Monday, January 31, 2005

I want to create games

I had a good weekend. Today is my birthday (read the previous post) and over the weekend we met with a friend. She gave me two books - The Art of the Start and A Theory of Fun for Game Design. The first one was really good - one to go back to over and over - but the second one made me all verklempt at the end.

I have been a teacher at various times in my life, and it's usually a pretty positive experience, mostly with the kids that "get it". That happens more often with the brighter kids than average (or slow) ones, but sometimes you see that spark in an otherwise dull face, and that's really cool. That's the best part of doing it. Grading papers, on the other hand, sucks.

I really like being a dad. I'm looking forward to the next one quite a bit. I like seeing Ben grow, and it's so neat seeing him learn. I think that there are plenty of cool things I can teach him.

I really like Steve Pavlina's website and I think that he has great potential to help a lot of people with his new speaking career. That said, I do disagree with his decision to move away from his game company. I mean, he's free to do as he wants, obviously, and I wish him the best. But it's not what I would do in his shoes. I'd change what kind of games I make and sell, if I were in his shoes - if I already had a game company established.

I think that games are great way to teach people things. I also think that there are far too many games that focus on skills that are outdated in modern society. Spending time and energy on those skills will, in the long run, hold us back. We don't need violence. If you want to learn how to fight, go join the armed forces. Otherwise, it's a skill you learn for the sense of accomplishment and to stay in shape, and I don't have any problem with that. The key is to just not be in a situation where you need to fight.

I digress. My point is that in modern society knowledge of exponential growth is much more important than how to aim a gun, as one concrete example. A game is a learning experience in a low stress environment with little true penalty for failure. School does carry substantial penalties for failure, so either people don't learn, or only learn enough to pass the next test and forget it. A fun game that people play over and over will teach something deeply enough to ingrain it deeply into the brain. There are tests on the difference between men and women on spatial perception. Apparently men tend to do better on a pen and paper test than women. (Tend to, not always.) However, if the test is an interactive game that teaches as you go, the skew mostly goes away. The most interesting part is that if the pen and paper test is done after the interactive one, the skew stays gone. There is a permenent rewiring that takes place that shows that true learning took place. (I'll go look up the study and provide links if need be.)

I am in favor of win/win solutions. Cooperation will get our species a lot farther than competition will in the long run. Money spent on guns is money not spent on education or beautiful architecture or curing AIDS or colonizing other planets.

I want to write games that deeply ingrain constructive values in people. I think that I can help more people to live better in modern society this way than I can by teaching 20-100 kids at a time, or by doing public speaking, or most other things. Games are very subtle. Make them fun and people don't even realize what they are learning. This subtle manipulation of people's minds and value systems represents a pretty big deviation from my normal doctrine of non-interference in other people's lives, but I think it's perhaps my best shot at doing some good for large numbers of people.


ジョエル said...

Aaron, here's something that might be of interest regarding using games to teach, although there's less emphasis on cooperative play in this article:

(You do need to register, but registering is free and they have never spammed me in the last couple of years. You could use Mailinator or something similar if you want to avoid any spam possibilities.)

Aaron F Stanton said...

Very cool. Thanks for the link. (I already have an account with Gamasutra, just hadn't seen that before.)

BTW, I don't know the language your name is in - are you from JoS by any chance?

ジョエル said...

This is my secret identity. You'll know my *alter ego*, Joel Goodwin. The reason is I publish a Japanese weblog on Blogger and it's easier to post comments using my Japanese sign-in than as anonymous or make up a different account. So if you ever see ジョエル it'll be me =)

I've had a Gamasutra account for years but only recently discovered they have RSS feeds! So I never miss an article nowadays. (I too have a penchant for game development, used to do a lot during the 8-bit era, e.g. something called the Citadel)

Aaron F Stanton said...

Oh! Hi! It's been a while. Feel free to email me sometime. Thanks for letting me know about the Gamasutra RSS.

Bankstrong said...

Aaron -

How about getting in touch with Steve Pavlina and taking over? He's leaving, you're coming in, why not?