InternetFestival : videogame – based learning – #IF2017

InternetFestival is a very serious thing, probably the most serious in Italy about network-related topics and trends. Yet 😀 the organization contacted me and my partner-in-crime Carmine , involving us in the T-Tour section, a series of public workshops during the festival.

Apart from joking, the InternetFestival machine contacted us at the end of June to define all the logistical and content-related details about the workshop we created out of their requests: how to learn from video games . At the beginning, we took it very easy, but after the restart of organizational work, after summer holidays, looking at the official website and program, I found my name written there with some of my personal legends, such as the fakenews buster  Paolo Attivissimo or the late sysop of AvANa BBS and nowadays University professor and cyber security expert Arturo Di Corinto , etc. – at that point I even asked my sister to give me a new serious photo (well, come on …) to be used on occasions like this 🙂

We arrived in Pisa on a late RyanAir flight, after some days in Palermo (but this is another story …) – Carmine and I had a person waiting for us with our names on the sign, who gave us our badges, with passes, meal  and travel tickets, and then got us on a taxi to the hotel: can I say that is the first time I receive such a VIP treatment? 🙂

With us, in the same taxi and hotel, the lecturer / sociologist / philosopher / journalist Alessandro Dal Lago (so we started already very well !!!) and Angelo Di Liberto, inventor of Modus Legendi , an interesting form of crowdsourcing applied to bookstore rankings, through organized actions of an online community of very large readers, created out of a Facebook group .

The next morning, in a shining and sunlit Pisa, we made the necessary tour in Miracles Square, to see the wonders that fill it … and take photos of those who were taking photos 🙂


We just had time to listen to the speeches of website crew and Paolo Attivissimo on fake news (and on the superficiality of “official” news on the media, which generate and nourish the fake ones …) and then it was showtime for us, in the wonderful venue of a Benedictine monastery,transformed by the University of Pisa (one of the main sponsors of InternetFestival) in a congress and conference center.

There were about fifteen signed members at our seminar, but we had 40 people in the room (especially parents and children, to whom we immediately asked who brought who 😀 ). All of them followed us in the activities and listened very carefully as we introduced some frame concepts, useful for subsequent reasoning.

We started … with a mini tournament of tic-tac-toe and we began to think about the impact and learning that the game had on participants, comparing them with this other learning from a tic-tac-toe game in a movie many years ago :

To plot a theoretical framework on gaming-related learning factors, we have unleashed Csíkszentmihályi’s theory of flow , James Paul Gee and Jane McGonigal’s books , the four categories of fun by Nicole Lazzaro, but above all, we have set up four gaming stations with:


Monkey Island


Paper, Please

The ingredients were therefore two more recent and indie titles, plus two historical titles of today and yesterday: a well-balanced mix and above all the request to play together, in groups, passing the role of the game manager from time to time, but collaborating and finding solutions together. Meanwhile, the screen of the various stations was screened on the wall by a beamer, to give everyone an idea of ​​the gaming dynamics in the different groups (4 ports HDMI video switch with remote control, you’ve been the best purchase of the month!).

The InternetFestival has asked us to replicate the lab twice, so we also proposed it on Sunday morning, with the same feedback in terms of the audience (still sold out!) and with a group of parents who  wanted to reason with us fears, opportunities, limits even more than the previous day, and managed to see and understand (in some cases for the first time!) what their kids really do when they play videogames.

parents, children, students… in a sold out room 🙂

Apart the never-ending glory that this workshop has brought us, as we ended up on national Repubblica TV and local InToscana news websites,  this formula (another successful mix of non formal education and technologies) proved to resist also the assault of double the expected people, and therefore deserves the opportunity to be further developed and tested. The same InternetFestival has already taken into account to bring us back to Pisa for the next edition, perhaps in a more articulated way.

In these two days, video games have also proved to be an interesting tool for interacting with parents, which are often difficult to engage in peaceful 🙂 discussions  about these topics, as usually they arrive when they are afraid, or some problem have exploded already. However, there were also young game developers (not just in video games, but also board games) who were interested in confronting potential, development lines, and media support options linked to this medium , along with university researchers, curious grandparents … and simple passers-by attracted by screens projected on the wall.

I would like to repeat here what we told them while closing: today’s video games leave a mark on people who will have to re-map the world tomorrow!

So, let’s play video games picking titles while considering PEGI ratings , keeping parents and children somehow in touch while playing (or even better playing together!), without demonizing an experience that can be very interesting and useful, and also an engagement for other purposes, from education to teaching!


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