Friday, May 12, 2006

Educating Games

In some places, some people are actually seeking to improve their public education systems. Shocking isn't it? In some of these cases the people in question are turing to games to bridge the usually desolate chasm between learning and fun.

That deserves a general shout out all by itself: When something is fun, you want to do it. This is triply true when you are under the age of 20. When you want to get someone else to do something, one of the best ways to encourage them is to make it fun for them.

In making educational games there are a lot of things to consider above and beyond making a leisure game. It might be helpful to being by examining a game you are familiar with and ask yourself what the game could be used to teach. What do you need to do to win the game? Are the multiple winning strategies? What styles of play lead to these winning strategies? What styles and strategies is the game teaching the players?

Chess might be a simple example (I am not a master, so...). To do well in chess you need to plan ahead. Furthermore, you often want to trade resources (pieces) for position. So chess teaches you to plan ahead, and that position can be much more valuable than a simple total of resources. Learning that second lesson can be very powerful in real life, but I'm not convinced chess puts it into your head in such a way that you'll apply it outside the game. This is as opposed to the planning ahead, which is highly transparent (and in pop reference this is the central aspect of chess that is referenced) and easily transferred into life. If you wanted to use chess more educationally you would want to spend more effort on the emphasis and discussion of the resource for position lesson, as it's not as clear.