I recently posted this on my EdTech blog, and I thought it would be relevant here.

Today’s image is an extension of a poster image that I created for my “Teaching and Learning in Virtual Worlds” class.  I’ve always liked the idea of the gentle giant, and I thought it should be just as applicable under the sea as anywhere.  I might make this one stereoscopic for the art shows.

I recently watched the following video for my Games and Simulations in Education class.

I couldn’t believe how much I connected with this presentation.

The initial description of his history with gaming reminded me of the keynote address given by Ron Gilbert at PAX 2009.

As a game advocate, I was already aware of most of the statistics that he posted. I was pleased, however, to see these numbers getting out to the masses.

I really liked the video that he showed toward the end. Everything that he described, especially the elements of instincts and desensitization that can occur in the gaming world, coincided with concerns that I have felt over the years. When I heard the statement “After 20 years of watching TV geared to make me emotional, even a decent insurance commercial can bring tears to my eyes,” I felt a chill down my spine. That is me.

One thing that I think he failed to touch on was the somewhat paradoxical idea that graphics are getting so good that they are mattering less and less. That is, we have reached a point where players are no longer impressed by graphics; they want innovative gameplay, artistic style, and elegant mechanics.

I absolutely agree with the assessment that designers are now looking for “emotion, purpose, meaning, understanding, and feeling.” Often the beauty of the game is the emotion that it invokes. I wept at the endings of Kingdom Hearts, Vandal Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II,

The comment of the video game addict about sleepless nights “trying to complete the next level” really hit home for me. I remember the night in the early 90s when I finished Champions of Krynn. After playing through the ending sequence, I looked out my window to see the sun rising. I remember staying up in the evenings at my grandmother’s house and beating Defender of the Crown repeatedly. I still catch myself from time to time playing one last round of Team Fortress 2 at 2am.

I liked the comment that we “must stay aware of what our games are teaching us.” Games always teach, regardless of whether you intend them to or not. The question is not whether they are teaching, but WHAT they are teaching. Further, the content of the education received by games is simultaneously intellectual, psychological, and emotional.

There is a subtle implication here that I think many educational game designers fail to see. The most important thing that a game provides is an emotional connection to the content. If you trigger an emotion in your games, the concepts of your lessons will forever be branded to those emotions. If you make a game designed to teach math and that game is boring, you are teaching your students that math is boring. On the other hand, if you can create a sense of urgency and excitement in your class, then you are teaching them that the content is exciting.

This talk did not do much to change my outlook on game design, but it did a LOT to reinforce it.