From the O’Reilly Web2Summit: Make Life More Like Games

  1. Games come with better instructions; you have a clear goal, and other people share information on how to succeed.
  2. Games give you better feedback on your performance in the form of scores and ratings, plus they provide an audience that’s tuned into your success.
  3. Games offer better community: everybody’s agreed to same rules and narrative, and you share a heroic sense of purpose.

I’m not sure how quickly that’ll happen in life but what about school? How can we make school more like this? How can you make individual projects more like this? Every little bit will help.

Directions

Just about every kid wants to please. Some of the major problems I’ve had in my classroom, and seen in other classrooms, occur when kids don’t understand what you want them to do. They get frustrated and/or start wandering off task. You get mad because they’re not doing what you “explicitly” told them to do. It’s often interesting to see what a third person thinks of my “crystal clear” directions. I usually run my directions and plans by at least one person.

The hard part for me is figuring out how to get a community of support built around your class. Our current school system is certainly not set up to enable or encourage students to help one another. That’s usually called cheating in the school system. Anyone out there succeeding with this? Let me know how.

Performance and Audience

I think the thing that differs about game scores and ratings is that they’re pretty much instantaneous and constant. That’s not often the way school works. How can we give feedback that is constant and relevant? Should it even be the teacher doing this? It seems like that’s be impossible. Feedback and rating has to be farmed out to more people- that real audience. Creating a class where this happens takes some work and it certainly isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of.

Then there’s the fact that the goal has to be something the student wants to get to. Education is often really, really bad at this. For the most part, I’ve haven’t been interested in teacher set goals – not in high school, not in college, and not in graduate school. The main problem I have is – I don’t matter. My interests, my knowledge and my background too often have no bearing on what I’ll be assigned to do. That cancels out a lot of my buy in.

Community

This is one place I’ve seen a fair amount of success. I see teachers set community standards and get their classes motivated and excited. The teacher creates a sense of purpose and can even weave a narrative that suspends disbelief. I love watching amazing teachers do this. This is one of those things that has a lot to do with personality and style. I often wonder if it can be taught.

3 thoughts on “Web2Summit: Make Life More Like Games

  1. INRE Directions – I don’t know either. This is one of my biggest frustation in teaching 8th graders. No matter how explicitly I spell out what they are supposed to do, there is a noticable minority who never do what I’ve asked and seem genuinely puzzled. At the same time, the more I micromanage the instructions, the less room I leave the kids for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. I love the idea of instant feedback, but I’m old enough that I have a really hard time visualizing it.

  2. Hi,

    It seems to me that there is a tongue-in-cheek aspect to the call to “make life more like games.”

    “1. Games come with better instructions; you have a clear goal, and other people share information on how to succeed.”

    Is there a single, clear goal in life that everyone shares, as there is in a game? Do you really think there should be?

    “2. Games give you better feedback on your performance in the form of scores and ratings, plus they provide an audience that’s tuned into your success.”

    Unfortunately, none of us has an audience cheering our high scores in marriage, childrearing, and making a positive contribution to society. Instead, we have what you call “other people,” who are trying to do the same things.

    “3. Games offer better community: everybody’s agreed to same rules and narrative, and you share a heroic sense of purpose.”

    In life, everyone has different “rules” and values, and opportunities for heroics only come when there is some sort of disaster.

    It seems to me that “make life more like games” is a joke about the complexities of the human condition, not a call to arms for teachers or anyone else.

  3. Selene,

    I get what your saying, but I think you’re wrong. Maybe the intent was humorous but the ideas are worth thinking about. I’ve never been one to spurn the source if I feel I can use it for my purpose.

    1. I think there should be clear goals in assignments. You’ll see that as a foundation for instructional design. If you see the types of assignments too often handed out to our students you’d be amazed any of them know what they’re supposed to do.

    The communal sharing of information to succeed really seems to mimic ARG and other similar activities where people really work well together to help everyone get to a certain goal. I’ve seen classes motivated this way and the energy and work accomplished is impressive.

    2. I’m certainly not talking about marriage or childrearing but I feel bad for you if you don’t have a support structure that cheers on your successes. That’s exactly what I feel my friends and family do (including those on the Internet). Cultivating that sort of support in schools would be an enormous benefit- especially for children who don’t have that kind of support at home. Life doesn’t have to be competition against one another.

    3. I would say that many communities agree to certain basic rules and values. Check out the information on Google, Scientogology, certain teams, the best schools etc. They all embrace certain rules and values.

    To say that heroics only come into play during disasters is a misinterpretation of the word. “(A) heroic sense of purpose” can happen for a lot of reasons- for instance believing what you are doing will change the world, or make life better for someone. I know some educators who believe they do both of these- and when you get a whole school thinking that things change. When kids feel their work is done for a purpose outside of their classrooms, something good for their community there’s a heroic sense of purpose.

    I would agree the human condition is complex and this may have been light hearted but I don’t think it was a joke- it was an unexpected way to get at truth- kind of like those “All I need to know I learned in Kindergarden” or “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I believe games have a lot to teach us in terms of what people want and how they can be motivated. That line of thought needs exploration in schools filled with students who spend hours a day on games while ignoring the work they’ve been told is important.

    Tom

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