We’ve explored a bit about games we enjoy for our own amusement, distraction, fun. This week we ask if the same methodology can be used for quote / unquote serious purposes- to educate, to connect, to generate empathy. Do such narrative / serious games accomplish this? Why (or why not)?

Turning to Wikipedia a serious game is defined as one

designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The “serious” adjective is generally prepended to refer to video games used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, and politics.


In our opener activity, we turn to this video from CBC Radio’s podcast Can video games promote empathy?

For more references, see:

NetNarr Studio Visit on Games and Education

Our fourth studio visit takes place out of class and will be archived for later viewing. You might tap into this for some things to write about in your end of week reflection.

Remi Kalir and Keegan Long-Wheeler (Mar 19 @ 4:00pm EDT)

Remi Kalir and Keegan Long-Wheeler (Mar 19 @ 4:00pm EDT)

In fourth third studio visit meet with educators Remi Kalir and Keegan Long-Wheeler to talk about the potentials for games and learning.

Visit the event page for a collection of links referenced in the conversation (possible materials to add to the Referencium).

In Class: Exploring Narrative Games

Explore one of the following games, each of which involves being immersed in a situation based on recent events, and having to make often difficult, even dangerous choices. If you have time, try playing the game twice, and share if knowing the game offers any advantage on that second round.

  1. Spent is meant to place you in the decision making faced by those poverty in America. Is there any “winning” here?
  2. Bad News puts you in the role of someone generating, spreading fake news in social media. Can playing this out give people a better understanding to help them navigate what is true and what is not?
  3. Syrian Journey Produced by the BBC, this choose your own path game puts you in the role of someone forced to flee the conflict in Syria and find your way to Europe.

We will then share and discuss out experiences in these games in a live twitter chat.

Exploring Serious Games (Mar 20, 5:30PM ET)

Exploring Serious Games (Mar 20, 5:30PM ET)

In this NetNarr twitter chat we will discuss and share our experiences exploring three different games aimed not at entertaining, but at promoting understanding, even maybe generating empathy, or serious issues.

Can empathy truly be created via game play? Some folks at MIT suggest Artificial Intelligence can induce empathy. What do you think?

Digital Identities and Digital Literacies in an Intercultural Context at the American University Cairo

Connection with American University Cairo Student Game Designers

This week we begin collaborative activities with students in the Digital Identities and Digital Literacies in an Intercultural Context course from the American University in Cairo (AUC, #DigitalGaurdiansEG in twitter).

They have already started looking at Digital Narrative Games (what we are doing this week).

The AUC students are developing their own ideas for serious/empathy games; your assignment this week will be to provide feedback to one of their proposed game ideas. Pick one that sounds interesting, and add your name or twitter name to a document listing the projects.

We will have a follow-up activity with them next week.

Writing With Sound

Start With Listening

Writing with audio? We understand writing with a pen, with a keyboard, but what is writing when we do it with sound? What can we convey about games, our digital lives, who we are, only in sound?

Like close reading, let’s start with some close listening to the RadioLab podcast on Games we listened to last week. Much of the art of communicating with sound is subtle; this is more than a few people speaking into a microphone. Well edited audio creates an environment by layering sounds and very detailed cutting and pasting together.

A few small bits to draw your attention to from this episode.

Intro with multiple voices over a sound track (00:45)

Setting the time, place with background sounds (08:52)

Voices rapidly switching back and forth (11:58)

White space in audio and subtle background tones (13:21)

“bumper” to remind listeners what they are listening to (19:59)

More quick voice switching (22:57 and 37:43)

Audio filters that alter the sound (28:36)

Inserted audio clips to emphasize story elements (51:19)

These are all things you can (and will do) with audio editing software, think of it as what we do to written text with a word processing software.

Starting With Audacity

We strongly suggest using the open source (meaning free) software Audacity. Audacity allows you to import, record, layer sounds, edit them by copy/paste like you do with text, add special effects, and export to the mp3 file format, the most usable form to share.

For Kean students, make sure you download and install the Audacity software onto your computer.

There is one tricky detail, and that is installing an additional piece of software that allows you to export sound to MP3 file format (do not laugh but it is called “LAME” 😉

A few more tools for your audio writing we suggest include:

  • SoundCloud Create an account at Soundcloud.com to upload and host your audio- think of it as a YouTube for sound. Once published on there you can embed a player for your audio in a blog or share easily as a link.
  • CloudConvert Audio files can come in a wide variety of formats; you may need this free web tool to convert sound files to ones Audacity can import (AIFF, WAV, or MP3 are best).
  • Freesound You will find sources of sound effects all over the place; our favorite is Freesound where all audio is open licensed, meaning you can use them without worry of copyright issues. You need to create an account to download audio files.
  • Incompetech Music Again, you can find many places online to find music. We strongly urge you to use sources where the music has been licensed to be reused; Composer Kevin McLeod shares a huge library of instrumental tracks that are useful for audio editing projects.

Audacity has many features in it, so it may be confusing at first. The main things we want to do this week is learn how to import sounds, how to record, how to do basic edits, and how to export audacity projects into sound files you can share.

You can find gobs of Audacity tutorials out there (we recommend the ones on the Audacity site); so here is my gob:

First Edits: Digital / Gamed Life Sound Effect Story

See the full details for this your first audio make Digital / Gamed Life Sound Effect Story in the NetNarr Make Bank.

Create a short story with no dialogue or narration, using only sound effects and music.

The goal here is to express a story about our course theme of This Digital Life or about our current topic of Games and Gaming. Your story should include 5-10 different sounds, and at least one used as a “background” sound to create a setting. Include at least one sound that you create and record into Audacity. Use layering of sounds to create a fuller experience.

Do You Hear a Checklist?

“Listening to Music” image by Petr Kratochvil shared into the public domain

Week 9 Checklist

Featured Image: Composite of Pixabay image by aitoff and Pixabay image by fancycrave1 both shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Profile Picture for Alan Levine
Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at CogDogBlog.com. His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet.


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