Monday, February 11, 2013

Big Idea Monday- Mindful Game Playing

Life must be lived as play.
-Plato

The other day I was watching a disturbing movie called Contagion with my 13-year old son. Before I knew it, he was playing a game on his iPhone that tracked a plague outbreak in real time as we watched the movie. From spreading disease to war games, there are endless digital choices for destruction. Malcom Gladwell, the author of Outliers: The Story of Success, estimates that 10,000 hours of practice at anything makes someone an expert. Maybe that means by the time my four year daughter is in middle school, she will likely be an expert at Dance Party 4. Instead of dance and death, what if we help guide our kids to become expert problem solvers? MIT and Harvard already have" learning arcades" where they integrate gaming into their studies. Minute by minute there are new gaming sites popping up that are designed to change the world. Free Rice  is one such game where you earn rice for each correct answer than the player can direct who receives the food. From environment to human rights to conflict to economics, the latest activism games can be found at Games For Change.

It is estimated that we spend 3 billion hours a week worldwide playing on-line games. For parents, like me, who worry about losing our kids to the glowing screen, UC Berkley Phd and game designer at Institute of the Future Jane McGonigal has a brilliant idea. She encourages everyone to make work like play and play more. Lots more. Jane estimates that we need 21 billion hours of weekly game playing to solve the really big global problems like world hunger, cancer even poverty.

For today’s Big Idea Monday, why don’t we encourage social change game playing on the local level? You could even use the same software or programs but retrofit it for states, counties or municipalities. Local schools could teach the issue through gaming, than the students could see the impact of their efforts in their own neighborhood?

If you or someone in your family is playing video games, are you playing mindfully?

For today’s “Sky’s the Limit” on what you can learn: Milestones of Gaming. According to the International Center for the History of Electronic Gaming , the first video game was invented in 1940 for the World’s Fair. The military got into the act in 1955 when war games went digital. In 1965, a Dartmouth student invents the first sports video game. By 1972, a table -top tennis arcade game Pong is born. By 1975, the home version of Pong was for sale. (I had one!)  In 1980, Pac Man hit the scene, but it was Ms. Pac Man that became the best selling arcade game of all time. I bought my first Game Boy in college (1989). My son was two when X-box was born (2001). In 2006, Wii had people camping out at Best Buy and price gauging on Ebay. Since 2009, social app games like Angry Birds have consumed hundreds of millions of hours of time on smart phones.

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