Why Game Design?

William Wyllie The Sloping Deck 1871. Oil on card.
Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, presented by the family of James Jamieson 1932

Where in our learning spaces is the success of a task based on the diversity of the group? Where, actually, the more different the members of the group are the better the outcome?  And.. to push these questions a bit further, to simultaneously…..  engage in real world complex problems?

I have been thinking about Game Design for a few years now. When I started engaging with Game Design in the classroom, I noticed student's learning pathways change. Students who were usually on the edges of classroom conversations and learning started moving into the middle. Students who were ‘consistently below standard’ started to shine. Students who were successful starting to reframe who they needed to work with to be successful.  I kept wondering what the heck was going on and why. Students were totally engaged and I  was hearing something in the classroom that I could only describe as ‘the humm’. It was a sound I had not heard in other learning areas.  The humm was  across all 40 students! When you hear  a humm and you have no idea what is going on, you have to start noticing.

Game Design a 21st C microscope?
It is quite possible, that Game Design supports us as educators to see things in teaching and learning that were not previously visible. Riel Miller in his talk  Enlarging the Field of Futures Studies. The Emergent Discipline of Anticipation discusses the function of the 20thC microscope and how over a period of time the microscope has enabled us to see things other wise unseen things and in doing so we are able to act differently in the present. In his discussion, Miller encourages us to explore and identify the microscopes of the 21stC.
At present,   I’m playing with the idea that Game Design just might be one of the 21stC microscopes.

So what is it about Game Design that enables us to see what may have previously not been visible?
  • Teacher role shifts. Teachers shift from being the source of knowledge to setting the conditions for epistemic curiosity
  • Knowledge moves. It’s not primarily what students know that is valued, but what they can now do with what they know.
  • Requires multidiciplinarity. All learning areas and Key Competencies are required in Game Design.
  • Learning in Public. Students and teachers are encouraged to ‘fail fast’ and not only  that - do it publically.
  • Idea Improvement is the touch stone to success. Ideas become separate from self so students and teachers can critique. Where we can start really think hard with others.
  • Diversity of student Interactions. Students develop new social learning pathways within the classroom
  • Diversity of student groupings. Students become self motivated to seek to work in groups with people different to themselves in order to create and achieve a successful game.  Check out  Key Competencies for the Future for more information about this idea.
  • Embodied Learning. This is where students must engage their mind with their body. In order to be successful all aspects of self participate.
  • Real world contexts and considerations are debated. A space for real disagreement. Where idea improvement can frequently be tracked and has value. The thing with Game Design is there is enormous value in the process.
  • Building student Intellectual Capacity. Guy Claxton considers intelligence as the ability to respond to a variety of situations and contexts. Game Design is a process where  teachers and students need to be able to think hard about what is the  best thing to do next. Not only that, invariably in game design the next best thing ‘to do’ is in relation to and with others.
  • Building student capability to work with uncertainty. Students and teachers work together with uncertainty and certainty within Game Design.  Working with uncertainty are often the places where we feel uncomfortable or there appear to be no answers. Game design is  a practical way to start to engage with the complexities of a problem. To be able to work with uncertainty and consider complex problems (as discussed in Key Competencies for the Future  as wicked problems) is to set conditions to be able to  imagine different scenarios.  To imagine different scenarios are steps towards what Riel Miller refers to as being ‘Futures Literate’.  It is quite possible that the ability to imagine different scenarios is the pulse of Game Design.
  • Builds capabilities for the Future of Work as outlined by  Ross Dawson @rossdawson

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