I suppose it all started for me at the age of three when I won a tiddlywinks “tournament” at a friend’s birthday party. I have been an avid player of non-sporting games ever since. In the old days the games came in heavy boxes and were physical representations; now they are mainly video/computer games.
“I was 53 when I began and was blown away by how long, challenging, and complex games like Deus Ex were. Yet millions of people pay a lot of money to buy them and they learn them very well, including kids who wouldn’t spend twelve concentrated minutes really learning algebra in school. It dawned on me that good games were learning machines. Built into their very designs were good learning principles, principles supported, in fact, by cutting-edge research in cognitive science, the science that studies human thinking and learning. Many of these principles could be used in schools to get kids to learn things like science, but, too often today schools are returning to skill-and-drill and multiple-choice tests that kill deep learning. Games are good at getting themselves learned for good old Darwinian reasons, namely, the ones that can’t get learned, don’t get bought and the companies that produce them go broke (Suikoden III is a good example of a very good game that does a poor job helping the player learn how to play it). What makes the situation interesting is that game designers can’t make games easier to learn by dumbing them down, since players want ever longer, more challenging, more open-ended games.”
The book is an odd mix in that the good professor provides a scientifically rigorous look at games we all know and love and never thought about in a rigorous way before. But I have to admit that looking back my lifelong playing has provided me with not just hours of enjoyment, but I have learned a lot. And the learning has not just been facts, but problem solving and ways of looking at and experiencing the world around me. No doubt this book will start a wave of educational inquiry, debate, and of course, books.