Notes from Jesse Schell’s What Games Are Good At (Games for Change Festival)

Some definitions:

  • Play is a manipulation that indulges curiosity
  • A game is a problem solving activity approached playfully

Instead of serious games, suggests the term transformational games, so that the focus is on how the game is changing the user.

Games are bad at:

  1. Being cheap: in the short term, at least, good games are generally expensive to build (though there can be economy in scale)
  2. Tricking students into learning: students don’t want to be manipulated.  Instead of tricking them, put the learning into a context that they find meaningful
  3. Limitless exploration: well, unless you have limitless funds
  4. Adhering to time limits: games are best played at their own pace rather than in a specified period of time. This fits less with a traditional classroom and more with a “flipped” one.
  5. Understanding mistakes: games are great at IDENTIFYING mistakes, but a coach is still going to be essential for the “why.”
  6. Long shelf lives
  7. Staying interesting forever

Games are Good At

  1. Giving the brain what it wants: visible progress, abstract > concrete, full engagement, and fantasy motivations
  2. Illustrating complex systems
  3. Keeping you in flow
  4. Showing a new point of view
  5. Authenticity
  6. Raising questions: note that imperfect simulations are often BETTER at raising questions that good simulations, because people question how they are different from reality and learn through their questioning
  7. Creating shared experiences
  8. Allowing independent exploration
  9. Practice for dangerous situations
  10. Creation of teachable moments:  teachers can use games/simulation to create/catch students in moments of trouble/failure in a game and then use that moment to ask what should you have done.  Example of firefighter who allowed teammate to die in a simulation.
  11. Giving students ownership

Jesse’s slides are at

2 thoughts on “Notes from Jesse Schell’s What Games Are Good At (Games for Change Festival)

Comments are closed.