Although somewhat dated, this short article by James Gee touches on some important elements of gaming and learning. The education system still pushes a “memorize and test” philosophy. Gee laments that children are not learning to think, they’re learning to memorise … and good students aren’t good at thinking they’re just good at “doing school”.
This is a very valid concern. Gee believes that games are an agent of mental training. That children aren’t meant to be memorising.
Learning isn’t about memorizing isolated facts. It’s about connecting and manipulating them.
I like that. It’s a very succinct way of describing what should be our relationship with information. This is exactly what the internet can do – provide an environment where we manipulate information by mixing, sharing and remixing between collectives online.
Gee states that the secret of video gaming’s success isn’t the games themselves or the 3D graphics, but the underlying architecture of the game. Each level is incrementally more difficult, pushing the gamer further and further beyond their abilities. This is the ‘regime of competence principal’. The game is just difficult enough to simultaneously provide pleasure and frustration for the player. It’s hard enough to be challenging, but through effort the player can be rewarded by winning the game.
Games also incorporate expertise. Gamers become masters of a game, but are then forced to adapt and evolve as the game becomes more complex.
As Gee notes, kids often say that playing games doesn’t feel like learning. They’re focused on playing. Again and again, educational experts push this point. Learning must become a secondary objective to having fun. When students are focused on having fun they forget that they’re also learning.