I promoted the club in terms of the ways we would play and how that would match to the skills we would use:
While I was pleased by the interest, I became concerned that an assumption had been made that we would just play games for an hour and then go home. In their excitement at the theme of the club, some of the students had not bothered to read the write-up introducing the club, included at the bottom of the poster and in the letter that went home to parents:
Do you like playing computer games? Do you love learning? If you can answer 'YES' to both questions, then this is the club for you!
Games are everywhere - on our PCs, online, on our tablets and phones... Games are also a great way to learn. If we play them responsibly, we can develop our thinking skills, show our creativity, explore our imaginations, and learn about teamwork, co-operation and fair play,
Join us as we journey through space and time, explore wild terrain, solve puzzles, build amazing projects, and learn how to be responsible gamers - all from the comfort of our own computer lab. :)
A blessing in disguise came in the form of administrative red-tape as the request to purchase MinecraftEdu had not been processed by the time the club began. That meant we did our first session without playing any games at all!
I started by introducing myself and asking the learners what they expected from the club. As I had anticipated, several of them started listing favourite games and types of game, many of which were not really appropriate for a school environment, especially when the club was open to kids aged 8 and up.
I listed some of the games they mentioned like GTA, Assassins' Creed, FIFA, and so on. I then asked them to think if all of those games were really suitable for our club. They agreed that first-person shooters, games with gangster violence and bad language, and games focused on one particular sport were not going to appeal or be suitable for everyone. I then showed them a copy of the above text from the poster and asked them to read it carefully (it turned out most of them hadn't carefully read it before but at least their parents had as a couple of kids said they now understood why their parents had agreed to let them join a gaming club).
I then asked them to brainstorm in groups what kind of games they had played that would fit that profile. Minecraft was quickly mentioned as was The Sims. They also mentioned educational games they had used in class before, simulation software like Universe Sandbox, and many apps that challenge the player with puzzles and problems to solve.
That was more like it! And they were not disappointed - they still seemed excited about the chance to play in a different kind of environment. One boy also commented on my knowledge of computer games. "Maybe you can teach us something about this after all," he said.
We finished off the session with an adaptation of one of my favourite 'gameless' GBL lessons, Cut the App, which also gave them a chance to talk about their favourtite mobile games.
The important thing in this session was not to say "No! We will not play those games!" and crush the kids' expectations but instead to get them to stop, digest all the information in front of them, and think about it. In the end, they arrived at the conclusion that certain games would not be desirable in our club on thier own. They also came up with the reasons why on thier own and offered better suggestions on thier own. That way, their expectations were changed not crushed and they worked thier way towards a better understanding of the situation.
Nevermind game-based learning - that is what all learning should be about.