Instructor Reflection – Facechange (5.1)

By Scott Nelson

This Writing in Digital Environments course was somewhat special, as it was the first course to integrate Battle Lines, an alternate reality game developed by graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. This game was designed to teach students digital rhetoric through gaming structures. As students worked their way through clues, they argued in text, audio, and video about the issue of government involvement in higher education. While the theme and assignments for this game could certainly change, what’s more important in the context of this undergraduate multimedia project was setting the stage for play as transformative act.

In Battle Lines, students worked individually and collaboratively to solve clues embedded in various physical and digital places. They learned basic audio-, video-, and image-editing techniques to express themselves across a variety of media. Clues often led to false starts and red herrings, and students developed skills to discern the hot trails from the cold ones. This initial unit of the semester grounded the class within a playful environment, where students were encouraged to experiment, to test boundaries, and most importantly, to fail. This willingness to fail, I believe, is central to the effectiveness of gaming structures in pedagogy.