Game is educational, but education isn’t a game

Welcome gamers and players,

just my 2 cents on a question I really care:

someone says that, by playing, things can go better. I agreed. It is, indeed, often used in a “dumb” way: do, playing, what you have to do, in real life.

I disagree. I strongly disagree. You cannot create a game to teach recycling, and think that’s enough to bring people to recycle in their day-by-day life. It can happen only under precise condition, about some kind of activities.
For example, if a dangerous behaviour is related to some missing information, a game that brought this info will works well to change attitude of gamers.

On the other side, if it will be possible to influence deep a player by games… well, hysteria about violence in video game will make sense. If doing something in fiction make easier do the same in real world, concern on video game and young felony is right.

Instead, I think that games work differently, more subtly. Games have a property, very powerful, that is mimesis (mimic).
There is a lot of difference between any fiction in games and real life, however our mind will act, in first case, as “it is real”. This psychological strategy probably is related with our long childhood and superior mind: it is a useful tool to train ourselves during childhood. This is the reason we cry when watching a horror movie.
Anyway, fiction is never confused with reality. If we read the Lord of Rings, we can feel emotions for Frodo, or Gandalf, or any other fictional characters. This doesn’t mean we think they are real (our feelings towards them are real, however).
Mimesis is the word Aristotle used to indicate this property of human brain: using fiction as it is real, while perfectly know it is fiction.

So, how can we say that games do not change, directly, players behaviour about real life?Let’s make an example: think about watching a movie. The images are flowing on the screen, and you think about how bad is the acting, how poor the location, recognize a street right beyond your home… you can probably see a whole movie without watching it.

This is the crucial step: mimesis requires our willing participation. Without our will, mimesis cannot work.
With game, happens the same. You cannot have fun or be involved in a game without willing. That wouldn’t be a game anymore (it became work, or constriction, or abuse).

So, this is the logical structure of engagement in gaming:

  • having fun is a free choise
  • having fun is a primary part into any game
  • gaming is a free choise

So, returning to post’s title: can we substitute education with gaming?
Question is really weird, because game itself is a kind of education (the only one we know at the beginning of our life), and learning something, usually, it’s not a free choise: we need to learn something for some reason.
So, I think no, game cannot substitute educational activities: it is a subset of them, and can help a lot in obtaining better result. Be those two set not overlap completely: usually we need also to learn things we are not interested to know. In these situations, a gamification approach is senseless: gamification, as gaming, always start from player’s will.

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2 thoughts on “Game is educational, but education isn’t a game

  1. Pingback: Brainstorming the wall | Play for Business!

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