Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Theory of Fun - Clive finally read it and you should too!

I like to spread the gospel according to Raph whenever I can.
IMHO, A Theory of Fun is one of the BEST books on learning, elearning, whatever you choose to call what we do.


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via Clive on Learning by Clive Shepherd on Aug 16, 2007

A theory of fun
My apologies but I can't remember who it was in the edublogosphere who recommended this book, but whoever it was, my sincerest thanks. A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster (Paraglyph Press, 2005), is aimed at games designers, but as Raph reminded me "games serve as fundamental and powerful learning tools", so I guess all of us in learning and development are games designers to some extent.

A Theory of Fun is a fun book to read. Raph is an excellent communicator with a real passion for games. He tells great stories, makes great analogies and puts across some powerful and convincing arguments. Accompanying every page of text is another page containing one of Raph's own cartoons and illustrations. This impressed me enormously - it's own thing to write fluently on a subject that interests you; it's another completely to come up with more than a hundred ways of visualising your ideas. This is the second book I have read recently that lays out text and graphics in this way (the other being Universal Principles of Design). The books have great aesthetic appeal, the problem is that if I'm not careful I seem to skim through the text pages and ignore the pictures altogether. Perhaps some people look only at the pictures and ignore the text completely, I don't know. Either way, what a waste.

The title of the book does rather promise that Raph will be able to reduce game design to a few, key, universal principles, but he doesn't. What he does do is explore a lot of important issues surrounding game design, many of which are of huge importance to e-learning designers. The best I can do is to share with you some of my favourite quotes:

"The only real difference between games and reality is that the stakes are lower with games."

"Games are concentrated chunks ready for our brains to chew on."

"Games are exercises for our brains. Games that fail to exercise the brain become boring."

"When a game stops teaching us, we feel bored. Boredom is the brain casting about for new information. It is the feeling you get when there are no new patterns to absorb. At all times the brain is casting about trying to learn something, trying to integrate information into its worldview. It is insatiable in that way."

"The real-life challanges that most games prepare us for are almost exclusively ones based on the calculation of odds."

"Many things we have fun at doing are in fact training us to be better cavemen. We learn skills that are antiquated. Things that were useful to us when our species was first evolving. Most folk never need to shoot something with an arrow to eat."

"People don't play games because of the stories. Games tend to be experiential teaching. Stories teach vicariously."

"Fun is about learning in a context where there is no pressure."

I could carry on, but really I'd better stop there. Otherwise you may not buy this book and that would be a big mistake.


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