On top of being lifelong nerds and alumni of The Story School, my son Shaun Biegler and I (pictured to the right in costume casual), are also contributors to an amazing convention that intersects with The Story School in so many ways. In October of 2022, my son Shaun Biegler and I flew to beautiful sunny southern California as speakers and exhibitors representing The Story School at GameSchoolCon.
So, what’s GameSchoolCon? From the GameSchoolCon website:
“GameSchoolCon was created by two old school nerds: Sasha Kuczynski (she/her) was the creatrix and producer of the wildly popular HSC DiscoveryCon, the very first hybrid homeschool/gaming conference. Edward Stafford (he/him) was the man behind the GM screen at Gamerunner, where he taught board games, role playing games, geeky crafts and music appreciation to lucky kids and teens.
GameSchoolCon grew out of Sasha and Edward's convictions that people learn best when we are having fun, and that Gameschoolers should have a conference of our own, where we can let our freak flags fly.
In 2021, Erika Davis-Pitre (she/her) acquired GameSchoolCon with the goal of carrying GameSchoolCon's mission into the future: sharing that games are for everyone, and all games are educational.”
Immediately upon arrival at the Sonesta Irvine Hotel we knew we were going to be in for a fun weekend. The conference spaces were set up for different types of activities. There was the ballroom for presentations; a room dedicated to video gaming, including Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros tournaments; a kinetic/physics/engineering/construction game room; an Active Games Room for daily Nerf blaster and other RPGs (role playing games); and a large yet cozy board game library room which contained thousands of various board/table top games plus plenty of space to play them, indoors and outdoors at tables set up on the adjoining patios.
Having all of these different ways to game made it easy to meet and connect with other attendees. I soon learned that many of the families had been attending for years and going to GameSchoolCon was a highly anticipated vacation for the kids.
Shaun and I were part of several panels discussing a wide range of topics connecting gaming with education, diversity, careers, and social and mental health. The other panelists were wonderful to meet - representing many different aspects of the gaming industry. Likewise, hanging around between or after sessions with other attendees led to lively discussions and some pretty funny parenting anecdotes. Kids and grownups were very happy to show and share their nerdy fandoms, sometimes literally on their sleeves!
So, is all gaming educational? Yes…and no…and yes!
There are obviously educationally oriented games galore. Parents are inundated with ads for them. Some are fun and engaging while teaching. For example, when Shaun was around 8 years old he was given a PC game called “Age of Mythology”. It was like a Sims game - you managed a group of people within historical communities. Your communities thrived if you learned the mythologies of those various civilizations. Playing the game led to a life-long love of ancient Rome, Greece, and Norway for Shaun and a very deep knowledge of the ancient histories and mythologies for these regions.
There are other games that present as “just for fun”, particularly if you think of education as learning the categories of subjects in school. If, however, you think of education as the process of encountering new information and connecting it with your previous knowledge then you can recognize that truly ALL gaming leads to learning something.
While gaming one can learn: factual information (ex: Science, History, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, aka STEM, STEAM, or SHTEAM education); strategic and logical thinking; typing; programming skills; communication skills; ethics (ex: how to be a good sport, how to be both competitive and fair); team work; leadership; perseverance; art; music; and languages. These are all important things to know, even while “just playing”.
Below are the reference lists of presentations and speakers at GameSchoolCon. Notice the different ways people are using gaming, learning from gaming, and making connections through gaming. Keeping an open mind and immersing oneself into the game experience can lead to wonderful personal growth. If you are interested in learning more about these speakers and their businesses please click the links.
I’m happy to share that Shaun and I will be going back to GameSchoolCon in April, 2023. We’re going to learn some new games, make some new friends, discover some new business in the gaming world, and share about The Story School’s contributions to STEAM education through its role playing camp. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Presentations (for the full descriptions, see https://www.gameschoolcon.com/program) :
Representations, Diversity, and Inclusion in Gaming
Talk with a Game Designer
Gaming for Social and Mental Wellness
Careers in Gaming
Language, Literacy, and Gaming
Young Adult Panel - Learn About Gameschooling from the Experts
Speakers & Presenters
Carlos Angeles, Letspanish https://facebook.com/letspanish/
Shaun Biegler, GameStop, Senior Games Associate, and The Story School, Creative Volunteer https://thestoryschool.org/
Meg Grooms-Gangloff, Gameschool Academy https://GameschoolAcademy.com
Michelle Ma michelledoeswhat.com/
Dave Mata, Beamable, Director of Product https://beamable.com
Victor Palacios Jr, Game Crossing, Founder https://gamecrossingesports.com/
Scott Stubbe & Ndindi Kitonga PhD, Angeles Workshop School, Founders https://angelesworkshop.com