Thursday, December 10, 2015

Playing games, becoming creative

This week at school we've been doing the Hour of Code.  This started me thinking about why video games are so important, and how the principles of "gamification" could be applied to influence behaviour and learning.  I was reading about Tom Chatfield's studies in the University of Bristol that have listed the reasons why some games influence behaviour.
  • One thing that video games do really well is give players constant feedback about how they are doing.  Often when playing games you can see your score on-screen, so you get immediate feedback about what you are doing well.  Players earn points - often for quite small things - so players learn what works and how to improve.  Frequent feedback, it seems, is the way to improve performance.  So thinking about this, it does seem ironic that in the world of work most of us only get an evaluation or appraisal once every year.  Chatfield's studies show that infrequent feedback diminishes creativity and causes greater stress.  If you only have a once a year evaluation, then you are more likely to play safe and avoid taking risks or experimenting with new ideas (especially if these are liked with pay increases and bonuses).  Without frequent feedback it's hard to improve.
  • Short and long term goals are also embedded into many games, for example with levels. This allows you to have small wins along the way.  This could easily be incorporated into schools or workplaces, so that succeeding in small goals is seen as being part of a larger, long-term plan.
  • Another interesting thing to emerge from games is that rewarding both success and failure leads to more creativity (not just rewarding success).  Creativity has many dead ends - Thomas Edison, for example, found 10,000 ways of not making a lightbulb before he found one that did.  Rewarding people for exploring different ways of doing things taps into a prototyping mindset - finding out what doesn't work is also important - and encourages more exploration.
  • Creativity is also enhanced when there is a social engagement.  Mostly we like to play games with other people rather than just against ourselves.  Being actively involved with a team, often motivates us to go beyond what we would do on our own.
Photo Credit: susivinh via Compfight cc

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