Gaming as a way to solve the world’s problems? People getting smarter, building confidence, and enhancing critical life skills by engaging in virtual realities? Prior to the articles and TED Talk (by Jane McGonigal) that I read/viewed for this week’s class I would never have thought those concepts made much sense. However, that ill-informed, previously conceived notion has now completely drifted by the wayside!
As a former biologist, I very much appreciated—and related to—the science analogies James Gee provided in his piece on Good Video Games and Good Learning. I loved his comparison of what is learned in video gaming and what is learned in biology:
“…Just as what you learn when you learn to play a good video game is how to play the game, so too, what you learn when you learn biology should be how to play that game.”
This made the real-life application of skills acquired through game playing so much clearer to me. In any realm, whether game worlds, science, arts, literature, or the like, there are a set of rules that you must not only abide by but become an expert in. I also found several very interesting similarities between the field of gaming and the field of education. For instance, Gee references a player’s “regime of confidence” which correlates to level of play. In order to keep gamers enthralled and committed, good games stay within, but at the outer edge of a player’s skill level. This concept precisely parallels the “zone of proximal development” that we refer to in education. From forming identities to forging interactive relationships to risk-taking for the sake of progression and success, the characteristics of the gaming world resonate strongly with our goals for high leverage practices in education! The implications of taking a game-like approach to the way in which we create classrooms and curriculum seem endlessly optimistic.
Continuing on that sentiment, Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk truly blew me away. I was completely captivated by her passion for creating a society that embraces good gaming as a catalyst for making our world a better place. Perhaps its lofty, perhaps its unrealistic…but, if by jumping feet-first into the gaming domain we could actually promote a civilization of “super-empowered, hopeful individuals” who are committed to embarking on “epic adventures” to solve the greatest real-world problems of our time, then I say it’s worth one heck of a shot!