I spent two days this week at the White House Conference Center, with a small group hosted by John Baily, Director of the Office of Educaional Technology. Their idea was to learn as much about the "millenials" (the generation born after 1982, that I call the "digital natives,") in order to suggest what changes in the education system might be appropriate for this generation.
It was clear both from John and from his boss Eugene Hickok, the Under-Secretary of Education, that there is both a clear recognition of how out-of-date our schools are, and a strong desire to change them.
It was also clear that the tools that they have at their disposal are few, essentially just the "bully pulpit," of showing statistics, suggesting metrics, and presenting new vision and ideas, which they intend to do in an upcoming report.
Still, it is good they are listening.
The two most interesting new ideas that I picked up were:
(1) although our curricular education system leaves much to be desired and our results are not the best in the world, our extracurricular system is second to none. It is interesting to analyze the features that make this so (choice, parental involvement, competition, etc.) and see how we can use these for improving the curricular side.
(2) although the most important descriptor of the the millenial generation is their sense of empowerment (though interactivity, buying power, etc), some presenters suggested they are, in general, also a very conservative, risk averse group. I'm not sure what this means, yet, and I'd like to get more data, but it's definitely food for thought.
Dispite the hurricane, I made it out to Stanford for the Media X Gaming to Learn conference last week. An excellent opportunity to interact with people, some new faces, some old. The interest in Non-Entertainment games appears to be growing rapidly!
Will Wright gave a great kickoff interview. A random sampling of things he said that I found interesting: "Why are we talking about "educational games" -- as if games weren't already educational!" "Stories are based on a different circuitry than games, i.e. they are based on our ability to empathize, whereas games are built on agency." "Linear media and story are the learned behavior -- games are the natural behavior." "Games will prove to be the most wide-ranging expression form - they will take all the others in." "Game designers don't have a magic formula-- most games that succeed have the time and budget to do an incredible amount of experimentation." "For me, every game is a new research project." "There are some emotions that games are better at stimulating than are movies, e.g. guilt (when you know you've done something bad) and pride (when you know you've done something good.)" "We have a big body of literature out there in books, but so far we have nothing in games."
The other part of the conference I really liked was a small-team exercise to create a game concept in a hour an pitch it to funders. Some terrific concepts emerged, including "Crush the Worm" (an anti-virus game), "Wannabee" (a virutal career game), "Dreamhouse Builder" (sponsored by Home Depot(?) "Superstar 101" (live the life of a pop star for 10 years) "Sim Thin" (anti-obesity) "Polisim" (a political game) "Teach2learn" (a students as teachers game) "The Furbs and the Bees" (a communicable disease education game), "Extreme Arts Challenge" (a team-based, art-based cell phone game) "Pursuit of Happiness" (A social studies game), "I-Witness History" (a classroom-based historical sim) and "Escape From the Ice" (a Shakelton-emulation game for leadership).
I was impressed (as I alway am) by how quickly smart and creative people can come up with good ideas. Now let's create places to do this online, so we can all share, refine and prototype the ideas and pitch them only when they are really ready! As I have written elsewhere (www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp), creating the educational games we want and deserve requires OPEN COLLABORATION!
For those of you interested in games for purposes other than entertainment, I have published a "catalog" (i.e. a database) of these games at www.socialimpactgames.com.
I appeal to readers for corrections, additions, emendations, etc. to the database. If your own favorites are not listed, please let me know what they are, and I will add them. If there is language you think should be changed, please let me know as well. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The current site name: "Social Impact Games: Entertaining Games with a Non-Entertainment Goal" may change in the future, as may the address, but the database is a permanent one. I hope this catalog, which I will try to keep as up-to-date as possible, will be a useful enhancement to the non-entertainment games community and collective efforts.
The categories of games in the catalog are: Education and Learning Games; Public Policy Games; Health and Wellness Games; Business Games; Military Games; Political and Social Games; Advertising and Branded Games; Projected and Upcoming Games; and COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) Games.
In addition to the descriptions of games by category (and the ability to post notes on each game), the Site contains sections for
- References (of various kinds, including upcoming conferences), and
- Game Design information.
There are also a variety of forums: On games in general, on specific categories of games, and on other topics. You may add new threads as well. The forum is the only part of the site requiring log in.
I look forward to your feedback and input.