Variations on a Game: Summer Ball Story Cube

hacking bball
This week, the Making Learning Connected MOOC dives into games, with a focus on the stories behind the games and all that comes with the narrative design. I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about games over the years, as I have an entire unit for my sixth graders around video game design which is the highlight for the year for many of them.

As we begin our discussions, I started to think about the game of baseball, and how a neighbor/friend/youth coach volunteers and runs an informal Summer Ball program for any kid under the age of 14 in our city. Three days a week, from July until November (some years), this friend (who would rather not be named and got mad at me one year when I nominated him for a local community recognition) loosely organizes kids (sometimes there are up to 60 kids; sometimes around 20) into the game of baseball.

But he spices it up on a regular basis, adding twists to rules and, well, “hacking the game of baseball” to make it interesting for kids, and they just love it when he calls out a rule change. He does this for a variety of reasons — to keep the kids engaged, to change the pace of play, to teach the traditional game of baseball through the lens of alteration.

My own boys have been playing Summer Ball for almost 10 years, with the youngest now the only one allowed in (cut off age is 14, when the batter is too strong for the young kids). One interesting aspect is the mix of ages of kids, where there are 8 year old kids hanging out with 13 year old kids in a very informal gathering, learning from the older kids (some good; some bad) in a way that beckons back to my own neighborhood experiences. It’s a determined move by my neighbor to get kids away from their devices and away from formal activities, and into something more natural and freeflowing. While mostly boys, there are some girls who play, too.

In that vein, I offer up this Story Cube, from a site called Slides, that allows you to construct a presentation that allows you to move around the square surfaces of an invisible project. Ideally, a circle would be best for this! But hey, you take what you can get.

Peace (on the field),

  1. Reminds me of all the games I played with baseball cards when I was a kid including card castles. Do you remember “Stratomatic” baseball? Here’s the online version: Gaming improvisation (aka play) arises from a certain level of passion + expertise. Thanks for the invocation for the tribe of baseball.

  2. In our neighborhood, the game is soccer. Boys dribble the streets looking for a game. One girl plays in full hijab and glasses. Languages collide on the field, Arabic, Spanish, English. My son can swear in all three. I will miss the sounds of the game.

  3. What a fab share! I am passing the cube on to my P.E. colleague who is going to love the rules variations. #CLMOOC for the win, yet again! Thank you, Kevin!

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