Shall we play a game?

If you are familiar with that decade (the 1980s), or perhaps enjoy stories about computers with the power to destroy the world, then you are probably familiar with that phrase.  In the movie, War Games, the computer named Joshua wants to play a game of chess with a young hacker named David.  David however doesn’t want to play chess; he wants to play global thermonuclear war.  Joshua reluctantly agrees which sends David into a frantic race to stop Joshua from launching the United States’ entire nuclear arsenal at the Soviet Union.  David was interested in playing a game of war, but when it came to reality he was horrified at the thought.

There is something about games that allows us to distance ourselves from the reality of a situation and put ourselves in the possibility of another.  When playing board games, like Monopoly for example, the way that the game plays out depends upon which properties you and your opponents own, and on how you develop those properties; in essence you become a businessman and landowner.  When playing games like hide-and-seek or kick-the-can you become the prey trying to outwit the hunter.

And if you consider video games and the variety and abundance of them…

Video Game Walhalla By localjapantimes retrieved from flickr


…and the different types of formats they are available in….you realize that the way we play games has totally changed from those schoolyard games of the past.

Video games are interesting in that they allow you to travel to different planets or dimensions, or to engage in lifestyles that you had never conceived of before.  You can have the opportunity to wield a virtual sword or gun. You can create a virtual family and build yourself a life from the ground up.  Maybe you are interested in exploring an alternate history.  Or it could be that you like games that let you test your problem solving abilities through a series of puzzles that increase in difficulty.

When you consider the popularity of video games in our society it seems foolish not to utilize a similar sort of game play in learning environments.  Talk to any game player who has beaten a game level and they can tell you in detail how they solved the tasks that allowed them to move to the next level of the game.  Some of those game levels require repetitive play to beat so it is understandable that the game players would remember the steps that led them to success, and probably apply those concepts to the next levels.

So when you consider that games allow us to distance ourselves from reality to engage in these fantasy situations, wouldn’t it make sense that we could apply that to the reality of real life situations?  For example I’m not sure that many people would be interested in a game called “Adventures in Librarianship” but I do think that future librarians might be interested in role playing opportunities that could model certain skills that would be useful in real life situations.

The United States Department of Defense seems to think this sort of modeling is useful, and here are only a couple of the things I found:

Researchers Examine Video Gaming’s Benefits

Computer Game Trains ‘Art of Battle Command’

Advanced Equipment Maintenance Training Using Revolutionary Video Game…

Simulating Warfare is no Video Game

Exploring e-portfolios and Independent Open Learner Models:  Toward Army Learning Concept 2015

In this decade it is likely that some of us have played a game that might resemble David’s almost end of the world scenario in War Games.  Some of us have played games that simulate gardening, cooking, commerce, and planning.  Why not take that a step further and modify those games for education?

Now if only I were a game designer….the game designing librarian?  Why not.