Designing A Gaming Placemat

Ever since playing Bhonanza in Spanish with some of our Global Studies department students and an adjunct lecturer who volunteers his time for Spanish conversation practice, I have been thinking about the idea of a gaming “placemat.” I think this is where the idea came up, and I think it was mentioned by the Spanish teacher. In a later meeting of Tokoha Gamelab I tried with some students to design a common sheet for vocabulary that emerges in games based on their needs, but we didn’t come up with anything very innovative. This morning, while doing some reading online about multiliteracies, I saw that Cope and Kalantzis actually promote a placemat of their own:  This has me thinking again about going back to the drawing board (literally). Our campus has a design department (造形学部)and I am thinking it might be nice to get some of those students and teachers involved in making our own version of “learning by design” around gaming.

What would be the important vectors of a gaming placemat?  For now I have the following in mind:

  1. A space for explaining the game’s objective in simple language (this could be done in both languages perhaps)
  2. Key words and phrases: a section that has space for new vocabulary related to the game, translation of these words and phrases, and space for example sentences that offer context.
  3. Key concepts / reflective questions: This section would offer some of the key concepts (metalanguage) that emerge in debriefing the game and pose some relevant debriefing discussion questions
  4. Additional resources: this section could direct students to any online or offline resources that help support the game or discussions about the game. These could include things like: the main entry on, youtube play-through videos, reviews, and any online resources we create or collaborate on related to the game (e.g. Quizlets).

These categories relate roughly to the framework for Tokoha Gamelab, and would serve to be the physical embodiment of this as a designed reference for students before, during, and after play. We could have a master placemat for each game that evolved as any given group discovered new vocabulary, questions, resources etc, but after some time the game mats might become somewhat solidified in their content for any given game, allowing scaffolded play and reflection for newcomers.