Coursework here at Adept Play

My thoughts on teaching are taking a new form. I began designing courses since just before starting Adept Play, but hadn't settled on a format until Giano Academy contacted me. Their required structure helped a lot. Five two-hour sessions seems very brief to me, but for internet and practical reasons, it's actually really good as the minimum possible. It also forces me to focus quite hard, always a good thing.

So, after just over a year of teaching things via Giano Academy, it may be time to do this all by myself. I've refined what I've done already and generated some more course ideas too. Ideally I'd like to be able to offer courses through other institutions, as a guest instructor or anything similar, but perhaps the best thing is to build up the curriculum on my own first. I've just finished the first try at doing so, with two very enjoyable experiences with my courses Phenomena and Playing with The Pool, conducted directly through Adept Play.

So here's what I have in mind. Starting at designated dates, I will teach two courses for five weeks. I think if I lay out the schedule for six months, then people can sign onto them in plenty of time. I'll either handle sign-ups at Discord or with some web-widget I get help with here at the site, or both. They'll be held just as I did over the past five weeks, through a channel at the Adept Play server. Signing up also means paying me by a certain deadline: the fee is 1250 SEK (Swedish kronor), which includes 25% VAT. I'm told that it's a bit of a steal for the student, in terms of quality, but at present I'm aiming for more people taking more classes, rather than cash-bang per person.

So, what gets taught, anyway?

The following two are the foundation courses. I will always teach either one or the other during any given term. I don't want to be so rigid as to expect people to take both of them before anything else, so let's consider either one to be a prequisite to all the other courses, including each other.

PEOPLE AND PLAY concerns the experiential fundamentals of play: what it's like to do it, what interactions and concepts are involved, some of the shapes and profiles the activity has taken on over its history, and its qualities as a unique medium of expression. Its lens is "the obvious," what you know you do when you're doing it.

PHENOMENA addresses those procedures and experiences which are not so easily accessed or noticed when you do them. It might be considered the physiological or cellular correspondence to the anatomy and behavior in the above course: what effects and responses underlie such things as rules and excitement. (This course is an altered version of "Introduction to Design" as taught at Giano Academy, so if you've taken that, consider yourself to have done it.)

The following five courses do not follow a sequence. If you’ve attended Phenomena, People and Play, or both, you can take any of these in any order.

PLAYING WITH THE POOL uses James V. West's The Pool as a means to go very deep into how speaking and procedures actually work. It draws upon the game's disturbing feature to expose things which you personally are bad at and manage to elide in any other game.

THE RONNIES is an anti-design course, teaching how directly experiencing inspiration and enjoyable play arrives at new rules without blocks and suffering. It defies the notion of a design project with structured playtesting, production benchmarks, and publishing strategies.

ACTION IN YOUR ACTION examines the ordering and resolution of fictional activity in detail, with rules, rules, and more rules. It reveals the value of complexity, especially its diversity across historical design, and clarifies the difference between merely busy procedures and desirable, exciting ones.

THREE FANTASIES presents the historical interaction of fantasy and role-playing, celebrating both but also harshly examining their mutually negative effects. It aims to rediscover fantasy among the participants and their experiences of play and playful design.

NUMERACY introduces the concept of math as a language, especially what it is used to say in role-playing. Topics like representation, probability, and innumerate fallacies, but focuses more on set theory, chaos theory, game theory, and multivariate analysis … which I assure you are much easier, insightful, and more fun than they sound. In fact, you're doing them already – this course merely shows you how. (I'm currently still getting this one into shape to try for the first time, but it's close.)

If you're interested to know about how I teach, think of a combined discussion+lab course with a great deal of messy, emergent activities which then feed back into the next dialogue. Each syllabus is quite organized at a coarse grain, but each group develops its own body of most prioritized questions depending on who's in it, so there's no way to do it as a canned or standard presentation. There's no grading and no pass/fail; on the other hand, each week includes a homework assignment which I review in detail and take most seriously.

I'm currently thinking of beginning a new term in mid-April. I'll have all the relevant information displayed here in organized, obvious form, so keep an eye out.


17 responses to “Coursework here at Adept Play”

  1. Clarification

    When you say you'll be teaching two courses for 5 weeks, do you mean at the same time or sequentially?

    Will the days and times vary? What do you expect them to be?

    Would you like to hear requests for what courses we're most psyched about for the next term, or do you already have a fixed schedule in mind?

    • Think of a five-week “term”

      Think of a five-week "term" which includes two classes taught concurrently. One will be held during each Monday of the five weeks, and the other during the corresponding Thursday. The best time for me is 8 PM Sweden time, so that's what I'll do.

      I am thinking that Monday's class will always be either Phenomena or People and Play, probably alternating from term to term. So the next, upcoming term will include People and Play for the Monday class.

      The Thursday class will rotate term to term among the five other courses, and although I don't have a fixed schedule yet, I'm also a little wary of a request tweetfest in these comments. Those tend to slaughter the likelihood for any social event to occur. I'll probably just pick the one I want to do most and/or seems best fit to whatever I perceive is going on here at Adept Play. I guess if anyone really wants a particular course to be taught, they can contact me directly in Discord; please understand that it's not a hotline or inside track.

      I really enjoy doing this, so, subject to obvious limits, I'm willing for the terms to be offered indefinitely and almost continuously, with only a short break from the end of one to the beginning of the next.

  2. anything exept the Ronnies

    because, I still do not intent to actually design games – but by now I know for certain that these lectures are giving me so much to think about and the chance to get better, even though I "only" am a player. So for April I will have to make room for "People and Play" and then I will dream about "Action in your Action" and "Numeracy".
    I warmly recommend both the "Playing with the Pool" and "Three Fantasies" to anybody who has not have the time to attend them, they were great fun. Not least because every course in addition to listening to Ron gives you the chance to play and discuss with others that are as exited about role playing as you are and it may give you ideas about new old games to explore.

    • I must protest your

      I must protest your interpretation of the Ronnies. I don't think I could have been more blunt in the description, but I will try:

      … if you think you are a "game designer," do not take The Ronnies unless you are prepared to have every single aspect of that term disintegrated, and the entire concept rebuilt in a fashion that will earn you no social points anywhere. The course is about the joy of pointless, irresponsible, inspired play. Which yields design, yes, that's true.

      Helma, you've already demonstrated this actual design activity in multiple situations of play. Most people have. The course is about celebrating this common act and focusing its intensity a bit.

    • I had no intention of

      I had no intention of designing anything either before I started participating here … it's like Ron says, it's a mental condition, but I'm afraid it might be contagious 🙂

  3. Introduction to Design?

    How are "People and Play" and "Phenomena" related to the Introduction to Design course that you teach at Giano Academy? Are they useful to attend for someone that has already followed it?

    • Phenomena is an altered

      Phenomena is an altered version of Introduction to Design, as mentioned in the post. If you're taken Introduction to Design, it's close enough to qualify in terms of prerequisite. People and Play is a different course, with a little bit taken and expanded from Introduction to Design.

    • Sorry, I somehow missed the

      Sorry, I somehow missed the bit in the text where you mentioned it, but thanks for answering anyways.

  4. Now available!

    By a remarkable coincidence, Payhip has just added coursework formats to their options. Which means I can now manage registering and paying for them just as I do my games! My accountant will be most pleased at the simplification of records.

    If you're interested in registering for People and Play or Action in Your Action, please check it out! The fee for either is 1000 SEK + 250 VAT (tax), which at this writing anyway is in total about 118 Euro and $128 U.S.

    People and Play meets Mondays beginning April 4, and Action in Your Action meets Thursdays, beginning April 7. They run for five weeks. The meeting time for each is 20:00 CET; see the Payhip descriptions for other logistic details.

    To be super clear about one pesky detail, Action in Your Action requires having already taken Phenomena or its predecessor at Giano Academy, Introduction to Design.

    • Clarifications:


      The 20:00 CET is a change from the previous, one hour later than you used to do, correct?

      Each session runs two hours?

    • The Playing with The Pool

      The Playing with The Pool course you took January-February happened to be at 19:00 CET, but that wasn't standard; the courses over the past year have varied in starting time. 20:00 has always worked best for me so I'm standardizing them from now on.

    • Not much, if at all. I

      Not much, if at all. I chopped up Design Depth and put some parts into several of the other courses, where they fit into larger points and teaching processes. Action in Your Action was developed from scratch and doesn't have any of that material that I can remember.

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