Changing expectations from gaming

Yesterday Karl Kapp insightfully characterized a change in learner expectations resulting from playing games:

If, while playing a video game, the player waits for instructions or information, he or she will fail. Decisive action must be taken immediately. The gamer generation has learned this and expects speed in answers and learning. If a gamer needs information, he or she inputs a question into a search engine and then demands accurate, up-to-date results. They seek rather than wait for information.

Rather than framing the students' condition as "impatient", "short attention span", "ADD" or "seeking instant gratification", I'm delighted with his diagnosis of "seeking rather than waiting for information" and " taking decisive action". Karl is giving us more indications that learners no longer need to be taught. Learners need to be given messy things to explore.

I see gamers developing other expectations that are unfamiliar to content delivery systems:

Expecting the unexpected: So much happens in games that is surprising, gamers would naturally learn to be open to the unforeseeable and serendipitous. There approach to formulating expectations would be more divergent and tolerant of ambiguity as I explored in this post.

Expecting to get it by going there: So much is learned in landscapes, learners would naturally expect to gain knowledge, clues or new avenues to explore by moving their avatar, eyes or cursor. Sitting still would equate with learning nothing, playing dead, pretending to be a zombie. Doing seat time in classrooms will not feel right to anyone who gets around easily in cyberspace.

Expecting to change strategy: Games teach us to stop trying harder with the same approach. We figure out what to try differently by what didn't work, what got us into trouble or what lured us into a trap. We challenge our assumptions easily from having so much practice rethinking how to  succeed. Gamers have cultivated an uncanny sense of strategic leverage, reversal, ambush and flanking maneuvers. All the while, content delivery system keep trying to cover the material, stick to the sequence and keep the experiences straightforward.

Expecting to learn by experimentation: Textbooks by experts report on completed experiments and empirically verified hypotheses. The fun is done before the class begins. Learning is assumed to be a process of consuming deliveries, not making discoveries. Games set up "finding out for yourself" better than textbooks, lab courses or practice exercises in classes. Games involve characters, settings and changing challenges. The experiments are imbedded in narrative structures. Immersion in the unknowns is easier and more captivating than content delivery systems can achieve.

As these changing expectations among learners becomes evident in drop out rates and other metrics of content delivery system failure, the changes we bloggers have been anticipating will emerge from the decay.


  1. Tom,

    Enjoyed your perspective on gamer expectations! I think you hit the nail on the head and highlighted some areas of real differences between corporate and academic delivery of content and the need of the newest generation to explore, experiment and to continually change strategy. Insightful as always.

  2. Thanks Karl! Your blog keeps me expanding my horizons!

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