The idea of engagement is what makes games fun. If you care about the goals or concepts of a game, you will pay more attention to it and thus be more focused. For example, in the game Cards Against Humanity, engagement is created through humor. The anticipation of what cards others will put down and what cards you will pick up later provide enough excitement to engage and immerse you into the game. There is an element of sheer joy in the game, though it is neither politically correct nor suitable for children. Why, then, can Cards Against Humanity cause the same thinking and emotions in adults as those of children in play?
What is the difference between learning and playing as a child? Nothing, until you start to add grades into the mix. As a class, we all agreed that school was awesome then we were little, but it got progressively lamer as we grew. This is because teachers tended to stop trying to engage us and tried harder to educate us. We were older, more complex beings, and no longer needed games and activities to activate our thirst for knowledge.
Or did we?
According to the NCEE, “Engagement has been shown to decline as students
progress through the upper elementary grades and
middle school, reaching its lowest levels in high
school … Some studies
estimate that by high school as many as 40–60
percent of youth are disengaged “
How can this be changed?
The same things that engaged us as children can engage us as adults, for example the game Activate teaches you about modern social issues through gamification. For example, you eliminate bullying by raising awareness through posters and bake sales, eventually climbing up to the national level, simultaneously learning about the issues of bullying in the real world. Ideas such as this are the foundation of Participatory Play- How can we use games to engage students and learners in studies and life? What can games do as teaching mechanisms?
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
We can create a richer learning environment simply by not talking down to students in thinking that they are fundamentally different than themselves as children. Gaming should always be fun and purposeful, such as the use of dice games to survive a famine in ancient Lydia, which taught the populous skills necessary to explore and conquer the Iberian Peninsula- later known as the Roman Empire. Games and playtime were so integral to our growing up that we couldn’t distinguish between early class and play. We need to regain a respect for games and their power to change the world- such as the MMO protein folding simulation that really helps us understand science- and learn to embrace them as a teaching tool in their own right, whether it is my roleplaying different learners or solving the puzzle of our own bodies.