:

1. I assume this is something you already do, but you don’t realize you do it. Let me show you how you do this sometimes and have success with this. Then you can amplify this exceptional conduct of yours, call upon this internal resource more often, and feel more confident about your capabilities

2. I assume this is something that can be learned, but cannot be taught. Let me support you in using your experiences to change your mind, access other choices or respond more effectively to your particular challenges. Then you can utilize what you realized yourself with your intrinsic motivation and ownership of your understanding.

3. I assume this is something you’ll do quite naturally once it makes enough sense to you. Let me share some of the ways that I’ve made more sense of what happens, different ways to approach this and why some methods backfire. Then you can make sense of what happens to you and come around to seeing the value of doing this thing on your own.

4. I assume this is something you’ll discover on your own like I did. Let me walk you through the process of my setbacks, forks in the road and battles with naysayers. Then you can take your own journey and adventure through the maze of misleading cues like a detective in a mystery story. 

On OUR game-making community — the mystery of what we will make out of our collaboration is what makes it so much FUN!  You know the old adage: there’s no such thing as a dumb question.  In our case – who’s to say what’s a dumb answer?  Well, WE are.  AFTER we test it and find out it doesn’t work in the real world.  The only really dumb thing is repeating the same mistake twice.  Even then, there’s:

“Failing” Forward

Recycling thru the content is not failure — rather it is deeper learning.  Learning is the experience cycle of practice and feedback.  Learning together is social interaction.  The whole point of our interaction and communication, as Stephen Downes suggests, is for us to change each other.

For OUR game-making community: Maybe I don’t have to learn everything the “hard way.”  Maybe I can learn from YOUR experience.  Togehter we can discover the patterns hidden in our collective experience and solve the mystery of nonprofit earned income profitability.

Use Tools to Embrace Chaos

George Siemens , regarding networks and learning design, suggests that the ecology of networked learning is a messy, chaotic space. Peter Meholz , in “designing for the sandbox,” says that the experience is — and should be — decentralized, co-created, remixed, and emergent.  Basically, the designer only has control over the tools and nothing else.  The tools are what people use to manage and manipulate information for a purpose.  So: set up the tools, throw stuff out there, and see how people use it to do whatever they can do to make a useful experience.  Nancy White keeps reminding us ‘if it ain’t useful, what’s the use?’ (my paraphrase).  My theory is that if the player/learners don’t know what’s useful to them, nobdy does.  Back to chaos.  But then there’s that other theory of thermodynamic equilibrium: we need to pass thru the state of chaos to get to stability.

GameMaking CommunityMap4For OUR game-making community, I have set up bare essential tools — a wiki and this blog — for us to use as a platform to get started.  Can we make something useful together out of nothing?


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