In The Form of A Question: INTE5320 Play Journal 2

In The Form Of A Question: Jeopardy! World Tour For iPhone


This entry is about my gaming experience with Jeopardy! World Tour for iPhone. In order to enhance the depth of my gaming analyses, I decided to select a game with more interactive characteristics such as competition with other players and a broader range of skill development (i.e. something more complex than completing a crossword puzzle). I have always been an avid fan of Jeopardy and (to the chagrin of my company) take pride in my vast amount of seemingly trivial knowledge. Despite my broad exposure to Jeopardy, I am approaching this game with the expectation that the “in-game” features of the software and the “in-room” context surrounding my play (Stevens et al, 2008) will make for a much different experience than Jeopardy on television. By accounting for these aspects of my gaming experience, I will evaluate the quality of Jeopardy! World Tour based on my level of engagement as a player.

After my previous experiences with NYT Crossword, I decided to seek out another game based on another interest of mine. As someone who rarely plays video games, I decided to use my iPhone again and search for a suitable topic. My recent viewings of Jeopardy on television reignited my passion for the show and inspired me to seek out a Jeopardy game app. After grabbing my iPhone and entering my passcode, I clicked on the App Store icon and selected the “search” feature at the bottom of the screen. After typing in “Jeopardy” on the digital keyboard, I scrolled through the results and selected Jeopardy! World Tour from the top of the list. After downloading and installing the game, I clicked on the icon to start.

As a popular game TV show with many devoted fans, Jeopardy has rules that are commonly understood my many. In order to understand Jeopardy! World Tour, however, it is important to understand how its rules depart from the popular television series. Each Jeopardy episode consists of three contestants who are tasked with answering trivia questions in six categories for two rounds followed by a “final” round. Each trivia category has value squares ranging from 200-1000 in value with difficulty increasing in proportion to dollar amount. After two rounds of these questions with varying levels of difficulty, the contestants participate in a final round in which there is only one question from a specific category. The participants must write their answers down along with an amount they wager. In the end, the victory goes to the contestant with the highest score.

I began my playing experience in order to find out how the rules and gameplay compared to the experience as depicted on television. As soon as I opened the app, I encountered a pop-up and was prompted to create a profile. I selected the option to connect through Facebook, authorized the app to access my information, and logged in. Another pop-up welcomed me to the game and asked if I wanted a tour of the features. I selected “Yes” and discovered that my previous expectations of an entirely different game were correct.

All players are given a bank account to be used to join different games. At the outset, I had 30 thousand dollars in my account. The main component of the game is the “Journey” mode in which participants travel to different cities beginning with Los Angeles. Other modes of the game include “Friend Challenges” (allowing players to compete against their friends using the app), “Brain Trust” (a competitive mode reserved for experienced players with high “XP” points obtained from multiple consecutive victories), and tournaments (additional competitions). Furthermore, each player has the opportunity to purchase “Power Ups” that allow one to take an extended amount of time on a particular question, change a particular category, take a “mulligan”, and get double points. Clearly, this app was very different from the game as seen on TV. Despite years of watching Jeopardy and shouting out answers at the TV in an irritating way, I was a newbie and would require several days/weeks of playtime in order to master Jeopardy! World Tour.

I started on the “Journey” mode and began my experience in Los Angeles. The cost was 5 thousand which I hastily took from my account in the game. I then encountered my competitors (Joanna and Greg) and was given the option to purchase power ups. I decided to purchase an extended time option (one use only) and began round one. The 3 categories were Hollywood Quotes, Sports & Religion, and The Bible (with 200, 400, and 600 options). I selected Hollywood Quotes for 600 and discovered the “Daily Double”. I wagered 300 and encountered a quote by Christopher Plummer about a certain actress. The answer I picked was “Julie Andrews” and I was correct. I then selected Sports & Religion for 600. The question was about a former pro-football player who became a minister. None of the multiple-choice options rang a bell and my selection (at random) was incorrect. I selected The Bible for 600 and was asked a question about Jacob’s employer (Laban) and won 600. The gameplay continued for the remainder of the round (and the next) and I was in last place. Unable to continue to the following round, I exited the game with a consolatory message about how I didn’t make it to the final round.

My gameplay experience (totaling approximately half an hour) was very daunting and not especially rewarding. I have been taught to embrace failure as a learning opportunity, but felt like I did not have an especially positive experience. The reasons behind my disappointment stem from the ways in which this game differed from the popular game show. Not that I minded being free from having to answer in the form of a question, but I struggled with so many different nuances. Firstly, potential answers to each question are presented along with the question. This rendered the game to be an exercise in multiple choice testing (like standardized tests) in which participants could potentially “luck out” by guessing. The various power-ups made gameplay confusing and constructed a relatively high learning curve. Most of all irritants, however, was the cost associated with all aspects of the game. After finishing your funds, you have to buy more “money” to continue playing. If you want power-ups, those cost moneys too. Although you win money by finishing in first in the competitions, there is virtually no way to improve one’s skillset without shelling out money.


As an advocate of accessible gameplay, I feel strongly about open participation. The construction of this game makes it overly dependent on a participant willing to continuously pay for their experience. The difficult aspects of this game show that play would be improved with the aid of a “nurturing affinity space” in which potential players could develop their skills with the aid of others (Gee & Hayes, 2012 p. 1-3). I will not be playing again.


Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing affinity spaces and game-based learning. In Games, Learning, and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age (pp. 129-153). Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139031127.015

Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning9, 41-66.


Stuff I Read and What I Think About It: INTE5320 Cycle 2

Stuff I read:

Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning9, 41-66.

What I think about it:

The impact of video games on child behavior has prompted strong reactions in people (re: Parents). For several decades, the potentially adverse effects of playing video games dominates focus of the debate while paying relatively little attention to the potential of these games to serve as effective tools for learning. In the article “In-game, in-room, in-world”, the authors set out to research the connection between playing video games and the other areas of the lives of the children who play them. In other words, they set out to determine the relationship between playing the game itself to the circumstances directly surrounding gameplay to behaviors and characteristics in other aspects of children’s lives (Stevens, Satwicz, & McCarthy, 2008). Based on these recordings and transcripts presented in the article, the direct and symbiotic “transfer” of gaming behavior to other areas of life is apparent (Stevens et al, 2008). As both a product of the surrounding world and a force that shapes it, games have enormous potential for children to acquire the skills essential for success.


My interest in the topic of this study began in 1997 on a somewhat dreary November morning. While riding to middle school with my mother and brother, I heard some devastating news on the radio about an allegedly direct connection between playing video games (Mortal Kombat) and violent behavior (Wilson v. Midway Games, Inc, 2002). I have never been much of a gaming enthusiast, but my occasional dabbling made me wonder about how I (and so many others) might be impacted by mere exposure to these products. In the present day, I wonder how educational games designed to enforce skill development in the classroom would have affected me. I longed to have exposure to a game in which students like me could “participate as gamers, producers, and learners,” (Kalen, 2008, p. 10). Would I have a better attitude about math and science topics? Would I be a better reader? Above all else, I started to wonder how one could adapt such beloved games to an academic setting (assuming there is an impact). This article was very satisfying for me in that it answered a lot of questions while raising others.

Of all the information provided in the article, arguably the most interesting and thought-provoking element is the concept of learning as a massive entity encompassing the video game itself or “in-game”, the “in-room” environment in which the game is played, and “in-world” activities outside of playing the game (Stevens et al, 2008). In other words, all of these elements are components of gaming that collectively provide learning opportunities. Each recorded instance of play reveals that gaming and real life are overlapping entities and not “separate worlds” (Stevens et al, 2008). The interactions between the children playing games reveal the potential of video games as learning tools by demonstrating the effectiveness (and essential role) of social collaboration in learning, the transferable skills for success in life provided by gaming, and the impact of gaming on identity formation.

After reading this article, I had (and still have) several questions in my head concerning video games as educational tools. If the “in-room” conditions are an integral part of the learning experience the contribute to gaming, how can we (as educators) ensure fairness? Not every child has an environment like the ones described in the study and, as the result, integrating gaming into formal education may put some at an unfair advantage. Furthermore, I wonder about how to research the specific aspects of gaming that are transferable. This information would hold the key to adapting video games in classrooms.



Salen, Katie. “Toward an Ecology of Gaming.” The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning. Edited by Katie Salen. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 1–20. doi:10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.001

Stevens, R., Satwicz, T., & McCarthy, L. (2008). In-game, in-room, in-world: Reconnecting video game play to the rest of kids’ lives. The ecology of games: Connecting youth, games, and learning9, 41-66.

Stuff I Read & What I Think About It: INTE5320 Cycle 1

Brief Intro: INTE5320 is broken down into 8 two-week cycles. The first in the series, titled “Introducing Games & Learning”, focuses on content easily predictable by the title. Here is the return of “Stuff I Read” and I will continue to post these updates on a bi-weekly basis. My posts will also be more focused on one particular article in the form of a scholarly critique (or more, as called for).

Stuff I Read: 

What I Think About It (Kalir) 

In the final chapter of Teacher Pioneers (2016), author Jeremiah Kalir provides a thorough conclusion of the previous sections with a focus on the relationship and similarities between gaming and education. While summarizing the content of the other chapters, Kalir identifies the pitfalls of a narrow approach to education as a game as well as the ways in which games could revolutionize education for the better. My decision to select this article stems from my professional commitment and passion for effective teaching and learning. Since beginning my education three decades ago, I have consistently identified the concepts and content I encountered in a classroom setting as “difficult” or “easy” without necessarily accounting for why or how a different approach would have better results. Since becoming an educator in libraries, I continued these observations on my students and grew inspired to experiment with different approaches to pedagogy through games.


The content of the chapter illustrates the concept of gaming as inextricable from learning by identifying the aspects of a game present in formal, traditional education (i.e. classroom). School environments are comparable to games in that they are conditioned to prompt attitudes, condition responses, and promote values in all who are attending. Contextually, school is likened to a “puzzle” game in which there is only one right answer to every question. In attending school, many students are not “players” of their own volition whereas participants in a game are willing to be a part of it. According to the author, recognition of school as a game in a social setting is essential in order to unlock the gaming potential of education.  

Throughout the text, the author stresses the role of social and cultural context in games and learning. In order to illustrate the importance of these contexts when implementing game-based education, Kalir refers to a chapter on Minecraft as an example of a game designed with and implemented for various educational goals and purposes. It reveals the abundant potential of games to apply to a multitude of academic purposes. Accordingly, gaming in an educational setting empowers the teachers to improve education through design and research.

The complex nature of how technology and social dimensions of gaming impact learning is apparent. Kalir describes this impact as varying “socio-technical formations” and identifies the contrast between textbooks and video games as an example of technological shift in learning and games. For the author, the textbook represents the historically constrained model of education. Textbook publishers and other professional stakeholders tend to perceive video games as “leveled-up” textbooks as a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing learning needs. As academic resources, video games can provide an effective means of assessing student (or player) knowledge and development. Accordingly, some educators fear that their roles will be diminished as technology continues to impact the classroom. The potential of gaming to positively impact learning and transform the role of educators illustrates the social and cultural forces inherent in gaming and learning design.

Kalir’s text raises several questions about the future of education how games can transform and enhance the quality of learning. For teachers and other educators, the biggest question concerns the impact of video games in the classroom as “textbooks” on their professional roles. As video game usage in school ascends, what role will the games and teachers play in assessment? Another interesting question raised is the level of agency for teachers in their classrooms. Will teachers acquire greater autonomy and agency as technology in games advances? Overall, this article explicitly reveals the power of gaming to transform learning, but still leaves several questions unanswered about the specifics of the impact.



Play Journal for Cycle 1: NYT Crossword

This play journal is about The NYT Crossword Puzzle iPhone Application (henceforth referred to as “NYT Crossword”) and my interactions with the game as a learner/player. A crossword puzzle (print or electronic) consists of a series of enumerated connecting boxes that run across and down. Each numbered box corresponds with a clue for what word/letters should be filled in the box with topics ranging from academic disciplines to news to popular culture. As the player attempts to solve the crossword puzzle, they are required to employ knowledge from several topics and spelling skills.  


1 Down: ………

2 Down: ………

1 Across: …….

Since my first attempt at solving a crossword puzzle over two decades ago, I have been a devoted enthusiast. Determining the correct word in each space combines my love for knowledge, my strong spelling abilities, and my fascination with popular culture and news. Despite an adequate amount of practice and experience, however, I have always struggled with the crossword puzzles of the New York Times (NYT). Like many subscribers, I make more than my fair share of mistakes and long for more opportunities to practice. With this in mind, I decided to use the NYT Crossword App as the subject of this critical evaluation.

My selection of NYT Crossword as a subject stemmed from my desire to focus on an activity that is common for me and to start developing my skills in analyzing gameplay with a fairly low-complexity subject. Despite these intentions, I was aware of several limitations to using this game as an example. In the chapter “Toward an Ecology of Gaming” by Katie Salen (2008), the author includes a list of previously held misconceptions in the study of gaming such as “no two players ever experience the ‘same game’” and “players determine how they learn,” (p. 10). These characteristics of gaming led me to think that NYT Crossword is a somewhat limited selection in that a crossword puzzle seems very narrow in focus and not allowing for much creativity in responses or skill development.

After downloading and installing the App, I clicked on it from my iPhone homepage and loaded the game. I allowed the App to access my personal information through Facebook and arrived at the game’s main menu. This homepage consisted of four vertically listed and scrollable categories: The Daily Crossword, The Daily Mini, Latest Picks, and Get Started Here. Due to my experience with NYT, I was familiar with the first two sections (the daily big crossword and a smaller counterpart) and decided to click on first one to complete a puzzle. I also noticed that this section, as well as the others, has on “archive” option listed above it with access to decades of previous puzzles.  When inside a section, the app has an omnipresent “back” button that allows the player to return to the homepage. Eager to start a puzzle, I clicked back to the homepage and selected The Daily Crossword (Thursday, 1/25/18, by Alex Eaton-Saliners).

Once I selected the puzzle, I was taken to a screen that looks like a crossword puzzle except for some features such as the box to type in is highlighted, a keyboard to enter the letters, the clue for each box displayed individually, and a variety of other features on the top of the screen. To type in a particular box, the user simply clicks on that box, sees the clue, and types with the virtual keyboard. The first box I solved was “2 Down” consisting of six letters with the clue “cough drop brand”. After trying “Vicks” and “Halls”, I entered “Ricola” and felt satisfied. I was beginning to get the hang of the technology and enjoy myself.

This progressed for several more spaces in the puzzle. Using my previous experience with crosswords and my strong spelling abilities, I filled out at least a dozen more.

When I could not find any more answers and felt stuck, I decided to take a look at the additional features available at the top of the screen. The first icon looked like a small pen and allows the player to fill in lighter shaded answers in case they are not certain about their progress (like erasable pen). Next to the pen was wheel shaped and allowed the following options: check square, check word, check puzzle, and reveal/clear. I decided to try each of these and felt instantly horrified. These options allow the player to do what most crossword puzzle enthusiasts consider “cheating”. This experience led me to understand my own degree of literacy with crossword puzzles as “learning what degree of transgression is acceptable and when a player has crossed the line,” (Salen, p. 8). I had always believed that looking up words, finding answers online, or use of other resources constitute extreme and unacceptable transgressions.

This experience with the NYT Crossword App proved revealing in that it illustrates the extent to which games are shaped by technological and social forces at work.  In his concluding chapter to Teacher Pioneers, Kalir (2016) illustrates the similarities between schools and conventional games as “material technologies” that conduct specific actions, promote values, build significance in the learner (p. 361). Accordingly, a crossword puzzle is as much a game as any other (including school). In the print version, none of the “cheat” options are presented on the paper whereas the App has them readily available. The presence of these options inevitable shapes how players react to the puzzle in that they are presented as acceptable tools for completion. In doing so, the experience of play is permanently altered.

After playing with NYT Crossword, I decided to keep it on my mobile device as a convenient way to spend time when a print puzzle isn’t available. I much prefer the print version in that it better supports the traditional boundaries and constraints of the game and, in doing so, enhances the quality of skill development in users. More specifically, players might feel more enticed to develop their knowledge and spelling abilities when the aforementioned resources on the App aren’t present.

INTE5320: Games & Learning

New term, new course. I just started the first week of INTE5320 – Games & Learning and am very excited. The content of the class is very theory heavy and will be primarily based on writing and academic texts. It will require a fair amount of writing and reflecting so I will be updating my blog at a greater frequency. Some of what to expect:

Stuff I Read & What I Think About It– Don’t miss the new season. This is an old favorite of mine. Basically, I just write about the things I read for my course on a weekly basis. This will also include an additional scholarly critique (as assigned in my course).

Play Journals – I get to play games and write reflections on them. Take that, academia! And I say that with love.

Anything else I write – You get it.

Let’d do this.


On a Personal Note

Not too much, but a little. I am back and blogging again for the term. Instead of academic (and some would say “professional”) musings, this blog is a little about me and everything that has happened of late. I am not one who strives to put a positive spin on seemingly troublesome/worrisome/negative events and can assure my readers (not sure how many) that all things are, indeed, positive. A summary of changes:

After spending the better part of a decade living in Colorado, I have relocated to Chicagoland. Denver, I love you, but you’ve been bringing me down.

I suppose it’s something of a typical story: Protagonist finishes graduate school in Pittsburgh, moves to Colorado, toils away in academic library for years, falls in love, gets engaged, gets married, moves to Chicago with spouse. Maybe not so typical sounding when I summarize the content of so many years into a single sentence with too many clauses. Nonetheless, that happened.

The reasons behind our decision to move are multiple and I will address them in order of impact.

  • Too much airtime – My wife owns a business in Chicago and was previously flying back every two weeks. This, obviously, because unsustainable financially and psychologically. No one should ever fly so much.
  • Change of scenery – I’ve been growing dissatisfied with Denver and feel that a new adventure is just the ticket. The city I once loved and swore to never leave has changed significantly and bares only the slightest resemblance to where I moved. Living there was a little like a dream.
  • No (job) satisfaction – I suppose this topic might warrant it’s own post, but I shall address it now. I wasn’t feeling satisfied in my job. Mind you, I have absolutely NOTHING bad to say about the place or the people (THEY’RE FORCES FOR POSITIVE AND WILL BE MISSED). To cut to the chase, fatigue and stress were setting in and I decided to focus on my education. I will always be a library advocate and will definitely seek out professional opportunities, but I am more open to trying another approach. Possibilities such as different environments with more advanced scholarly work under conditions more conducive to my introverted nature (fear not, I am not going to produce yet another explanation of this concept). It was a sweet farewell party and the goodbyes were hard, but I felt (and feel) engulfed with a satisfying sigh. Going forward, I hope to find a position working with a graduate student population in a larger setting. I will always teach and learn, but change is always inevitable.

  • I got married and we purchased a house. We are very happy.


Ok, I think that sums it up. I will definitely elaborate on these reasons whenever the opportunity arises. Overall, things are great and will continue to improve.

Stay tuned.