MIT Education Arcade

The best educational games capture what’s already fun about learning and make that central to the game. 

Design and Development of Games for Learning (link to edX course) 11.127x, Introduction to Game Design 11.126x, Design and Development of Educational Technology 11.132x

MIT's Education Arcade was designed to explore games that promote authentic and engaging play, not just gamification of existing learning structures. Their games teach maths and science.

the best educational games capture what’s already fun about learning and make that central to the game

Gamification undermines what they see as the real opportunity for games to radically, albeit playfully, transform education. “If somebody comes to me and says, ‘I want to make math fun,’ I don’t want to work with that person, because they don’t think math is already fun.”

Whenever the arcade team brainstorms a game, by contrast, it starts by finding people who are passionate about math, history, science, or any other subject and asks what drives and engages them.

“Maybe they love solving puzzles with math or experimenting with science,” said Klopfer. “Maybe they like how understanding math and science make the world seem different, or more comprehensible. Tap into that thing people already find interesting, and enhance it in the game.”

The four freedoms of play: freedom to experiment, freedom to fail, freedom to assume different identities, and freedom of effort (meaning the ability to mix full-throttle effort with periods of relaxation and disengagement)

Real learning happens in moments of exploration

Learning to become less frustrated with things you don't understand

don’t tell users how the game works; let them find out for themselves
find out how the puzzle works and then solve it
early adopters of PCs naturally saw the computers as interesting environments to mess around in
so games are environments where you mess around
when computers became more ubiquitous this view changed(?) the PC came to be seen a utility instead, for consumption, not production
the landscape of educational gaming in the 1990s toward 2000: they didn’t make enough money
as an industry it’s still lacking, we still haven’t figured out what the right economic model for it is, but there is a growing awareness of the potential

as you progress in a game you can see what you've achieved; the game gives you feedback on your progress and an appropriate level of challenge

allowing you to experience the consequence of the skill you've acquired

and their importance in learning, games having social power

Until the advent of the PC, there were many more games for playing with others than there were for playing alone. It is only very, very recently in the history of humankind that we have played games alone for hours.

Ian Bogost: Procedural Rhetoric

Different media rhetorics; visual rhetoric; digital rhetoric

All previous accounts of rhetoric are insufficient to embrace the particular mode of inscription that the computer offers us, which is the procedural mode

PROCEDURALITY: processes; ideas that are expressed with processes instead of images, speech or writing, or combinations of those media
A kind of model building; you see the argument through the process of testing the model

Rules of a system create a model of reality

Applications for new modes of rhetorical practice: The world is full of these weird complex systems and problems that we seem not to be able to get our head around using the media that we have traditionally used; images, speech, writing
Computers are intrinsically model building machines

What should happen next in games/internet worlds: 
A true earnest engagement with the complex things that are going on in this world; not oversimplfication for easy consumption; don't always assume that the simplest way to say/learn something is the best (the dangers of TED talk rhetoric)
We live in a culture of simplicity

Games for learning are mostly still theory

The problem is institutional

Procedural intervention for demonstration

The idea of presenting complex information in a simulated form is appealing, but the reality is that we're so stuck in the old paradigm of media that doing anything different is impossible; organizationally impossible, not technical!

Games built to display a portion of a complex system

Procedural rhetoric is a theory or a design philosophy; a way of thinking about the process of translating systems in the world into representations of those systems in the computer
A framework through which to ask questions about what a particular situation might demand

Four freedoms of play; hard fun

Scot Osterweil + Eric Klopfer

1: freedom to explore; try things out, 2: freedom to fail; if there was a risk to failing in a game, we wouldn't play it, 3: freedom of identity; when we play we are trying on new parts of our personality, 4: freedom of effort; sometimes we need to play hard, sometimes we play relaxed, and we need the freedom to choose when; if someone is telling us to play hard it stops being fun

What makes games special?

Games are not just reward systems (like in gamification)

Games give players: Interesting choices/descisions, that have consequences, feedback in the game that is visible, measurable, immediate, they have clearly defined goals, sometimes different ways to win or no win state (like in minecraft, where you set your own goals)

As long as the game is offering you a system, you can be playful however you want in that system; whether you like hard fun or "giggle" fun