Connecting via Twitter vs. Zombies

Connected Educator Month has me reflecting on the ways that I connect, learn, share and create with other educators. I am fortunate to belong to a couple of vibrant communities of practice which form the backbone of my PLN (Professional Learning Network.) I value their experience, insight and their international perspective.

Most of the time we connect via Twitter Stream of Consciousness, Google + posts, Twitter chats and Hangouts. We even sometimes connect face to face. The other day, Friday the 13th to be specific, I was able to connect with many of these people, using a familiar tool, Twitter, in an entirely new way.

That was the day that I first played Twitter vs. Zombies.

Twitter vs. Zombies

Twitter vs. Zombies is an evolving collective storytelling game of tag with #tags, wordplay and a 140 character limit. I first heard of #TvsZ during #etmooc when I saw some #zombie related posts, but I had never been sucked into the #TvsZ world before. This round was built as a networked icebreaker for people in the Open Online Experience 2013 but #TvsZ games are open to anyone. There were quite a few university students playing because their teachers had assigned the game as homework.

Here’s Pete Rorabaugh’s Introduction to the game and tutorial:

As they explain in Twitter Vs. Zombies: New Media Literacy & the Virtual Flash Mob, Pete and Jesse Stommel created Twitter vs. Zombies as an experiment in mass collaboration to demonstrate virtual community and teach new media literacy.

Participants share and co-create a narrative by registering, tweeting using the #TvsZ hashtag, and following rules that change as the game progresses over three days. I’ll skip describing the rules in this post because I have already described them at the end of this post. The TvsZ basics page explains how the game is played in much greater detail.

Initial rules TvsZ
Initial rules TvsZ

Collective Storytelling

I was at the fantastic eTown, Edmonton’s Entrepreneural Festival when the three day game started, I spent the day connecting with people face to face and only occasionally lurked in the TvsZ Twitter stream but I immediately picked up the narrative.
Odd case in OR Patient missing Zombies!

Verena swarmed by Zombies
Verena swarmed by Zombies

When I checked #TvsZ stream on Saturday morning things had changed. The rules had undergone two updates and these had changed the play of the game. On Saturday I lurked while I caught up on the new rules, reviewed what had been happening in the game, checked out the scoreboard to see who I knew who was still a #human (not many), and planned my strategy. Once I joined the game I played for much longer than I planned on Saturday afternoon.

Scoreboard

I studied the scoreboard to see who I knew who was still human. There were still a lot of #humans, but almost everyone I knew was a #zombie. It was a venn diagram of shifting relationships, no an amoeba, constantly shifting, even when I didn’t have my eye on the feed. Also, it seemed like the #humans who were left were keeping a low profile because any contribution to the narrative threatened to attract a #bite.

For a few minutes I thought about how much easier it would be to be a #zombie. They sure seemed to be having a great time.
Ok to be zombie Checking in after church Zombies have all the fun

One of the new rules which had been introduced addressed the dangers than #humans faced by posting: “A HUMAN player can create 1 hour of protection by writing a substantive narrative blog post that includes at least one visual element (picture or video) about the game and tweeting a link to it.”

This tweak encouraged players to continue the narrative and provided some protection to #humans so that they could contribute without danger of #zombie #bite. At the same time the #overrun tag was introduced. #zombies could #overrun #safezones by responding to the #safezone post with a substantive blog post. My first #safezone post was the most detailed, the second, third, forth or fifth #safezone posts were written much more quickly and had much less detail. #safezones were used for the rest of the game but #overruns were cancelled in a later rule update because it was decided (by the collective of players) that #humans needed the full half hour provided by the #safezone in order to be able to contribute to the story.
Safezone overrun

After playing for a while, I started to get to know other players, even though we had never met and might not have been playing for the same side. Barbie Zombie and I had several different exchanges before she begged someone to post a scathing post about me for her because she didn’t know how. Karen posted it for her, and I replied with a post about #zombie mentorship. By the end of the game Barbie had started a blog and has continued to blog, although she is no longer blogging about #zombies.
Post for Barbie

On Sunday a new rule was introduced which proved to be quite controversial. #humans could give #zombies an #antidote by posting a substantive video (at least one minute long) which contributes to the narrative, #zombies who were given an #antidote became #superhuman and were immune to #zombie bites. Karen was given the antidote when she was off-line, and she was pretty surprised when she came back online to discover she was #superhuman.

This round of the game introduced a Google+ Community where rules or other concerns were addressed; this provided a venue to discuss the game outside of the playing field so there was no risk of being #bitten if you were #human. After a discussion in the G+ Community Karen came to terms with being #superhuman and spent her day crafting videos which she used as #antidotes. She became quite a threat to the #zombie hoard; here is her #antidote turning Barbie Zombie back into a human.
Unhappy superhuman Superhuman wanted

On Sunday I needed to get some work done so I spent the day lurking in the #TvsZ stream. Even when I was just lurking, I got so caught up in the narrative that it was easy to forget that the game was designed to foster digital literacy and encourage players to make connections. Pete’s students were participating in the game and he would sometimes provide pointers or comment on how the game was played.
Coaching Gameplay

As the game was drawing to a close, JR was given an #antidote and turned to #superhuman; he last act as a #zombie was to call on the #zombies to #rampage.

I really enjoyed plaing Twitter vs. Zombies. I got to know some new people and playing with people I already knew from other communities helped me to get to know them a little better. As I told Karen, I laughed so hard when I read her posts about #zombie living my husband came over to check on me. It was also great to watch the feeling of community grow as the game evolved.

TvsZ made me really think about collective storytelling, and using familiar technology in unfamiliar ways. Many of us who mentor the OOE13 community played the game, but we wondered if the very fast pace of the game might have kept newbies from participating. Even if they didn’t play and just lurked in the Twitter feed they would have learned a little about how to use Twitter.

One of the great things about playing the game with connected educators is how reflective they are. There was a lot of discussion about narrative and game play, and what new skills participants learned. There is a very thoughtful discussion taking place in the Google+ Community and many participants have blogged about the game, including Karen and Kevin.
New skills Reflecting on game

I can’t wait for the next round.

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