Friday, 29 April 2005

The Psychology Behind Games

by Anders Hejdenberg, free registration needed to read the article.

Citing from Roger Caillois's book Man, Play, and Games the following is

a useful system of classifying the different types of experiences that are present in games. A game can include just one or all of these different types of experiences.

1. Competition

Activities where players use their skill to overcome the challenge that their opponents offer. The pleasure lies in developing your skills to outmaneuver the opposition. Football and chess are examples of such activities.

2. Chance

Activities where elements of chance can have an impact on the outcome of the game. The pleasure lies in finding ways to minimize the impact of the element of chance, and the excitement of trying to guess the outcome. Games that are based on chance can also give players the illusion of being able to control or foresee the future. Slot machines and lotteries are examples of such activities.

3. Vertigo

Activities that alters the state of mind by disrupting the normal perception of the world, resulting in a pleasurable state of dizziness. Roller coaster rides and skydiving are examples of such activities. [Albert's addition: The preception of time also changes when you are engaged in pleasurable experience. "Time flies"!]

4. Make-Believe

Activities where we create alternate realities in which we are not bound by the constraints of the real world. The pleasure lies in assuming various characteristics and abilities that we do not possess in our normal life. In this state of make-believe we can feel as if we actually possessed the powers of what we have chosen to assimilate. Role-playing, theatre and reading books are examples of such activities.

I believe these are also important elements in designing experiential based learning activity.

The author continues to give us 8 characteristics of "gameness":

1. It's an activity that we feel that we can perform – a challenge that requires skill
2. We need to be able to concentrate on what we are doing
3. We need to have clear goals for our activity
4. We need to get constant feedback on our progress
5. We act with a deep involvement that frees us from our everyday worries
6. We need to exercise control over our environment
7. We become less self-absorbed
8. Our perception of time is altered

This list looks almost like a checklist we would use to evaluate whether a learning activity is good or not. The only exception may be number 6 in the list. I don't think many educators realise that the ability of giving learners control over their environment is critical to the engagement. Most learning activities are designed to give learners limited choices (e.g. multiple choice??? )

The following paragraph is the first paragraph of the summary of part one of the article, with my modifications to make it looks like a summary for an education paper. The original words are deleted and my words are inserted as shown.

Games Learning activities are activities that we have specifically designed to maximize the amount of pleasure and learning we get from them. Games Learning activities are our way of having fun and extending our ability, regardless of our current life situation. In games Learning activities, we do not have to abide to the restrictions of the ordinary world allowing us to make mistakes to test our understanding. We can create our own rules discover where our specific talents can be recognized and rewarded – talents that would perhaps otherwise go unnoticed.

The above paragraph may feel strange. For example, the reference to fun, and current life situation. However, replacing Learning activities with role play simulation as used in the Fablusi role play simulation platform, this would be an almost prefect paragraph to describe the potential learning outcome and benefits.

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