Thursday, July 19, 2012

Games Gone Good

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!


  1. Paula - I though your correlation of Gee's references to a player’s “regime of confidence” to the “zone of proximal development” in education was original. I've spent the last week mildly raging (an oxymoron?) against the thought that anything good could come of gaming, while at the same time trying to give the thoughts of Gee and McGonical some serious consideration.

    I'm not a gamer, and still, in my heart, consider it a self-indulgent waste of time, but, I suppose if we can harness the methane produced by a garbage dump, we might be able to harness the millions of hours spent gaming...

  2. I was impressed by your idea to connect a player's "regime of confidence" to the "zone of proximal development." I see Mike commented on that above, but you did such a great job making that connection I thought it needed to be mentioned again.

    It was nice to read your positive reaction to Jane McGonigal's TED talk. I wish I was able to appreciate her unique solution to a problem that has been stumping people for ages. I got hung up on the practicality and implementation of the idea that I was not able to truly think about her message. But I still wonder, if everything in life becomes an "epic adventure," does the adventure lose its appeal?

    I also appreciated your connection to biology. As an English person, I like to use my mind and paper to get something done. Games and technology often seem superfluous to me. But your right- gaming teaches you a set of skills, just like other disciplines require. Thank you for again showing me the flip side of my opinion!

  3. Your celebration of McGonigal's passion is gratifying. I do think that what I appreciated most about these readings/posts was their enthusiasm and positive energy; like Rachel, I'm somewhat skeptical of how realistic they are, but I do like the attitude. Looking for creative approaches to engaging students is exactly what we should be doing, and I can certainly see its application for science or math. Thanks for your thoughts!