Composing Play: Epic Learning in Literacy Spaces

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I adopt Jane McGonigal's framework of "epic scale" to talk about elements of epic learning in and through the teaching of writing (Reality is Broken, 2011). It may be that no writing course can ever match the intensity of a campus wide tournament of Humans vs. Zombies or the sheer scale of World of Warcraft, but the language helps us think through ways that we use game design, paired with writing and writing pedagogy, both to make large class spaces feel intimate and to encourage small classes to feel empowered over their learning. This talk shares the design and success of two large "epic," game-based college experiences: the design of a "jumbo" writing class that infuses game design and play within the activities and structures, and an augmented reality, quest-driven, adventure game created for incoming freshmen called Early Start: EPIC. Data drawn from these game-based course designs show that the spaces provide contexts for action as a form of service to larger, shared goals, encourage wholehearted participation, and provide mechanisms for the exchange of expertise.

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