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Reflecting on LitRPG as a Social Design Experiment Tool

Reflecting on LitRPG as a  Social Design Experiment Tool  

My idea for a social design experiment tool comes during a two week period where I  found myself influenced by several factors. I had to politely intervene when a faculty member was conflating the term hybridity with hybrid learning, based on a blog post (Stossel, 2012).  I also had started to read and try to cognitively process Engeström’s (1987) book on cultural historical activity theory.  Lastly, I attended a games convention and subjected a group of my friends who are educators to my thoughts on all of this. The reflection below is combination of all of these factors.

Social Design Experiment Tool

I was intrigued with the discussion of Ave’s text as syncretic autobiography and its utilization as a tool that was “critical autobiography and testimonio” (Gutiérrez 2008. p. 149). I also appreciate the further discussion of Ave’s text as a “sociopolitical narrative shared orally and witnessed in an intimate and respectful learning community” (Gutiérrez 2008. p. 149).  The text has a discussion of all the activities and tools utilized in the Third Space. While there was not a detailed discussion of teatro del oprimido, I did search for more information on it both through an Internet search and academic database search.  It did seem with the teatro del oprimido experience that the students are given roles but their roles are limited to that one event.  I think there might be a possibility of also using a role-playing game for students to express their experiences using sociocritical literacy in a Third Space (Gutiérrez, Baquedano-López, & Tejeda, 1999).  In the four articles, that we read, the games seemed limited to physical games and board games. While computer games were mentioned in Gutiérrez & Vossoughi (2010) it does not seem that online role-playing games were being explored.  As an instructional designer, I could not help but consider that another social design experiment tool that could be added to the toolkit is the use of a role-playing game framework for a continuing storyline. I would suggest a tabletop or pen-and-paper role-playing game where players describe their character’s action through speech. Role-playing games are inherently co-creations of a gamemaster and the players.  In this storyline or campaign, a student could create their own character that could be based on critical autobiography and testimonio and play through a storyline initially created by a teacher or an instructional designer. The role of the gamemaster or the game moderator could be played by a student, volunteer, teaching assistant or teacher. Once students became familiar with game moderation, the role of the gamemaster and the creation of a storyline could be taken over by a student or students.  In role-playing through a storyline, students would be able to imagine and speculate on future possibilities even as described by Gutiérrez (2008) with the language and grammar of a Third Space. The use of multiplayer video games as third place or a community space was explored by Steinkuehler and Williams (2006).

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Additional Components

There are two additional technology enhanced components that could be added to the toolkit. Audio recording and also video livestreaming could allow these Third Spaces to have a sustained modality beyond text.  Audio recording or podcasting of role-playing games has become more popular.  An example of popular podcast of a continuing storyline is the Adventure Zone. The Adventure Zone is not educational, but a podcast like this could be tool for a Third Space which could include hybrid language practices (Gutiérrez, Baquedano-López, & Tejeda, 1999). There is additionally a literary genre that is gaining popularity as text and audio which is called LITrpg (Miller, 2016) or Role Playing Game literature.  A recorded session of role-playing could be recorded and then, using a voice to text application or close captions on a YouTube Channel set to private, a transcript of the session could be downloaded. Students could reflect on their characters, their interactions with others, and their decisions in the storyline.


Engeström, Y. (1987). Learning by expanding: An activity-theoretical approach to developmental research. Helsinki, Finland: Orienta-Konsultit Oy. Retrieved from

Gutiérrez, K., Baquedano-López, P., & Tejeda, C. (1999). Rethinking diversity: Hybridity and hybrid language practices in the third space. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 6, 286–303.

Gutiérrez, K.D. (2008). Developing a sociocritical literacy in the third space. Reading Research Quarterly. 43, 2, 148-164.

Gutiérrez, K. D., & Vossoughi, S. (2010). Lifting off the ground to return anew: Mediated praxis, transformative learning, and social design experiments. Journal Of Teacher Education, 61(1/2), 100-117. doi:10.1177/0022487109347877

Jurow, A. S., Tracy, R., Hotchkiss, J. S., & Kirshner, B. (2012). Designing for the future: How the learning sciences can inform the trajectories of preservice teachers. Journal Of Teacher Education, 63(2), 147-160. doi:10.1177/0022487111428454

Miller, P. (2016, May 28). Designing for the future: How the learning sciences can inform the trajectories of preservice teachers. The Verge. Retrieved from

Steinkuehler, C. & Williams, D. (2006). Where everybody knows your (screen) name: Online games as “third places.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication,, 11(4), 885–909. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00300.x

Stommel, J.  (2012, March, 10). Hybridity, pt 2 : What is hybrid pedagogy?  Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from


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