Five Things We Learned at Serious Play

This week, Genius Adventures was at Serious Play conference 2018 in Buffalo, NY. It was our first conference, and we have a lot of takeaways not only from the experience of  being an exhibitor at a conference but also from talking with so many other educators and game designers striving to bring games to the classroom.

Here are our biggest takeaways from the conference:

Take Time to Meet Other Exhibitors

Yes, it’s helpful to know who you’re up against—but other companies aren’t always competitors.

We learned so much from conversations with other exhibitors about their projects, and it gave us an idea of the landscape of educational games. Not only did we learn that our design space is fairly unique—we learned that everyone is doing something unique. There is room for endless exploration and experimenting in the world of educational games, and there’s no right way to go about it. Every game has an angle and approach that creates distinct decisions and experiences for students.

Whenever we visited an exhibitor’s table, they always returned the gesture and showed genuine interest in our work. This led to great conversations, criticism, and reflection.

Don’t Always Be in Sales Mode

We were fortunate enough to be at a conference that offered several panels on topics ranging from game design to technology in the classroom to unconventional applications of games.

It was an opportunity for education and discussion—as any conference can be. Many attendees have been coming to Serious Play for over a decade, and some people were there for the first time. There were teachers, students, developers, and school board members. The panels were diverse in subject and perspective, but everyone was there to share what they have learned and offer new ways for games to engage people in meaningful ways.

We would have missed out on many opportunities to learn had we simply stayed at our booth and demoed our game. It was always hard to pull away from our table, but we’re glad we took the time to engage with the seminars and with other designers and educators.

There is Always More to Learn

The sheer variety of seminars and topics was eye-opening. The worlds of education and games are both intricate, but when combined, something new is created. We encountered terms and theories we’d never heard of, and we introduced some ideas to others (we hope).

Because everyone at Serious Play had a different purpose with their product or company, no one was directly competing. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience in a positive community that has room to grow and learn.

This won’t be the last Serious Play conference we attend—and it certainly won’t be the last conference for Genius Plaza either!