Alex Synan: First-Time NASAGA Attendee
By Brent Darnell
Alex Synan of Baker City, Oregon, represents the e-Learning age to come. After attending public high school through his senior year, Synan switched to Eagle Cap Innovative High School, an online school, to complete his senior year. There he was also able to take college-level courses and complete a General Associates Degree. Currently he is looking for work that will include his passions for writing, music, and the study of languages and human interactions. He attended his first NASAGA Conference in Sarasota where he enjoyed the exchange of ideas as well as the people he met.
Brent Darnell, also a first-time NASAGA attendee, is a leading authority on emotional intelligence and a pioneer of its use in the construction industry. He is the author of “People Profit Connection, How Emotional Intelligence Can Maximize People Skills and Maximize Your Profits.” He talked with Alex about his experience at the conference.
Brent Darnell for SIMAGES: What prompted you to attend your first NASAGA conference?
Alex Synan: I wanted to go to NASAGA when a friend told me the main purpose of NASAGA is gaming. I wasn’t sure what this entailed and wanted to go to see what happened at the conference.
Darnell: What did you hope to learn at the conference?
Synan: Before coming I had hoped to learn what simulations could be created within games and how they could be created.
Darnell: What was the biggest surprise for you at the conference?
Synan: My biggest surprise about NASAGA was how the games played at the conference could have a simple design but also be very fun, challenging, and help educate in a very hands-on way. A good example of a game that had this effect on me was the game Star Power.
Darnell: What sessions or events really stood out for you (other than Star Power)?
Synan: Another event that stood out for me was Bafa Bafa by Gary Shirts, the same man who created Star Power. This game involved separating players into two groups and forming a culture for each group. Then the two cultures would interact. This game was very enlightening because it showed me how differently people can act and communicate but how people can also have very similar values across different cultures.
I also enjoyed the Expo held at NASAGA. I was able to look at all the different gaming ideas other people had created and had for sale. I really enjoyed this because, since I couldn’t go to all the events, at least I was able to see all the products available to buy.
Darnell: You participated in the GeoPubCrawl. What did you do and what was that like?
Synan: The GeoPubCrawl was an event where teams were tasked to find places that were hinted at in messages we received via an app on smart phones. To gain points, we would take pictures of situations we were told to do and to complete these tasks before other teams. As one example, our team had to send a picture of the team drinking water out of a fountain or pretending to play a guitar next to an actual band. I think it was a great way to get out of the conference hotel and see some of the city of Sarasota.
Darnell: How would you improve the conference?
Synan: The biggest problem I found with NASAGA is that I couldn’t go too all the events – there were just too many to choose from!
Darnell: What advice would you give to someone attending their first NASAGA conference?
Synan: I recommend to a first timer at NASAGA to be yourself, trying to communicate what you want others to hear without trying to fit in. Just follow what others do. While I was at NASAGA, everyone I talked to was nice and willing to talk and share ideas – a very open and welcoming group. It would be a shame not to show everyone who you really are. Also try things out of your comfort zone to expand your base of interests and knowledge.
Darnell: What games do you typically like to play and how has your experience at NASAGA changed the way you play them?
Synan: I typically play videogames and occasionally board games. For both of these, being at NASAGA has given me more respect for the people who made these games. Also, now I want to tweak and alter my game experiences in a way I think is more fun or interesting. It makes me want to add a teaching aspect to the games I play. I will either add these elements myself or look more closely for them in a game I might have overlooked.
Darnell: How have you applied your learning from the conference?
Synan: I have taken away from NASAGA the desire to always innovate or tweak a game I play be it a board, card, or video game. It also made me look at games in a different way. I am now more likely to try and find an educational purpose in games.
Darnell: Are there any people you met whom you’ve been able to stay in touch with?
Synan: I’ve kept in contact with quite a few people from NASAGA and I’m glad I did because the people I met at NASAGA were both very nice and also doing interesting things with their lives – not something I always can find in people. I would advise anyone going to any conference to keep connected to people they meet and like. I found it a great experience and was glad to share with people I met.