The Value of Games

I’m a firm believer in the power of games. Even before I saw this TED talk about how gaming could change the world, I already knew that there was something special about the way games can affect human lives. They had changed my own.

Admittedly, not all that change was for the better. God only knows how many hours I spent in front of a game console or computer instead of going out and getting exercise or whatever. Now I’m paying for it — I’ve got to develop a habit of exercise or my health won’t be very good for very much longer.

But in spite of these negatives, games gave me a sense of how to apply the power of thought to new problems and solve them. As I grew up, I learned which games were actually worth playing, and which weren’t. I learned to ask myself, “What am I learning from this?” and expect a decent answer. A game doesn’t have to be “educational” in the sense that it teaches me math or history or something, but it should have something in it that stimulates my imagination, my skills, my awareness, or improves my life in some way, even if I don’t know exactly how to express how that might be. In fact, every game, from tennis to tic-tac-toe, has the potential to be a learning conduit, by which people can approach new problems and pick up whatever they need to solve them. Understanding the principles of game design can even give you an idea of how the rules that shape a good game could influence the laws (written or unwritten) that govern societies around the world.

This is quite a claim, although if you have played (or better yet, designed) some really good games of any kind, you might have experienced this sort of potential already. It’s too much to prove in just one little blog post, but I plan to provide all sorts of examples and reasons for this in future posts. For now it’s probably enough to just think: has a game ever changed you in some way? If you think about it, the change might be bigger than you ever realized.

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2 Comments

  • Hey!

    When I think of games that have changed me, I often think of growing up playing Civilization 2. It really is a beautiful game where you experience the relations between different countries. I can distinctly remember asking my mom what the word “alliance” means. It really gave me a world perspective from a young age.

    -Josh

  • That’s awesome, Josh! I loved Civilization while growing up too. Even more recently, it proved very useful to me during the time when my mother was very unwell. I played Civilization Revolutions on my iPod touch, and it helped me cope during the long hours of waiting.

    Civilization itself stands as a case study of how a game can reflect a lot of serious philosophies and ideas about human history, and present them in a way that makes them not only interesting, but vital to engaging play.

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