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Call for Papers

2019 FDG Game Educators’ Symposium (GESym)

A Full-Day Workshop at FDG 2019, August 26-30, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA.

General Information

GESym is focused on practical issues of games education in the context of three major problem areas facing games educators and educators who happen to use games as a vehicle.

We hope to give educators useful tools to handle their immediate problems, as well as to develop a *community* of games educators who can support each other in their day to day work, provide mentorship opportunities, and make efforts to resolve these larger problems in the long term.

Our submission deadline for both tracks is April 10. We hope to notify authors by May 1.

Main Track

For the main workshop talks, we welcome abstract submissions directly via email to Abstracts will be reviewed by the organizers; all relevant submissions will be showcased at some point during the symposium, and a juried selection will be given presentation slots. Please keep abstracts under 500 words; we hope to have a good mix of clever solutions, disappointing surprises, and brand new challenges to discuss. We hope that abstracts address one or more of three interconnected major problem areas: Access to games in the educational context; Innate tensions in the curriculum; and supporting students from diverse backgrounds. We are also open to submissions outside the scope of these areas, and hope to emphasize that even unsuccessful attempts to address them are worth discussing at the workshop!

Area 1: Access to Games in the Educational Context

In a games course, it is natural to require that students play games and reflect on them.
For a variety of reasons, this is not always feasible; assuming the games are theoretically available, they may simply be too expensive to acquire. Even then, students with different literacies, manual dexterity, levels of ability, and background may find a given game completely inaccessible.

  • How much of a game does one need to see to comprehend it for the purposes of a class?
  • How well can we learn the nature of a game from a video as opposed to play?
  • How do we assess whether students have gotten something out of a game playing assignment?
  • And what about the instructors’ own literacies and abilities, knowledge of current trends and past history, and ability to invest free time in game play?

We invite case studies describing how educators have approached these issues (successfully and unsuccessfully!), visions for making progress on these problems, and accounts of further related concerns that are not anticipated above.

Area 2: Curricular Tensions

Games are an art form and an entertainment medium; a great uniter and fertile grounds for division and exclusion; products to be consumed and instruments for creativity. Games are full of contradictions, and game education is drawn into these tensions.

  • How do we balance teaching fundamental concepts with training students for particular game-making tools?
  • Is there a difference between teaching computer science fundamentals using games and teaching game development for game development students?
  • How can we use games effectively as a vehicle for subject areas as diverse as CS, media studies, and psychology?
  • Conversely, what do we lose if we overemphasize games as engineering problems grounded in a CS education, or as media objects divorced from the processes and code that underlie them?
  • Does the pressure of just getting something working prevent students from thinking deeply about what they are making in the first place?
  • And under such pressures, how do we prevent, detect, and resolve problems of academic dishonesty?
  • How can we balance the rich community support around closed-source, proprietary tools with the instructor (and student) control afforded by open-source alternatives, for pedagogical purposes?
  • Do we necessarily want to orient (all of our?) game development students towards game development jobs?
  • Does teaching students to become deft game designers effectively inculcate the critical thinking that is an essential postcondition of an undergraduate education?

Area 3: Supporting Students from Diverse Backgrounds

Diversity takes many forms in the educational context, ranging from differences in students’ socioeconomic background or other axes of oppression to the diversity offered by having a mix of media studies and computer science majors in the same class.

  • How can we fairly assess students who either have different levels of preparation or are specialized to the point that they work on disjoint aspects of a team project?
  • How can we achieve academic rigor without excluding people based on arbitrary criteria?
  • How do we achieve equitable instruction that supports complete people with lives and concerns outside the scope of the class?
  • What do we do in the classroom about the problem of harrassment in videogame culture, about the working conditions of e-sports athletes, and about the mixed (and sometimes problematic) incentives and relationships between streamers, their audiences, and their sponsors?
  • Game designs are machines that can influence human behavior; how do we teach students to identify ethical versus unethical uses of gameful design?
  • How do we empower students to organize and advocate for themselves and their worth as laborers when they are making games for a living?

Model Assignments

For the model assignments track, we also welcome submissions by email ( containing e.g. compressed archives of the assignments, links to version controlled repositories, et cetera. We also ask for a brief (one or two page) document detailing:

  • What this assignment is about
  • Key learning outcomes of the assignment
  • What population of students it is appropriate for, including any prerequisites
  • Any other requirements for using this assignment
  • Thoughts on how to adapt it up or down in difficulty or complexity

We intentionally keep the nature of “assignments” here vague: It could be a programming assignment, a design challenge, a template for reflection and critical play, a set of games which played in juxtaposition admit some deep analysis, a project in game player ethnography, or anything else. We will maintain long-term copies of these assignments for posterity which authors may ask to update at their leisure; we are also happy to link to existing resources. At the workshop, model assignments will be briefly presented in one batch, with time afterwards for informal questions and answers.

Ongoing Support

No later than the date of the workshop, we will set up and maintain an (opt-in!) online community for discussing the topics of the workshop and for ongoing mentorship/support.

Statement of Values

The organizers of the GESym workshop at Foundation of Digital Games 2019 affirm FDG’s Statement of Values: a commitment to scholarly integrity, collegiality and professionalism, and inclusivity towards scholars of all backgrounds.