Meet Alex – PLA member profile

Each month we will introduce a PLA member through 5 photos telling their Playful Learning journey. This month, we introduce you to…

Alex Moseley in his own words: Co-chair of the PLA (and one of the Founding 8, which sounds a bit Lord of the Rings). He pretends to have a serious job as Head of Curriculum Enhancement at the University of Leicester, but in reality he accidentally finds himself playing and creating games in all areas where adults and learning meet. He also aims to stop talking about himself in the third person.

An Innuit game, ajagaq, collected by the British East Greenland Expedition 1935. Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge.

This first image reminds me that games existed long before Atari, and those based on simple yet powerful ideas are still played today, thousands of years on (Chess, for example). This is a more recent example I found on a museum visit, but it was the cultural storytelling gameplay that stood out for me, particularly as you read on:

“The game is played by throwing the stick up in the air and catching it in one of the holes, sometimes with eyes closed… Every time you miss a hole, your face [is] marked with soot; if your opponent misses, they come back to life. Typical moves may be: I kill you, I cut off your legs… I remove your entrails, I feed them to my dogs, the dogs excrete your entrails, the excreta are eaten by a fox, the fox’s excreta are eaten by a polar bear… The game is over when a player’s excreta are dispersed by the wind and fall as snow”.
[SPRI Museum Y: 2011/79/3]

Cheating slightly, sneaking in ‘before and after’ pictures

The lower right of the picture shows a game I created for a museum conference, Curate-a-Fact. The top right shows my original designs for the cards, with colours, shapes and points. This process, and the resulting game, were my first lesson in ‘simplicity’: reducing a context and game design down to the simplest yet most important elements. Several playtests removed the shapes, points and many rules, and the final game uses three simple devices: a time limit, colours to help mix the groups, and communal storytelling.

The pirate die, Playful Learning 2018

This is the pinnacle of ‘reducing to simplicity’. Over four months in 2017/18, Nic Whitton and I went through many different ideas for a conference game for Playful Learning 2018. It got to a point as the conference neared where we had pages of notes, special rules, points and reward systems – and we just stopped in frustration, had a beer, and threw it all away: just retaining this simple pirate die with six suggestive icons. We then left it to the attendees and presenters to do with it what they wanted, and it worked a treat.

Students and staff create stories of ‘belonging’

Carrying on the theme of simplicity, this picture was taken in the middle of an afternoon of deep strategic thinking at my University. Not by our senior managers (although one joined in) but by students and staff from different levels and departments. We wanted to understand what ‘belonging’ meant to us as a community, so I invited this group together to explore agents for and barriers against belonging. They developed a set of ‘simple guiding principles’ that we’ve used to guide many of our institutional approaches since. For example:

SGP5: Will we (staff and students) feel proud of this?

Just a normal meeting of the Work-at-Play-at-Work committee

And to finish, what better than a picture of 24 apparently normal people meeting under a desk? If you want to know more, head here. But I think this sums up everything that’s good in play for me: give a group of adults a meaningful challenge and the right conditions for play, and their creativity for any endeavour is unbounded.

Thanks for sharing your story and your photos Alex.

If you are unlucky, you might be selected as next month’s sacrifice chosen member – we will be in touch!