Designing Meaningful Play: Bridging the Classroom-Workplace Divide through Role-Play, Writing, and Problem-Solving

Dawn Opel and Benjamin Lauren

Extended Abstract

Meaningful play, or “experiences that have meaning and are meaningful for players” (Salen & Zimmerman, 2005) has been extended to many contexts, including serious games for the education and training sector (Michael & Chen, 2006). This poster explores the designing of meaningful play experiences for the training of undergraduate students for workplace-specific applications.

Specifically, it details methods for the use of role-play to help build effective communication skills in the context of an undergraduate program in Experience Architecture (XA) at Michigan State University. XA is a user experience program based in the humanities, and is paired with professional and technical communication (PTC) as a discipline. XA students seek careers in interaction design, information architecture, content strategy, project management, and user research. Like PTC, XA is concerned with training students in ways that prepare them to enter the workplace with practical hard and soft skills. Thus, this poster demonstrates how role-playing can be used to help build soft skills as a means for bridging the classroom and the workplace while positioning students to effectively develop leadership and communication skills. By drawing from agile coaching exercises that focus on problem-solving (i.e., kata) in a dojo atmosphere (i.e., safe spaces for practice, repetition, and reflection on coaching techniques), the poster first details the design of role-playing exercises for the PTC classroom environment. For example, the poster illustrates a role-playing exercise to help students practice empathetic and active listening to build mutual understanding when a team is facing a roadblock. The design of such role-play also integrates improvisation as meaningful play to build skillsets in adaptation, recovery from failure, and personal creativity (Stockley, 2013). The ability to improvise in team-based interaction is both a crucial trait of XA teams and one variety of meaningful play in games (Salen & Zimmerman, 2005). Next, the poster extends the design of the meaningful role-play to issues of classroom engagement, assessment methods, and intended outcomes of role-playing experiences, particularly as they are related to building effective communication skills that transfer to the workplace. These outcomes include students’ desire and ability to transfer these skillsets and to actively participate in play as learning in the workplace, an increasingly popular method of employee training, particularly in the tech industry (Lauren, 2015). The ultimate goal of the poster is to make connections between the design of meaningful play, classroom learning, and workplace application. References Lauren, B. (2015, July). Participating in project management experiences in the workplace. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual International Conference on the Design of Communication (p. 17). ACM. Michael, D., & Chen, S. (2006). Serious games: Games that educate, train, and inform. Boston: Thomson Course Technology. Salen, K., & Zimmerman, E. (2005). Game design and meaningful play. Handbook of computer game studies, 59, 79. Stockley, R. (2013). Visit improv world without looking like a tourist. Lecture. UX Week 2013.