Big Brain Academy
Believe it: your Xbox may be making you a smarter student, worker, and human being
No doubt youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard a parent, a friend, or a politician suggest that games are a waste of time, merely a mindless activity. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d argue that games are exactly the opposite. Long, sometimes difficult console and computer games actually turn the acquisition of knowledge into pleasure - and it wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be fun without the learning. Whets more, the skills learned often spill over to the real world in ways you already use but donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t realize.
Games often make you think like a scientist. Whether youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re selecting the right tactic for a boss battle in Gears of War, navigating a track in Dirt, or capturing territory in Command and Conquer 3, game play is built of a cycle of Ã¢â‚¬Å“hypnotize, problem the world, get a reaction, reflect on the results, re-probe to get better results.Ã¢â‚¬Â thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also a cycle typical of experimental science. Games also lower the consequences of failure for that cycle : When you fail, you can start from the last saved game or checkpoint. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re encouraged to take risks, explore, and try new things. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s crucial for creative problem-solving in the real world, too.
But learning goes deeper in the best games. There, problems are well-ordered - thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why we have lever design, after al - so that getting past earlier obstacles will lead to hypotheses that work well for later, harder problems. In these games, you practice a set of challenges until youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve achieved mastery. Take Heavy Weapon on Xbox Live Arcade - first, you learn to target and move while blasting enemy aircraft. Before too long, the game throws a new type of problem at you - bombers that come at you with new attacks, satellites with different behaviors, and an end-level boss - requiring you to rethink your previous strategy and ratchet up your skills to a new level. In turn, that new mastery is itself consolidated through repetition (with variation) only to be challenged again by something new in the next level of the game. This cycle of consolidation and challenge is the basis of developing expertise in any domain.
Along those lines, good games try to stay within, but at the outer edge, of the playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ã¢â‚¬Å“regime of competence.Ã¢â‚¬Â that is, they feel Ã¢â‚¬Å“do-ableÃ¢â‚¬Â but challenging. This makes them pleasantly frustrating, leading to a mental Ã¢â‚¬Å“flowÃ¢â‚¬Â state for humans beings. Flow occurs when people feel fully immersed in what they are doing; where they feel focused, energized, and fully involved. itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a good place for your brain to be in general, and good games tap into that state of concentration very effectively.
Games encourage you to think about not just isolated events, facts, and skills, but entire systems that incorporate all of the above. In games like Catan, Gears of War, of the PC strategy title, Rise of Nations, you need to think how each action you take might impact your future actions and the actions of the other people playing against you. Now substitute your gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s priorities for a monthly budget, a board meeting, or a romantic relationship.
For that matter, games encourage you to explore thoroughly before moving on - to think laterally, not just linearly, and to use such exploration and lateral thinking to reconceived your goals from time to time. Those are good ideas in a world full of high-risk complex systems - whether that world is Cryodiil or Cincinnati.
And while Xbox Lives tagline says Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good to play together,Ã¢â‚¬Â that may be more true than the marketers know. Games recruit Ã¢â‚¬Å“cross-functional teamsÃ¢â‚¬Â just like modern high-tech workplaces. In World of Warcraft, each player must master a specialty, since a Mage plays differently than a Warrior, but they must also understand enough of each otherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s specializations to coordinate. Same foes for Shadowrun, where Dwarves and Trolls use very different specialties in tandem to achieve a common goal. In both games, the core knowledge needed to play is distributed among a set of real people, much as in a modern science lab or high-tech workplace.
All these features let you, the gamer, recruit good learning for fun - and noticeable results. Someday we may see the same methods adopted in schools, as educators explore benefits of gaming interactivity. Reading, writing and Rainbow Six could be the best way to learn.
Originaly written by: James Paul Gee (Check OXM #75)
so, what do you think?