Three for under the tree

I read tons of books each year and sadly don't always get around to writing about all of them (well even the ones worthy of writing about). I hope to spend a little more time next year doing that, but in the meantime I have included a few of my favorite passages from three books in the gaming field that I have read this year. Hey, it's not too late to grab one and read it during this end-of-year, holiday season. Grab some hot cocoa and curl up with a good book.

How Games Move Us

How Games Move Us: Emotion by Design by Katherine Isbister is part of the Playful Thinking series from MIT Press and looks at how design of games can evoke emotions in players. Since I am also looking at works like this through both the game and learning filters one passage that I think bears worth repeating is:

At their heart, games differ from other media in one fundamental way: they offer players the chance to influence outcomes through their own efforts.... In games, players have the unique ability to control what unfolds. As Sid Meier, designer of the best-selling game Civilization, once said, 'a [good] game is a series of interesting choices.'

The Tetris Effect

The Tetris Effect: The Game that Hypnotized the World by Dan Ackerman is one part video game, one part history, one part Cold War drama, one part biography, one part ... OK, that's a lot of parts but they are fit together like Tetris pieces to bear light on the creation and spread of arguably one of the most successful and best known video game of all times (albeit the relative short history of video games).

Guinness World Records recognizes Tetris as being the “most-ported” game in history. It appears on more than sixty-five different platforms.

In 1992, UK music act Doctor Spin scored a top-ten hit with a dance remix of “Korobeiniki,” the main theme from Tetris. Doctor Spin was a stage name for composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Side note: you can flashback to the '90s and check out a version of Doctor Spin's remix here:

A 2014 study showed that playing Tetris reduces cravings in smokers and drinkers by about 24 percent.

Tetris is a unique example of an idea, a product, and an era coming together at exactly the right moment.


The Game Believes in You

Maybe I saved the best for last in this case. The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter by Greg Toppo was one of my favorites this year. While it is geared toward games and children, so many of the concepts apply across the board so don't shy away from it if you work with adults or higher ed. So many great ideas in this one, I had trouble choosing, but here goes:

What this small group of tinkerers found is that games focus, inspire, and reassure young people in ways that school often can't. Then as now, they believed, if you are a young person, games give you a chance to learn at your own pace, take risks, and cultivate deeper understanding. While teachers, parents, and friends may encourage and support you, these natural resources are limited. Computers work on a completely different scale and timetable. They're "infinitely stupid and infinitely patient," according to game designer Michael John. Your teacher may be overwhelmed, your friends wish you'd finish your homework, and your mom just wants to go to bed. But as JiJi demonstrates, a well-designed games sits and waits ... and waits. It doesn't care if that wearisome math problem takes you fifteen seconds or four hours. Do it again. Take all day. The game believes in you.
We love surprises because they both fulfill and undermine our expectations of neat patterns. We want the same old thing, but in a new way.

Side note: I'll come back and talk about this in another post about the book Impossible to Ignore which focuses on creating memorable content and influencing people.

Often called "gamification," at its best it's less a mindless escape from reality than 'a mindful escape from so many poorly structured experiences,' said business journalist Aaron Dignan.
If you want school to work, don't bribe or threaten people. Show them what it's like to succeed. Give them a taste of the work required and let them play with it.
Video games may seem all gold stars, lollipops, bells, and whistles, like playing a Las Vegas slot machine. But what learning theorists are discovering is that good, well-designed games are powerful learning tools for just the opposite reason: They don't reward casual effort, mindless repetition, or rat-in-the-cage responses. Instead they reward practice, persistence, and risk-taking. They give the brain a way to filter out distraction and get to the task at hand. Most of all, they implicitly reward those who learn to enjoy the tasks they offer. They forge expertise.

Banner image based on image by