Using Role Play in the Higher Ed Classroom

Brief Abstract

Graduate students in an industry-focused game development masters program should be looking not only to their next job in industry, but also to their career trajectory. To facilitate development of industry leaders, we have incorporated a processes course that introduces game development skills along with introductions to publication, contracting, legal issues, business development, management, and other concerns that can practically influence the development of games. While texts address the issues presented, the students generally have limited background beyond the technical and design skills involved in game production. This research project involved the introduction of role play to provide context and limited consequence to learning about game production. This study uses qualitative analysis of classroom activities along with assignments and student feedback to discern the effectiveness of the inclusion of this kind of role play to introduce important new concepts into higher ed classrooms. Based on the work of the Harvard Negotiations Project (Fisher & Ury, 1997), as well as authors in learning with and through role play (Van Ments, 1999; Carnes, 2014; author), this mixed-methods work uses a variety of techniques for the purposes of data triangulation including ground-up thematic coding (Boyatzis, 1998) and discourse analysis (Johnstone, 2008). The analysis discusses the structure of the role play intervention to help support the use of this technique in other classrooms and contexts, and it characterizes some key successes to this approach as well as some limitations and concerns that should be addressed when implementing it. Structure: This talk will be roughly in thirds. The first will be the structure of this particular intervention. The second will be the data gathering and analytic methods and results. The third will be practical outcomes for those who would use role play as a tool in their higher education classroom. Outcomes: The audience will hear an argument for when and how to use role play in the classroom with a focus on one context, but applications that extend to many other contexts. They will also learn some of the struggles encountered by this group when implementing role play in a classroom of students not accustomed to role play.


David is an assistant professor of game design and development at the Rochester Institute of Technology and an affiliate of RIT's MAGIC center. He received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's games and learning program and was a founding member of the Games, Learning, and Society group and the precursor, Games and Professional Practice Simulations (GAPPS). His work focuses on role play, particularly as it overlaps with education and ethics, empathy and perspective-taking. For more information about his work and role play see his book, The Arts of Larp: Design, Literacy, Learning and Community in Live-Action Role Play.

Extended Abstract