Tutorials: Digital and Tabletop game design perspectives


1. Introduction

In his book “What digital games have to teach us about literacy and learning” James Paul Gee spends a fair amount of time discussing the need for tutorials in digital games. Without restating entirely his insight, Gee mentions that vernacular games in capitalistic societies are motivated in the most need-based, goal-oriented way possible to teach their players how to play the game effectively.

And this is a challenge. In tabletop settings, generally a more experienced player will guide the others through the rules and play of a game that is new to them. The experienced player is able to answer individual-specific questions in a dynamic way that fit the exact needs of the new player. Digital-games on the other hand, don’t have (or don’t always have) that social experience. The game designer can’t depend on a more experienced player sitting next to the new player, guiding them through the game. Instead, the game designer must develop a tutorial within the game design itself that will guide the new player through the mechanics and story of the game without any appeal to outside help.

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Game-Design Enhanced L2TL Review: Hyper Light Drifter


To this point in my game design enhanced foreign language teaching and learning (GD-L2TL) reviews I have not covered a traditional combat-oriented role-playing game (RPG). Hyper Light Drifter (henceforth HLD) will serve as the first in a two-game review that examines RPGs from two very different perspectives in order to mine them both for effective features for L2TL. (Teaser: The second game is Bastion). To orient ourselves, this review will have a couple of questions:

  •  Does Hyper Light Drifter afford learning opportunities for L2TL?
  • How does a linguistically rich or impoverished game afford language learning opportunities?

We will start with a description of HLD, its community. Following that, we’ll attempt to answer our question with a review of the GD-L2TL features that HLD does well and not so well. Continue reading

Game-Design TBLT Review: Stardew Valley


That’s some quality ideational feedback there.


I first started playing Stardew Valley in July of 2017. It has been on my list of to-play games for a long time and after finally watching some gameplay from a truster streamer,  I decided I needed to try it out. Since then, I have logged over 100 hours of game play and only recently achieved the “soft end” of the in-game three year mark. And I have achieved less that half of the possible achievements, according to Steam.

Perhaps this is a bit premature, but Stardew valley is one of the best games I’ve personally played and I think it would be arguably the most appropriate game for Second Language Teaching and Learning (L2TL).

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Making Functional Grammar Explicit: Game Design-Enhanced TBLT Lesson Plans for “Firewatch”


Firewatch fan art


In our review of Firewatch, we concluded that it would make an excellent video game for Game Design-Enhanced TBLT (GD-TBLT). It’s heavy narrative weight means that within the game there is a large amount of language and other literary devices that can be exploited for all kinds of learning, not just second language teaching and learning (L2TL). In fact, while I was doing research for both the review and the lesson plans, I came across another teacher who used Firewatch to teach literary skills to high school students in the Netherlands.

This imaging of teaching however, will be slightly different in frame. First, I have chosen to focus in on the form/function of narrative choice in these lesson plans. These Firewatch lesson plans focus on making explicit to students the relationship between language functions and language forms. Or, descriptions of what we are doing and the explicit and specific words we use to do those things.

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How Can Emotion-full Language Affect The Teacher/Student Relationship?: Evidence From Intercultural EFL Online Chat Tutoring



As the world becomes more interconnected, new methods in the study and practice of language learning are needed to account for the experience of a globalized world (Bloomaert, 2010) and the continual intertwining of technology into our lives at younger and younger ages (Pasfield-Neofitou, 2013). Simultaneously, teachers need to know not just the new pedagogy, but general CMC principles related to social roles and importantly, emotion. This study seeks to investigate how emotion is expressed and understood in intercultural, Korean student (KE), non-Korean teacher (NE), English language tutoring through the synchronous chat program, Google chat.

As a teacher and participant in this study, the experience of tutoring a new student, with new pedagogical approaches and theoretical designs, what was most impressive to me was the way I, as a teacher, expressed and received emotion. Comfortable chat conventions that are normally used in my day-to-day chat experience were not always or consistently found in the tutoring sessions. Understanding why, particularly if it was due to some lack of skill on my part, became an important question.

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What Kind of Creatures Are We?: Language



Noam Chomsky is getting older. He is undoubtably one of the most influential thinkers of contemporary philosophy and science. Though that may not itself be the most praiseworthy thing.

But with age come synthesis and summary. Chomsky’s latest writing outside of his political side have been this sort of writing. His book What Kind of Creatures Are We? is a philosophical summary of his major contributions to the science of linguistics and philosophy of cognition and morality. It moves from his most specific question, What is language? to What is cognition? to finally, What is the common good?.

For second language teachers and learners (L2TL), Chomsky is often opaque and dismissed. My own experience went from practically worshiping him (as an undergraduate linguistics student) to renouncing him (as a Second Language Education master’s student) to finally a sort of dialectical synthesis now. I find reading Chomsky imminently stimulating and, if not specifically, in general try to live and teach with the goal of moving and thinking throughout my work like Chomsky.

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A Review of “Firewatch” for ESL/EFL Teaching

  • This review assess the potential for game-design enhanced second language teaching and learning of Firewatch. For background reading about the philosophical and linguistic-theoretic foundation for the approach used in this review, see here and here.


Games for second language teaching and learning (L2TL) are very often used for very limited purposes. Something like “fun” or motivating language use. But as we have seen, games can do much more than that. Importantly, games can do language, learning and culture.

One area of L2TL that games probably don’t come up very often in, is in fiction reading– or novels. In what way can games be used that traditional fiction reading may have filled? We know that games and their mechanics are motivated and given life by the context and narratives that surround them. Many of the most popular games are historical or science fiction and fantasy. Many of these games are ambitious in their scope (think Star Wars or Saving Private Ryan and Mass Effect or Call of Duty). But most academic fiction reading revolves around a different kind of reading. Something more like Angela’s Ashes or Hatchet. What do games have to offer in these personal story or smaller scope stories?

With the explosion of Indie games, a lot actually. Smaller game companies or just individual developers are tackling smaller scope stories that have all the impact of a Hatchet. One of these games is Firewatch, a game and story that, like Hatchet takes place in a forest and is largely driven by the psychological well-being and related actions of one person, alone in that forest.

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Code Switching in Global Relationships: A Brief Conversational Analysis


Part one of this two-part series set down some useful theoretical concepts for understanding the dynamics of power and authority in language use between international couples. This post reports on some preliminary data collected on myself and my wife. While the methodology isn’t completely pure (more on that below), I was happy to find that the concepts I had been learning about do seem to appear not just in my speech but in my wife’s as well.

This post will get right into it. First, I’ll set out the specific questions I started this project with and then give a bit of background information on the language history of my wife and myself and briefly describe conversational analysis as a tool for description. I will finish with a description of our conversations, with some examples and the conclusions they elicit. But first! Here is a brief and useful image that explains briefly code-switching in Singapore.

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The Political Economy of Language Use In Global Relationships: Some Useful Concepts


A picture from my recent marriage to my Korean wife

  • This essay is the result of a research project I conducted into the code-switching patterns between couples who share different first languages. My wife is Korean; she also speaks English and a bit of Japanese. I am American; I also speak Portuguese and a bit of Korean. Together, we speak a bit of lots of things.  I was always paying close attention to the use of language between us. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to Jan Bloomaert’s Sociolinguistics of Globalization that I realized I wanted to know a lot more.


This post intends to examine the intersection of bilingualism, biculturalism and globalization in the private and public lives of international romantic relationships. It is something of a cliché to mention the ever-globalizing world when prefacing research which appears to be due in part to the technological and educational effects of globalism. However, in addition to the political and demographic interest this subject holds for many people, researchers and lay-persons alike, this particular crossroads of language use provides an elusive opportunity to examine language acts which are by definition, private.

The Korean context of international marriage is an interesting setting due to historical governmental restrictions on the practice and the now open phenomena in the globalized. Little sociolinguistic research into the language use of these new couples has been completed as of yet (see Lim, 2010). This current study will begin first with laying the foundational theoretical work and tools used by previous researchers to examine language use in international couples. Then, using that framework as a guide, we will provide a methodology for examining a small case study of international couples in Korea.

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Applying For the Job: Using Work Simulators in the L2TL Classroom

The EFL Situation

ESL/EFL teachers will immediately recognize the theme of “jobs” as a staple of almost all ESL/EFL textbooks. Even very young students in most places recognize that their parents work or that there are people in their community like police officers or restaurant workers. It is this, assumed, shared understanding that makes “jobs” a very tempting content-subject for teachers.

However, most textbooks have a hard time, or fail completely, to contextualize and situate the content – jobs – with the language use the students should be learning. The following image is a very, very typical type of assignment that language learners might get. It seems well done. It provides images that associate directly to words and contextualizes the jobs in specific places (e.g. teacher – school). How or in what situation the student should need to use the language in the worksheet isn’t even a topic of concern. In fact, the only place such a task will be useful is in the ESL/EFL classroom context itself. Making activities like the one below very hard to transfer to real-world language use, to say nothing about its use in talking about or in those jobs or places.

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