We have entered a new phase in the Learning Lab project. We started off by making games to elicit experiences which could lead to certain insights. These kinds of games are usually called “serious games”, though we kind of dislike the term as it contains something of a contradiction: having fun while being serious. In a sense, all games are serious. We prefer the term “applied games”: applying the discipline of game design to address real-world issues or convey messages.
I really believe this can work.
When someone does something while playing a game he actually does so because he chooses to himself. The message that is ‘taught’ will have way more impact than if it were read to him in a lecture or in the news or any other passive medium. Though this requires reflection by the player of some depth. The players need to stop and go: “wait a minute…”. This moment of reflection is what some games Wieger and I came up with lacked. Wether reflection should be part of the actual gameplay can be debated. But either way, the “message” was there, sometimes it just wasn’t discovered because there was no time for reflection.
Now we’re working in a different direction, or further down the line, however you want to look at it. At first we made games that would facilitate an experience which could be reflected upon for a “message”. Now we set out to make a system which would facilitate the reflection of a previously gained experience. Got it?
So far we’ve been looking at different ways to approach this, get the right workflow going. We weren’t too keen on letting go of our experience-focused design approach. We were worried we might end up making something that wasn’t any fun. But eventually we relaxed and got going.
What we’re working on is a number of playful additions to the course’s internal blog system, that will surface the value being created by the Learning Lab participants.
We’ve made some progress making flowcharts, wireframes, mockups, badges and pink colored slips of paper with mildly pornographic content. It’s coming along quite nicely, we’re getting the feel of this interaction design thing. It’s good to get out of the comfort zone from time to time and broaden the horizon, though I must confess I sometimes miss the smell of monkey poo.