If a class studies film, it has to have screenings of some kind. There’s an old soundproofed theatre with cushy seats and a raked floor in our university library that used to serve that purpose, back before DVDs allowed for individual viewings. Students attended lectures and a screening session in the theatre every week, like the required labs in science classes.

And if you study video games, you have to play. Some time ago I decided that forming playgroups that meet between classes was the best way to accomplish this, especially in the absence of a dedicated game lab (even our Center can’t really serve that purpose, at least not yet). Each group meets weekly for gameplay and preparation, then each reports back to the larger group during the course of the semester, with demos of controls, gameplay and paratextual materials, and accounts of their collective experience. Ideally, every group should have a mix of “kinds” of gamers (self-indentifed): core and casual, experienced and not. The underlying purpose–not unlike that of the playground playgroups from which the name is playfully taken–is social, to promote collaborative learning drawing on diverse strengths in each group. Come to think of it, that may be something that’s lost with the demise of the weekly film-class screening in the little theatre at the back of the library.

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