The title comes from a throw-away comment I made to the previous post. For education to fall under the umbrella of games, it needs the definition of games to be generalised as “solving statistically varied challenge situations”, to the point where nearly everything is a game; which would be nice.
In the book ‘The Theory of Fun‘, Raph Koster explains how computer games drip-feed difficulty to the player. They introduce a basic mechanic, such as jumping, and then provide lots of things to jump over. When jumping over things becomes easy, it’s time to introduce something else – like jumping off a wall to get higher. Why this approach? If you give the player everything at once then it’s too much to deal with; if you only get them repeating something that they’ve mastered then they’ll get bored. Not too different from education.
In games, tools are also introduced with instructions, and challenges that start simple and then increase in difficulty – scaffolding traditionally provided by the teacher in education. In this way the ramping difficulty in games is similar the concept of the ‘zone of proximal development‘.
So, games just try and use good practice from learning? Maybe originally, but “gamification” acknowledges that games have perfected their own techniques to enhance learning and motivation. Techniques such as progress bars and ‘badges‘.
In the TED talk “7 ways games reward the brain“, Tom Chatfield describes how players can be encouraged to perform boring, repetitive tasks, for fun, just by controlling the ‘schedule of reward’. The concepts are quite behavioristic, but I’ve always found that although behaviorism is weak on the details, it’s still accurate on a broader scale. Feel free to disagree in the comments.
So is bad education just a boring game? Well, they can both suffer from doing the same things badly, and benefit from doing the same things right.