Questioning gameplay learning

Last week Karl Kapp asked "are we nearing entrance to the Matrix?" That question stayed in the back of mind since then. I've wondered if our sense of the Matrix construct connects to Marshall McLuhan's Tetrad of Media effects involving different facets of current and previous technologies. Here are the questions that have evolved in my reflecting on the possibility of there "being no spoon" in our sense of our minds creating our experiences:

Do you think we have an instinct for learning by playing around? When kids get excited by their teacher making a game out of the next thing to learn, is their teacher connecting with a primal urge in each of us? When anyone gets hooked on playing a game so intently that s/he loses track of time, does that demonstrate a powerful appetite getting fed? Are we hard-wired to succeed when faced with a game-like challenge?

Do our minds getting oriented faster when a situation seems like a game, than when it seems like instruction, assignments or procedural compliance? Are our minds pre-disposed to figure out what to do next when there are rules to play by, levels to advance to and ways to improve our score?

When we're playing games, are we extending our five senses, physical abilities or cognitive prowess? Does game playing overcome our human limitations in some way that we value? Are we leveraging our natural inclinations to explore, conquer, learn and accomplish progress -- by immersing ourselves in game-like situations? Do games function in some way like tools, technologies and vehicles that make it possible for us to be stronger, faster and more aware than we can be on our own?

Can our obsession with the benefits of gaming go overboard? Can the ways our abilities get extended by games become over-extended? Are facets of gaming starting to backfire and do more harm than good? Are you seeing signs of someone's "devotion to game playing" producing patterns of cynicism, social isolation or hostile interactions?

Can games be designed by anyone? Can game-design be liberated from short-tail, top-down, corporate game factories? Can the tools to create new games be moved to desktops and online clients like print publishing, photo retouching, video editing, and musical production? Can games get created collaboratively like wiki spaces, social-networking sites and open source software development?

Are game titles sold by retailers waning? Does the game distributors' competition for shelf space, magazine mentions and competitive ratings -- appear to be on the way out? Is our culture outgrowing blockbuster hits, brand names and game sequels like it has with so many other forms of media?

As we become more accustomed to constantly playing games, learning from game-play and creating our own games, will life seem different to us? Are we changing our minds about what seems real, authentic, valuable and worthy of our attention. Are we morphing into avatars clothed in meat suits, doing time in game called mortality? Is the subtext of playing in imaginary worlds giving us a sense of space-time as a cyberspace? Are we reverting to the archaic worldview that perceived the now moment as sacred and progress as profane?


  1. I think we could make more sense of some of this by clarifying definitions. Games and play are not the same thing. Games have a structure. Usually this includes some rules of conduct, a goal, and a scoring system.

    Sometimes games are used to aid learning. This can range from the simple to the elaborate, like the extensive simulations that the Army has been using to train tank crews for some time. When games are used from training, they only model reality. The learning still must be adapted to work in the real world.

  2. Wally: Thanks for helping to add to the clarity here about learning and games. There are significant differences that occur between playing in a darkened room and deploying those skills in hot, cramped positions, or experiencing threats in games and real mortal dangers. When those distinctions are in our experience, there is much learning to do in the real world after mastering the simulation. The idea of "playing" does not fit challenges which are that tense, strenuous and dependent on others.

    Karl Kapp's post raised a possibility that the distinction between modeling reality and actual reality could become indistinguishable. When that occurs due to the extreme realism of sims, we may become more conscious of our selective perceiving and biasing what we see in reality or sims. That also suggests that the learning in the sim may transfer without further adaptations. That may be a pipe dream when it comes to combat sims, but actually happen for medical procedures, equipment repair or other calmer situations requiring skill deployment.

    Thanks for your comment Wally!