Colleen Macklin forwarded Kyle Li and I this excellent post on Raph Koster's blog about the Ludic Fallacy. In essence, the ludic fallacy is when people "mistake the model for reality." Koster's take was that this can drive younger people, who have been raised on the lessons in games, to be too likely to assume that real world choices hew closely to those provided to them in games. Koster's view of the consequences:
Recently I had a discussion with a management and leadership consultant, and we were discussing the generational characteristics of Millenials versus Gen X in the workforce, and we were talking about how a gamer mentality may have affected the way Gen Y behaves in the workplace: more likely to follow the rules, more likely to work in teams, more needful of reassurance, less creative and risk-taking, less likely to see the full scope of irreversible consequences of a choice, and less likely to see things in shades of gray. In a way, these sound like thinking trained by games.
The ludic fallacy comes from the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb who also popularized the term "black swan". The Black Swan theory describes events that are highly improbable and have a large impact (and that we, retrospectively, try to assume were predictable). Black Swans are particularly dangerous for people who have been trained to think they don't exist (frankly, that's pretty much all of us.) As Taleb writes in his book:
...we can easily trigger Black Swans thanks to aggressive ignorance-like a child playing with a chemistry kit.
By assuming that we can predict outliers (we can't) and that these events they precipitate are of no great consequence (they are), we allow ourselves to be lulled into thinking that our lives are run in the same contained set of rules that might apply even in an advanced game simulation.
The cure? My read on Koster is that we should consider throwing Black Swans into educational games... or all games. By creating a set of circumstances where student players know that catastrophic events are possible (if unlikely), we will, hopefully, encourage kids (and adults) to think more conservatively and more long-term when making their choices. Having to plan for the 100-year flood (or the 500-year flood) makes the player prepare for eventualities that they may never experience themselves. The student players are therefore made to consider their game worlds as places where the rules apply only 99% (or more) of the time--enough that they can't totally rely on them as models for reality.
The catch? Randomness is not fun. Sort of. Nick Fortugno and others have taught me there are appropriate uses of randomness. For example, randomizing the terrain of the game tends to work. Players must then make their own choices on this playing field. But randomizing the choices themselves usually is a miserable failure. Try playing a game where all your moves are based solely on the roll of a die, like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders. They're awful, unless you're a four year old.
It seems, then, that the Black Swans have to be carefully inserted into games in the form of "terrain" changes--the sudden appearance of ridiculously powerful enemies, the total elimination (or tripling) of one's resources, the widespread reformatting of a game's map. They effect the field on which the player makes choices, without inhibiting or supplementing the ability to make them in the first place. The resulting choices will be difficult and victories will be rare and hard won, but the core of gaming remains.
These events also need to be real outliers, going beyond the single super-powerful card in the deck (which savvy players would be able to predict). For example, the "Your Parents Never Met" card in Chrononauts is an okay example, but, I think, it'd have to be even more unlikely than it is now. You should be aware, in the back of your mind, that something truly awful can happen down the line, but you shouldn't be able to count cards or analyze models well enough to predict it.
Will this work? Will it cure the Gen Ys (or, as they're known in Taiwan, "strawberries") of their reliance on limited game rules in real life? Will it still leave them with their confidence, their tactical good sense, their teamwork--positive consequences of game training, according to Koster? I dunno. But it's worth a shot. And, who knows, we might even... WAAARGH! THREE-HEADED ALIENS ARE ATTACKING!
Kyle and I are playing with our new mirror playground.
Students can use the playground to test their theories about how mirrors reflect light. We can move and rotate virtual mirrors that reflect a beam of light, as well as add in as many mirrors as we want.
More to come:
We created a quick color mixing game prototype using the glowballs and some stock render engines.
The idea is to teach middle-school physics students about how combinations of light can create new colors. Players raise their glowball high or low depending on how much red, green, or blue is needed to match the color sliding down across the floor. Frantic but fun--and only about 20 to 30 minutes worth of work to put together.
The positions of the glowballs, and other information coming from SCREM, can be relayed to a little Nokia N800 palmtop over the WiFi connection.
Tracking is still a little rough, and, as I mention in the video, I think the IR cams are grabbing the N800 a little bit, so we'll need to keep it outside of the area--at least until the tracker is a bit more solid. Still, it should be a handy way to bring in another interface--and other participants--inside SMALLab. In fact, I gave the N800 to James in the office, and he could watch the movements of the balls through the wall.
I'm sure that's useful somehow.
I just discovered a bevy of research on the Enron email dataset. After the collapse of the company, all of the email from the roughly 150 ex-employees made it into a publicly available archive. This is a pretty valuable resource for people looking to test data-visualization ideas for social relationships. Hopefully, Chuck and I can find a way to use this in the fall for the collaboration studio we're teaching.
This is simple game we created as part of the SMALLab workshop here at Parsons. It's for teaching middle-school students how to figure out coordinates on a projected grid.
Each player takes their own origin as 0,0 and must reach the goal marker laid down by the teacher. The first player to correctly call out the coordinates of her or his goal marker wins.
Congrats to Christopher for his mad math dancing skills!
Here's more work on faking three dimensions on a flat plane.
Again, this only works from the perspective of the ball, so one person needs to hold it fairly near their point of view to get the effect. And, from the brief demo we did at the workshop, sometimes people need a few minutes to adjust to the effect before they feel like they're navigating space.
At this point, it seems like more of a fun demo or a parlor trick. One really good suggestion we got recently, though, was that we could give participants a button, say on a Wiimore, that would allow them to assume the first person perspective if more than one person is navigating the space. That might help share the experience a bit better.
I like pancakes. Hey, everyone likes pancakes! Check out Kyle's awesome mod of his Pancake Express game for the SMALLab installation. It's a really great test of the kind of work we can do with new Render Engines. And it's a ton of fun.
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