A Visit From A Friend

When I first learned that Liz Lawley, who was spending a semester teaching at Dubrovnik, was going to end her stay in Europe with a quick trip through Italy, I got very excited and begged her to come visit us in Trento. It’s not often that you get to see old friends when you’re living far from home. When she said yes, I began plotting like a machiavellian prince.

You see, I know that Liz is a great speaker. And I know that the project that she has been working on for the past few years, Just Press Play, has been a successful attempt at engaging university students. Now it just so happens that, not only is Smart Campus also about engaging university students, but the Smart Campus team has been organizing a weekly set of seminars. While our approach is somewhat different from the playful design approach that Liz and her team have been using, it seemed to me that there were enough similarities that we could learn something of interest. In addition, several computer science students here are interested in games and game mechanics, and this would be a great opportunity for them to see an application of game mechanics to the real world as described by one of the big names in the American scene of games research.

By the way, I love the new term that the Rochester folks are using: playful design. So much nicer than gamification, don’t you think?

Anyway, once I had come to the conclusion that having Liz speak here would be a great idea, I started the wheels rolling on making it happen. Wouldn’t it be great if this well-known American professor would come tell us about her experiences with games and gamification? Liz, would you mind giving a talk about Just Press Play to the folks here?

I felt a bit guilty about asking Liz to do some work while she was on her Italian vacation. Bad enough that I was making her and her son come to Trento, which is on the travel list of pretty much nobody in North America. (Which is a pity, because it’s nice here, although on the other hand, we don’t have much to offer unless you’re interested in ecclesiastical history.) But Liz was nice enough to say yes to both coming here and giving a speech at the University of Trento. And so that is what she did yesterday.

It was, I think, a resounding success. Liz was up to her usual standards with regards to communicating her obvious enthusiasm about her research. I had seen part of her presentation before, but this one went deeper into both what had worked and what hadn’t worked. It was quite fascinating. From a few conversations I had afterwards, people had taken to heart what she had to say and were reconsidering how to integrate game play into their projects. And there might be some longer term ramifications which would be really interesting.

All in all, I think this was one of my more brilliant ideas.

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