Postmortem: Bodies, Games and Boundaries.

I previously posted a “postmortem” on a Twitter Chat on Public Humanities. Like I said before, in calling this a postmortem I’m drawing from the practice in the games industry in which design teams reflect on the development process involved in bringing a game from an idea all the way to market. 

This is a postmortem on the Bodies, Games and Boundaries HASTAC Twitter Chat I conceptualized with Cody Mejeur and facilitated with Cody Mejeur, Rebecca Bayeck, and Jonathan Murray.

What went well:

  • When Cody and I conceptualized the Twitter Chat, we planned for it to happen after SCMS 2018 so that we could advertise it at the Video Games Studies Scholarly Interest Group meeting. As a result, a few of the SIG members tweeted our invite to their members and tuned in for the chat.
  • In crafting our document, we sectioned out places for people to introduce themselves and their research and propose questions. Most people introduce themselves, but didn’t offer questions. Though when I returned to draft questions, I was able to draw from the introductions from people to develop broad questions.
  • Cody Mejeur was amazing at keeping time frames on tasks when we were developing the Twitter Chat and reminded us about tasks at hand. He really took on much of the communication with Kalle Westerling.
  • Kalle Westerling also helped us expand our reach when advertising the Twitter Chat by posting it on different networks.
  • MS Powerpoint is actually a pretty easy tool to draft a flyer for the Twitter Chat. Though I will say that I could have gotten this out a little bit earlier so we could advertise sooner.
  • I used TweetDeck to schedule out the “welcome to”, my introduction, the invitation for people to introduce themselves, and the questions I was responsible for asking. Using this tool alleviated some of the anxiety related to timing as I could set them and then focus on engaging with people who joined us for the hour.
  • We had some pretty high-profile people in games and embodied tech both retweet our invitations and join us for the Twitter Chat.
  • We had a lively discussion in which participants explored many different topics regarding the bodies, performances and games, including topics that might make some people blush such as sexual play/games. I read this as creating an accomplishment as we were able to create a welcoming space for people to talk about these topics.
  • “We had great, generative questions that got at the many dimensions of the objects and phenomena the chat was about. I think they did a good job of giving everyone the opportunity to talk about a topic with space for their own interests and work.” -Cody Mejeur

What could have gone better:

  • We had one person sign up to facilitate and then ghost on us. In future calls for Twitter Chat facilitators, I would recommend the organizers to request a question or two on the subject that you will then edit. You may even want to schedule an online meeting for people to review the sample materials and vocalize any input.
  • We could have had more accountability between our facilitating teams. It was not until the 10th/11th hour that most of our facilitation team actually contributed to editing the questions and reviewing the schedule and materials we had developed.
  • I think we were a little late on promoting our event–aside from the SCMS plug. I recommend advertising and promoting early and regularly, but not so often that it becomes pesky. Maybe a couple weeks in advance and then a week in advance, then have different moderators post on separate days leading up to the event.
  • Resulting from facilitators not being on the same page, during the Twitter Chat, we had a timing fluke where three questions came out too quickly. My own observation was that people quickly started talking about the new question and the previous question did not get as much consideration. My recommendation would be to get everybody on the same page, perhaps have some form a web calling between facilitators while conducting the chat or make sure everybody is present in the Slack channel and getting notifications.
  • This leads into my final point pretty well: Make sure ALL facilitators are present on the backchannel–whatever you decide to use! We used Slack, and not all moderators were present or would check it often. This really added to the time confusion from my previous point.

Some Concluding Thoughts

One general thought I have regarding Twitter Chats about games: “Games” is a REALLY broad corpus, and this made me stumble when I was developing questions for fear of neglecting a type of game/equipment/play style. So maybe narrow down your concept or focus on some selected styles/types of games or titles.

In spite of all my criticisms of the event, I still think it was a really fun experience! We had a lively discussion. I think Twitter Chats provide some interesting opportunities to help you engage with others in your research and thinking. It’s a good way to make people aware of resources and tools in design and scholarship. Specifically regarding games, you get to hear about some of the projects people have made and are developing.