Are Games Better than Life?

8 08 2011

A GameLab guild quest post. (See for explanation of 3D GameLab)

Another thought provoking TED Talk. Game designer David Perry also talks about technology evolution but his presentation addresses the emotional impact on players beyond the dopamine physiological effects.

The short video piece that showed the evolution of game through the evolution of technology is quite incredible. The punch line is highly emotional. The graphics are getting more real. Scary real. Players experience life changing events in adventures that they choose. And they go back to it because those experiences -albeit virtual- fulfill them emotionally.

The most powerful section of Perry’s presentation is the viewing of Michael Highland’s film, As Real As Your Life. Highland provokes our conception of the game addict. I heard an interesting contradiction: From the addict point of view, reality has become boring, unrewarding, mundane, grey – “Reality is almost as pretty as his games.” However, I also heard Highland states that his worry is not that games are becoming more violent and more like reality, his worry is that reality becomes more like a game. So my question to Highland is: If you enjoy the feeling of power in your hands, having such control over your environment in the game, having life changing experiences in the game, why would addicts want to escape reality is this is the ONE safe place for them (where boring means that you won’t get shot in an ambush). What I take away from Highland’s powerful video is that game addicts can’t unplug from the adrenaline (if war games for example) or other emotion generating neurochemical BECAUSE however “reality-like” the game is, it is still a game and therefore safe.

Although familiar with the emotional aspect of games (I research Presence in 3D, including facial expressions, body gestures and other paralanguage behaviors), i am simply stunned at the importance given to it by Highland. So how better than life are games? Highland and Perry list graphics, audio, emotion, purpose, meaning, understanding, and feeling.

I think that question is valid if we assume that Life is like a game. But the problem with some players is that there are as many preferences as there are players. Even within game types, there are preferences, as well as in game species. Life can be compared more to a social virtual environment than a game. Purpose, meaning, understanding, and feeling are provided by the game’s genre, context, and self-selecting playing community. As graphics are concerned, well, reality is starting to look quite augmented. Car windshields are created with an augmented layer to provide the driver added info on the world around him, including the mechanics of his car; vision glasses are created to provide handfree information layers to the world that the person has in front of her (AR glasses), not to mention the current AR app for handhelds.

and here is the post about it

“Game designer David Perry says tomorrow’s videogames will be more than mere fun to the next generation of gamers. They’ll be lush, complex, emotional experiences — more involving and meaningful to some than real life.” As Highland’s video demonstrates, they already are.

Incidentally, I am quite happy that life is not like games (considering that almost all life went through at least five major cycles of extinction, I am glad that the reset button is not as easily accessible by everyone in RL). Although I understand that necessity is the mother of all inventions, how would you live if you were stuck by a download bug (see video below)…LOL, just kidding.


I’ve got this cute birdie award for you if you tweet this post using #Educedge. Just to say Thank You!


7 Ways to Reward the Brain

8 08 2011

3D GameLab is an innovative seminar for teachers to learn game-based learning and transform their own pedagogy with the help of this new race of learning management system. Read more here:

In my GameLab guild, we were asked to watch this TED talk by Tom Chatfield and reflect on it. Chatfield discusses the power of virtuality and wonders at videogames’ power to motivate and transfix us. So, what can we learn about learning through games? What do developers do -how do they do it- to create such compelling games that people are spending $50billions in 2010? and the trend seems to be exponential.

As Chatfield skims on the biology of learning and points to the importance of dopamine in the learning process, we begin to think about how the human species has evolved and take notice of the role of technology in our evolution. Of course, i am immediately reminded of the debate between Clark and Kosma (a great summary here: Hastings, N., & Tracey, M. (2004). Does Media Affect Learning: Where Are We Now? TechTrends 49(2), 28-30. ).

I am more particularly reminded of “Homo Evolutis, Please meet the next human species,” a TED eBook by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullans (2010)…and that book itself reminds me of “The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects“, co-created by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore (1967). McLuhan adopted the term “massage” to denote the effect each medium has on the human sensorium, taking inventory of the “effects” of numerous media in terms of how they “massage” the sensorium.

In “Homo Evolutis,” Enriquez and Gullans discuss the scientific fact of a new human species and how various technologies and concepts have enabled the rise of the new humanoid.

So back to Chatfield. Chatfield proceeds by discussing the wanting and the liking of players that games attend to in order to promote engagement. Games developers do so by:

  1. Experience bars measuring progress: access to your growth stage> control, power.
  2. Short and long term aims: breaking the goal into multiple tasks.
  3. Reward efforts: mistakes are incomplete learning processes. Don’t stop the learning process by punishing mistakes. Implement a reward schedule.
  4. Rapid and frequent feedback: to link action to consequences.
  5. Element of uncertainty: neurological gold mine > excitement
  6. Windows of enhanced memory: memory and confidence
  7. Other people: We are social animals afterall. Peer collaboration leading sophisticated player behaviors.

Of course the thought that algorithms predict player behaviors and plays a part in the addictive potential of the games is a bit scary. I think the question is, what’s taking us so long to do the same thing with the educational system?

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